Sunday's 28-27 loss to the Oakland Raiders made it clear how valuable first-round pick Ronnie Stanley has already become.
With two new starters on the left side of the offensive line – James Hurst at left tackle and Ryan Jensen at left guard – the Ravens gave up six quarterback hits and two sacks. Hurst and Jensen were called for three holding penalties in pass protection. Quarterback Joe Flacco was pressured on nearly 40 percent of his dropbacks.
The Raiders' talented outside pass rushers, Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin, pestered Flacco and made it tough on the Ravens passing attack throughout the day. Irvin also made one of the biggest plays in the game.
"I thought early on in the game, we were pretty good, and then as the game went on, they started to ramp it up a little bit and get some edges and do some things that were pretty good," Flacco said. "I still think we did a good job."
Even heading into the game, it was clear that whoever lined up at tackle would have a tough time handling Mack and Irvin. Mack had yet to log a sack this year, but had 15 last season and is one of the best young defenders in the league.
The Raiders' key sack-strip came off the right side of the offensive line. In the fourth quarter, Irvin looped around right tackle Rick Wagner and Flacco ran to his left with his back to the oncoming pressure. He didn't get rid of the ball and Irvin drilled him in the back, causing the ball to come out.
Oakland pounced on the fumble and turned it into a key touchdown to take a 21-12 lead in the fourth quarter with about 11 minutes left.
"We had to affect Flacco," Irvin said. "I was just being opportunistic. I saw the opportunity the way Flacco was holding the ball, and I just went and made the play."
The Ravens shouldn't be without Stanley for too long. He battled through a foot injury in Week 3 to play against the Cleveland Browns, but didn't practice at all last week leading into the game against Oakland. Still, Head Coach John Harbaugh thought he had a chance to play.
Ultimately, Baltimore chose to sit Stanley and go with Hurst. Rookie left guard Alex Lewis was also left on the sideline considering he had just one limited practice Friday after going through the concussion protocol. The Ravens preferred a veteran in Jensen rather than a rookie with such little practice, Harbaugh said.
The Ravens did a better job on the ground with the change on the offensive line, so it was an up-and-down day for the unit. Terrance West ran 21 times for 113 yards and a touchdown.
After the game, Stanley was asked about his availability for next week.
"We'll see what Coach Harbaugh wants me to do," Stanley said. "He's the coach and I'm going to do what he tells me."
It was the first game Stanley has missed during his professional or collegiate career. He never sat out while at Notre Dame and hardly missed any time when dinged up at different times in training camp.
"They know I'm a tough kid, and I've been playing through this injury, so I don't necessarily need to prove anything in that sense," Stanley said.
"Those guys fought out there. It's a battle, [the Raiders] have a good defensive line and I'm proud of the way our guys fought. It's a war out there."