Baltimore’s offensive line is deservedly getting some national recognition.
The Ravens’ front five has been handling its business all season, winning battles week after week against some of the NFL’s top defenses. Sunday’s victory was the latest example.
The San Francisco 49ers have built their defense around the most disruptive defensive front in football featuring first-round picks Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead and Dee Ford. They are the core of the NFL’s top-ranked defense and led the league in sacks entering the game.
Even without Ford (ankle), many expected the 49ers to have the advantage up front Sunday, especially with undrafted rookie center Patrick Mekari making his first career start after Matt Skura’s season-ending knee injury. However, the Ravens offensive line won another battle in the trenches during their 20-17 victory.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson rushed for 101 yards and was sacked just once on a scramble, not a sack allowed by the offensive line. It was a sack of zero yards. The Ravens produced 199 yards rushing and they continue to have the league’s No. 1 rushing attack.
After the victory, the Ravens offensive line was recognized by the NFL for the “Unstoppable Performance” of Week 13.
Mekari looks fully ready to handle his new role as starting center, which will be important for the Ravens as they try to secure the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Skura was playing the best football of his career prior to his injury in Week 12 against the Los Angeles Rams. But Mekari has impressed the coaching staff from Day 1, making the team as an undrafted rookie from Cal.
His first test was back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, and he could not have had a tougher assignment in his first start, facing the 49ers in wet conditions. But he snapped the football to Jackson with no issues and handled his blocking assignments as if he had been starting all year.
“Here you have a first-time start for a rookie, who was in pretty tough conditions [to] snap that ball in gun snaps, and we were in the gun a lot,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “And all the snaps were very good. He made all the assignments. We operated normally with the center calls. He made all the right calls and made almost all of his blocks against one of the best defensive [fronts].
“The offensive line deserves a lot of credit in this game – and the tight ends – because that front just wreaks havoc against everybody they play, and they didn't do that in our game. Our offensive linemen did a great job of blunting that and keeping them from playing in our backfield. Patrick and all those guys were a big part of that.”
The entire offensive line has played at a high level since Week 1, with left tackle Ronnie Stanley, left guard Bradley Bozeman, right guard Marshal Yanda and right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. making every start.
Stanley has a strong chance to make his first Pro Bowl, ranked as the No. 1 left tackle in the NFL by Pro Football Focus. Stanley has not allowed a sack this season.
Yanda is only strengthening his case to be a future Hall of Famer, playing with physicality and agility at age 34.
Yanda repeatedly talks about how much fun he’s having with this group of Ravens, who lead the league in rushing with 207.8 yards per game.
“I’m having fun. Old dog, year 13, having a blast,” Yanda told NFL Network’s Deion Sanders after Sunday’s win. “We have the mindset that every Sunday we’re going to get after it. … We’re grounding and pounding and guys are making plays. We have a special team, for sure.”
The Ravens’ offensive line is getting the job done, and more people are noticing.