Offensive line answers challenge

Offensive line answers challenge
December 23, 2012, 9:30 pm
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Harbaugh: 'It was complementary football'

Ravens coach John Harbaugh laid down an indirect challenge this week to his maligned offensive line: “We need to run the ball better,” he said at his news conference last Monday after the Ravens’ loss to Denver.

The line responded against the Giants, as the Ravens piled up a season-high 224 rushing yards in the Ravens’ 33-14 win. Both Ray Rice (24 carries, 107 yards) and Bernard Pierce (14 carries, career-high 123 yards) topped the 100-yard mark, Pierce thanks largely to a career-long 78-yard run.

“I wish it was that simple to go ahead and say, ‘We have to run block better,’ and voila, you run block better,” Harbaugh said “But it was a very good game plan. Our coaches have been working really hard to set up the runs in such a way that we are running into somewhat favorable looks.”

Harbaugh said the Ravens established the run even though the Giants opened in a 4-4 front, with four down linemen, four linebackers and just three defensive backs, a look committed to stopping the run.

 “We were still able to run the ball somewhat effectively. Obviously, Joe took advantage of that in the passing game, too. We blocked a lot better, and that’s the key to success.”

Offensive tackle Kelechi Osemele said another key was the return of Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda, who missed the Denver game with an ankle injury.
“Marshal coming back was just huge,” Osemele said. “It was vital. You can’t really replace that type of experience,” Osemele said.

Osemele said communication was also a major factor.

“We didn’t care if they knew where we were going, as long as we all knew we were going on the same page, we were going to block ‘em up. We just overexaggerated technique the entire week and it paid off for us.”

Osemele said he hasn’t read or heard much of the criticism, but the linemen knew it was there. They knew that the line was catching a lot of heat over the strip-sacks, the pressure on quarterback Joe Flacco, the struggles in the running game as the Ravens’ losing streak reached three games.

“You’d have to be stupid after going on a skid like that to not have a certain edge about you, and to feel the pressure” Osemele said, “but we’re not really the type of offensive line unit to point fingers or anything like that.”

Rice, who was held to 38 yards against Denver, topped the 100-yard mark for the 17th time in his career against the Giants. He praised the offensive line afterward as “the hardest working group in the building.”

“The run game is something coach Harbaugh said last week (that) we want to get going,” Rice said, “and today we definitely found our stride in the run game.”