Joe Flacco Joins Elite Playoff Pick Six Group

By Chris Lawton

As the Cleveland Browns fell 45-14 to the Houston Texans to kick off this years’ NFL playoffs, quarterback Joe Flacco joined a group he assuredly never wanted to be part of. That’s because part of the loss centred around him throwing pick sixes on back-to-back drives.

To be fair to Flacco, he had been a big part of the Browns drive into the playoffs. He had taken over the helm and gone 4-1 to end Cleveland’s season and put them in the postseason. But this one proved a step too far as Flacco finished 34 of 46 for 308 yards, with 1 TD and 2 picks – both returned for scores.

Let’s not forget either that Flacco has one of the greatest postseason quarterback performances of all-time from back in 2012 when he led the Baltimore Ravens to winning Super Bowl XLVII. That year he threw for over 1,000 yards over 4 playoff games, had 11 TDs to zero picks, led Baltimore to wins against great teams and was Super Bowl MVP.

Unfortunately for Flacco, you can’t rest on your laurels in the NFL. It’s all about your latest game and for Joe Flacco that means looking at being added to an unwanted historic list.

He becomes the fifth person ever to throw multiple pick-sixes in an NFL playoff game. He is also the first person to do this since 2008. So, let’s take a look at the stat line of each of the five signal callers on this list and see what happened in the game they threw multiple pick-sixes up for grabs.

Jim Hart

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St. Louis Cardinals: 27th December, 1975

22/41, 291 Yards, 1 TD, 3 Interceptions, 2 Pick-Sixes

The Los Angeles Rams defeated the Cardinals by a score of 35-23. Most of the damage was done early. First the Rams went on a 79-yard scoring drive. Then Jack Youngblood returned a Jim Hart pick 47 yards to make it 14-0. In the second quarter Bill Simpson picked off another Hart pass and returned this one 65 yards to paydirt making it 21-0. It was 28-9 at the half and St Louis never really got back into it. The Rams would go on to be routed 37-7 by Dallas in the NFC championship game.

Brett Favre

Green Bay Packers: 20th January, 2002

26/44, 281 Yards, 2 TD’s, 6 Interceptions, 3 Pick-Sixes

Brett Favre, ‘the gunslinger’ at his most irresponsible with ball protection here. We shouldn’t be too surprised to see Favre on this list. Yes, he is a Hall of Fame, Super Bowl winning QB. But he also is the record holder for most career interceptions thrown.

The St Louis Rams defeated the Packers by a score of 45-17, led primarily by a D that forced 8 turnovers. The first score came when Aeneas Williams ran an interception back 29 yards for a score. Also, in the first half a 45-yard pick return set the Rams up to score from the Green Bay 4-yard line. A 24-10 halftime lead for St Louis was the springboard for a dominant win.

After the Rams had scored again in the second half, the D made another pick six as Tommy Polley ran a score in from 34-yards out. The Rams rounded their scoring off in the final quarter as Aeneas Williams ran in his second and the team’s third pick-six, this time from the 32-yard line.

As a team one season removed from being champions, these Rams went into Super Bowl XXXVI as overwhelming favourites. Their 20-17 loss to the New England Patriots looked less and less shocking retrospectively as a Dynasty emerged in New England.

Rich Gannon

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Oakland Raiders: 26th January, 2003

24/44, 272 Yards, 2 TD’s, 5 Interceptions, 3 Pick-Sixes

Imagine the scenario. You have led your team to an 11-5 record, you win the AFC, you are that season’s MVP and you are leading your team the Oakland Raiders into Super Bowl XXXVII as slight favourites against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Then, on the biggest stage of all, it all falls apart.

Not least because on the opposing side-line, your old coach is leading the Buccs and has an intimate working knowledge of the Raider offense and, for reasons unknown, your team has opted not to change many of the terms for the offense.

Worse than that, the Buccaneers dominated early racking up a 27-3 lead halfway through the third quarter leading you to play catchup, throwing into the teeth of the Tampa D that is waiting on your passes. As Gannon himself is quoted as saying, “If you watch any Super Bowl, something bad’s gonna happen”.

Well. In his case, he was right about that because once the Raiders were playing catchup it was over for him and for them. In the third quarter Dwight Smith ran a pick in from 44 yards out. Then, towards the end of the game, down 34-21 with just over a minute on the clock, Derrick Brooks ran another interception in from 44-yards out, before Smith had his second pick six from 48-yards out with two seconds on the clock.

Todd Collins

Washington Redskins: 5th January, 2008

29/50, 266 Yards, 2 TD’s, 2 Interceptions, 2 Pick-Sixes

Wild Card weekend and the Washington Redskins found themselves in the Pacific North West to face the Seattle Seahawks.

Having been shut out 13-0 through three quarters, Washington capped a drive on which Todd Collins went 7 of 9 with a touchdown pass early in the fourth. In fact in the span of 2 minutes and 15 seconds of game time, Washington turned round the shutout to a 14-13 lead when Collins hit Santana Moss from 30 yards out.

However, that would be the end of his, and the teams’ success. After Matt Hasselbeck threw his second interception, the Seahawks got the ball back, scored and converted a 2-point try.

Now Washington needed to respond once more, down 21-14. The Seattle fans breathed much easier when cornerback Marcus Trufant intercepted Collins and returned a pick six 78 yards with 5:38 in the game. That cushion was extended when safety Jordan Babineaux ran in another interception return for a TD from 57-yards out with just 27 seconds left in the game.

Joe Flacco

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Cleveland Browns: 13th January, 2024

34/46, 307 Yards, 1 TD, 2 Interceptions, 2 Pick-Sixes

Towards the end of the first quarter, the Browns had their only lead of the game 10-7 thanks to a Kareem Hunt touchdown. They also pulled it back to 14-10 in the second when Flacco hit Hunt from 11-yards out. But that was as good as it got.

For the Texans, young QB CJ Stroud had an amazing playoff debut. Going 16 of 21 for 274 yards with 3 TDs and no picks. Including 76 and 37 yard strikes to give Houston a 24-14 halftime lead.

The game was busted wide open however on the Browns next two drives as Flacco was picked off twice, with Steven Nelson scoring from 82-yards out and Christian Harris from 36 yards. After that, the Texans late game capping score was just window dressing.

All of which meant Flacco made NFL playoff history. However unwanted. It comes as no surprise either that every QB who threw multiple pick sixes ended up on the losing side. As we move on to the Divisional round it will be intriguing to see what storylines are yet to unfold.

Feature Image Credit: Ric Tapia/Getty Images



Chris originally started following the NFL with the ‘first wave’ of fans when it was shown on Channel 4 in the 1980’s. He has been a keen supporter of the Miami Dolphins since 1983. Chris first encountered the CFL in 2016 and instantly fell in love with the Canadian game. He has been writing about the CFL 2017. Chris has a degree in history, postgraduate degree in librarianship and can be found on twitter as @CFLfanUK