As always the people taking up most the focus in the upcoming Conference Championship games in the NFL playoffs will be the quarterbacks, and specifically their individual duels: Colin Kaepernick (49ers) vs Matt Ryan (Falcons) and Joe Flacco (Ravens) vs Tom Brady (Patriots).
While there’s always a lot more to any football game than just the level of performance from the quarterbacks, the credit goes to the one that wins, and most of the criticism, unless something exceptional happens, is directed towards the losing QB that didn’t step up or made one mistake too many.
Tom Brady vs Joe Flacco
Weird thing to say, but here goes: Joe Flacco has been outplaying Tom Brady, at least when the two have met face to face. Last season, in the AFC Championship game, the Ravens were one dropped pass in the end zone from making it into the Super Bowl. Flacco completed 61.1% of his passes, throwing for 306 yards, two touchdowns, and interceptions and a passer rating of 95.4. In that game, Tom Brady completed exactly the same amount of passes (22-36), but threw two interceptions and lets just say, he got away with one.
A few months later, and the Patriots come to Baltimore, losing 30-31 in a game that was mostly about Torrey Smith playing shortly after the death of his brother. Once again, Flacco was the more impressive quarterback. He threw for 389 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Brady finished with 335 yards and a touchdown.
When it comes to what they’ve done this season, Brady is way ahead of Flacco, not to mention their career timelines. Brady finished 6th this season in passer rating (98.7), Joe Flacco finished 12th (87.7). Brady completed 63% of his passes, Flacco just 59.7%, throwing 100 passes less than Brady. Brady throws a touchdown pass every 18.8 throws; Flacco every 24.4. Flacco throws an interception every 52.6 throws; Brady throws one every 79.6.
Matt Ryan vs Colin Kaepernick
Kaepernick’s body of work is only half a season. Still, the way he preformed against the Green Bay Packers, running for 181 yards and passing for 261 more (2 touchdowns, 1 interception) was undoubtedly the performance of the weekend and of the playoffs so far. Matt Ryan, on the other hand, nearly blew it for his team by throwing two interceptions.
Ryan made a real leap into another level in terms of his consistency this season – he completed 68.6% of his passes, a new career high, and also an NFL best. He threw and completed more passes than ever before, setting career highs in touchdowns, passer rating and QBR, while staying at a 2.3% interception level, throwing a bad pass every 43.5 throws.
Kaepernick did very well in the passing game during his seven starts for the 49ers this season: He finished with a 62.4% completion ratio, throwing only three interceptions to his three touchdowns: a TD every 21.8 passes, an interception every 72.7. The sample size is small, but Kaepernick was limited in what he was told to early on, but has since broken out to show everyone what kind of a dual-threat quarterback he is, running for 415 yards, 6.6 per carry, during the regular season.