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Offensive Line Gelling At Right Time

Posted Dec 18, 2013

The Ravens have given up just five sacks over the last three games.

Last year’s Super Bowl run was in large part credited to keeping the eventual MVP clean.

Baltimore protected quarterback Joe Flacco well down the stretch, opening up their offense for several big postseason performances.

Don’t look now, but the Ravens offensive line is starting to come together again.

After putting Flacco on the run for much of the first three quarters of the season, the Ravens have given up just five sacks over the past three games. They yielded just one to the Detroit Lions’ talented defensive front on Monday night.

“I thought our O-line played great,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said after the game.

“Against that pass-rush and that front, we ran the ball effectively as we needed to and we pass protected extremely well. I think we had one sack. It was just a great job by the offensive line.”

According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), the Ravens offensive line got pretty positive grades. Right tackle Michael Oher had the highest marks of the bunch, and was particularly strong in pass coverage.

The worst grades were turned in by left guard A.Q. Shipley and center Gino Gradkowski. But they had the tough job of trying to block Lions defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.

“We just fought,” Shipley said. “That’s the one thing I can say. We knew they were a good front and we were just going to have to fight the whole time. That’s what we did.”

Suh entered Monday night’s game with 5.5 sacks. Fairley had 3.5 and rookie defensive end Ezekiel Ansah had seven. All three players were shut out in the sacks department and had just six total tackles combined. The Lions’ lone sack came from safety Glover Quin.

Baltimore had allowed 37 sacks in its previous 11 games, an average 3.4 per game. Over the last three games, they’ve surrendered an average of 1.6 per contest.

“We’re all getting comfortable with one another,” Shipley said. “We’re all kind of hard-nosed guys and we all fight.”

Baltimore gave up just five sacks in four playoff games last year. That’s when Flacco went on a torrid run of 11 touchdowns and no interceptions with a playoff quarterback rating of 117.2.

“That’s one thing we emphasize for each game is to protect Joe, give him time,” Gradkowski said. “We’ve got a lot of great receivers that can make big plays. As long as we give him time, good things will happen.”

It’s more than just pass protection too. While the run game continues to set up the pass, for the most part, the Ravens did get some positive gains against a tough run defense on Monday night. Baltimore averaged 4.3 yards per carry and Ray Rice broke off a 19-yarder that he could have taken to the end zone at the end of the game, but pulled up short to let the clock run out.

The Ravens will now face a New England Patriots run defense ranked 31st in the league (132.5 yard per game).

“We’re just taking it week by week,” Gradkowski said. “That’s what we have to do. Towards the end of the year like this, every game is huge for us.”

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