As Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh handed out game balls following Sunday's 44-20 win over the Detroit Lions, veteran defensive leader Terrell Suggs spoke up to recognize a group of deserving recipients.
Suggs called attention to the performance of the offensive line, which opened holes in the running game and prevented quarterback Joe Flacco from getting sacked all game. The group delivered a stellar outing, and was a big reason the offense broke out for its best performance of the season.
"The offensive line really stepped up," Harbaugh said.
Flacco had time to throw all game, and he took advantage of it by pushing the ball downfield. He took deep shots to speedster Mike Wallace, and connected on a 66-yarder that set up a touchdown and jump-started the offense.
Wallace finished with 116 receiving yards and Flacco threw for a season-high 269 yards. The line also created opportunities on the ground for running back Alex Collins. He carried 15 times for 75 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
"The offensive line blocked better," Harbaugh said when asked about what the group did so well. "That's the simple answer to a much more complicated proposition – which is handling all of the blitzes and pressures and the one-on-one matchups that you have."
Harbaugh praised the technique from the linemen and thought the group did a nice job handling some creative scheme from the Lions. Detroit couldn't get in the backfield very often, even when they brought extra rushers.
Harbaugh pointed to a specific example from left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who perfectly diagnosed a corner blitz. The defensive end dropped on the play instead of pursuing the standard pass rush, but Ronnie read the play and had the speed to get outside to block the cornerback.
"Ronnie was able to make the adjustment from the dropping end and get out on the corner and get him blocked," Harbaugh said. "Those are just little things that happen and different kinds of scenarios that come up for those guys that they handled really well."
The offensive line has come under scrutiny at times this year, particularly early in the season after All-Pro right guard Marshal Yanda broke his ankle. The Ravens also had to deal with a knee injury to his replacement Matt Skura, and Stanley missed a game with a concussion.
Despite the injuries, the group has come together well in recent weeks. Flacco has only been sacked once in the last two games and Collins has 705 rushing yards on the year.
The unit seems to be playing better heading into the final quarter of the season and the Ravens hope that Sunday's breakout was a sign of what's to come.