In Thursday’s column, I mention that Joe Flacco threw just 10 passes against the Patriots two years ago when the Ravens ravaged them 33-14 in the playoffs. In case you’re wondering, it had been 25 years since a winning quarterback had thrown that few in a postseason game. (The Seahawks’ Dave Krieg had the same number in a 13-7 win over the Raiders in 1984.)
To find a victorious playoff QB who threw fewer than 10 passes, you’d have to go back almost another decade – to the Dolphins’ Bob Griese in Super Bowl VIII against the Vikings. Griese put the ball in the air a mere seven times, completing six, and spent the rest of the day handing off to Larry Csonka, Mercury Morris and Jim Kiick.
Of course, it was a different game then. Most of the rules that have made the NFL such a pass-a-thon weren’t in effect yet. In Miami’s run to the title in ‘73, Griese threw a grand total of 31 passes in three postseason games – 18 in the first round (vs. the Bengals), 6 in second (vs. the Raiders) and 7 in the aforementioned Super Bowl. Nowadays, Drew Brees is likely to throw that many in a half (and, in fact, hurled 34 in the first half Saturday vs. the 49ers).
So what Flacco did in Foxborough that afternoon was pretty unusual. Baltimore got off to a huge first-quarter lead (24-0) and the defense was controlling Tom Brady and Co., so John Harbaugh kept the ball on the ground with Ray Rice and Willis McGahee (42 carries between them). Flacco has never had it go good.
Some other decidedly un-busy days by playoff quarterbacks in recent years:
(Note: The QB has to have played essentially from start to finish. No early exits because the game was a blowout.)
● Tony Eason, Patriots, 1985 AFC title game vs. Dolphins: 12 attempts, 10 completions, 71 yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 130.9 rating. Won, 31-14.
● Jake Delhomme, Panthers, 2003 NFC title game vs. Eagles: 14 attempts, 9 completions, 101 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 109.5 rating. Won, 14-3.
● Trent Dilfer, Ravens, 2000 first round vs. (Mike Shanahan’s) Broncos: 14 attempts, 9 completions, 130 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 118.2 rating. Won, 21-3.
● Phil Simms, Giants, 1986 NFC title game vs. Redskins: 14 attempts, 7 completions, 90 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 94.3 rating. Won, 17-0.
● Mark Sanchez, Jets, 2009 first round vs. Bengals: 15 attempts, 12 completions, 182 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 139.4 rating. Won, 24-14.
● Mark Brunell, Redskins, 2005 first round vs. Bucs: 15 attempts, 7 completions, 41 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 25.7 rating. Won, 17-10.*
● Brett Favre, Packers, 1996 first round vs. 49ers: 15 attempts, 11 completions, 79 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 107.4 rating. Won, 35-14.
Dilfer, you may recall, had a dream ride when the Ravens won it all in 2000, throwing 14 (vs. Broncos), 16 (vs. Titans), 18 (vs. Raiders) and 25 (vs. Giants) passes – 73 total – in four postseason games. We may never see anything like that again.
* This is the game in which the Redskins gained just 120 yards – the fewest by a winning playoff team in NFL playoff history. Quite the accomplishment.