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Offensive Line Responds To Criticism

Posted Dec 27, 2012

The offensive line had one of its best games of the season in the win over the Giants.

The Ravens offensive line had come under criticism in recent weeks.

The group had allowed eight sacks during the three-game losing streak and struggled to open holes for Ray Rice and the running game.

All of that changed in Sunday’s commanding victory over the New York Giants.

The line protected Flacco and kept him from getting sacked for just the third time of the season. They also created big holes on the ground, as Rice and Bernard Pierce both ran for more than 100 yards for the first time this season.

“They played great,” Flacco said. “NFL games are won and lost at the offensive and defensive line positions. When you can have both sides of the ball play as dominant as they did [Sunday] up front, then you usually give yourself a very good chance of winning.”

Part of the boost for the line was getting Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda back on the field after he missed one week with an ankle injury. He was inserted back in at right guard and made a difference in the unit. 

“Marshal  is a premier player,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said.

Other than having Yanda back, the offensive line was the same as it has been in recent weeks, with Micahel Oher at left tackle, Jah Reid at left guard, Matt Birk at center and Kelechi Osemele at right tackle.

Criticism of the group had grown in recent weeks, with some suggesting that a shakeup should be in order by inserting veteran Bryant McKinnie back at left tackle. But the Ravens stuck with the same group, and it paid off Sunday.

“It’s just a matter of having confidence in our guys,” Yanda said. “There’s no magical formula. We didn’t reinvent the wheel. It’s just football. We got a lot of great guys on this team – a lot of great players.”

Following the Week 15 loss to the Denver Broncos, Harbaugh said that the line needed to improve its run blocking, and the group responded with the best running game of the season. The Ravens racked up a season-high 226 rushing yards, and it was the first time the Ravens had two backs top the century mark since Dec. 20, 2008.

“The run blocking was good,” Harbaugh said. “We rushed for a lot of yards, and it’s because those guys were very physical up front … Our backs made some good plays. By the same token, there were lots of really good blocks.”

“The run game is something coach Harbaugh said last week [that] we want to get going,” Rice added. “We definitely found our stride in the run game.”

Protection on Flacco was also a key reason that the quarterback was able to turn out one of his best showings of the season. He finished with 309 passing yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a quarterback rating of 114.2.

The line allowed just one hit on Flacco, according to Pro Football Focus.

“Anytime you pass protect the way that we did against a team that can rush the passer like the New York Giants, that’s a big plus,” Harbaugh said. “I thought Joe did a good job of getting the ball out, too, to help that. He also scrambled and made some plays, which was really positive.”

The Ravens will face another strong pass rush Sunday in Cincinnati, which is led by defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who has 13 sacks on the season. The line will look to build off Sunday’s performance with another strong showing heading into the playoffs. 

“The offensive line continues to improve,” Harbaugh said. “As you know, it’s a young group, so that’s something that we really expect to have happen."

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