New-look line holds up well

New-look line holds up well
January 6, 2013, 5:45 pm
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Ravens inspired to win by Lewis

The Ravens shook up the offensive line yet again on Sunday in their playoff game against the Colts, going with a lineup that they hadn’t shown all season.

Veteran tackle Bryant McKinnie, relegated to the bench virtually all year, got his first start at left tackle, with tackle Michael Oher moving over to the right side. Kelechi Osemele, the starter at right tackle in all 16 regular-season games, moved to left guard.

The moves were predicated in part by a toe injury suffered by Jah Reid, who had started the final seven games of the regular season at left guard but was inactive on Sunday.

The playoffs might not be considered the best time to starting tinkering with the offensive line, but the move apparently has been in the works for at least a week. Osemele said afterward that coaches indicated the change was “about getting our best five pass blockers out there for the playoffs.”

Harbaugh also indicated that McKinnie, whose role – or lack of it – has been called into question at times this season, has “been practicing so well the past two or three weeks.”

The Ravens totaled 441 yards of offense and the line frequently opened up big holes for Ray Rice (15 carries, 70 yards) and Bernard Pierce (13-103), who collectively averaged better than 6 yards a carry. Flacco finished 12-for-23 for 282 yards and was sacked once.

“To have two pass rushers like that (Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney) coming off the edge, and to control those guys for the most part throughout the game is a pretty incredible accomplishment,” coach John Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh and McKinnie both said the key was how smoothly Osemele made the switch to left guard.

“I felt like it would have been hardest on KO because he’s a rookie,” McKinnie said. “He’s played 16 games, more than that actually, at right tackle, and for him to be able to just transition over to left guard, which is the other side, and the other hand, was big for us. Me and Mike (Oher) were both familiar with the position, so a lot of credit goes to KO for being flexible to do that.”

Osemele said he hadn’t taken many reps at guard since the preseason, when his role as a guard or tackle was still undecided.  But, he said, “it felt pretty good, pretty natural. I remembered everything…. Obviously it helps having (Matt) Birk right next to you…. I just played. Birk just did such a good job with the communication, and I was able to be athletic, be physical and just play.”

McKinnie, who revealed that he has been bothered by a hip flexor much of the season said he expects the same lineup next week when the Ravens visit Denver.

 “When (coaches) see this film tomorrow,” McKinnie said, “ they’ll stick with this line.”