Ravens' O-line worth the wait

Ravens' O-line worth the wait
January 13, 2013, 2:15 am
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They kept Joe Flacco safe from harm. Given the chance to keep blasting away, they eventually opened holes for Ray Rice.

This is the offensive line the Ravens have been waiting for all season. After the revamped lineup — with Bryant McKinnie off the bench and in at left tackle, Michael Oher from left to right tackle and Kelechi Osemele from right tackle to left guard — debuted in the first round of the playoffs with an effective performance in the win over the Colts, the line took it to another level on Saturday. And that level wasn’t just the increased altitude in Denver.

In the previous meeting with the Broncos, the blowout loss in Baltimore last month, Denver harassed Flacco, recording three sacks and numerous pressures. On Saturday, the Broncos sacked him once, but Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil were largely kept away from the Ravens quarterback. Flacco had time and room to step into his throws. When the Ravens were perilously close to their own goal line and he had to pass out of the end zone, the line allowed him to do so with barely a hint of danger.

Marshal Yanda was particularly effective pulling into the hole to clear the way for Rice, as Yanda did on Rice’s third-quarter touchdown. Yanda blasted Broncos linebacker Keith Brooking out of the way, knocking him down in the end zone so Rice could score. Then, at the end of the first overtime, Yanda hustled downfield when Rice’s rush was stalled and pushed the pile of running back and tacklers ahead for a Ravens first down, giving Baltimore 2 or 3 more yards on an 11-yard run. That set up the Ravens at the Denver 34, and after three more plays picked up 5 yards, Justin Tucker kicked the game-winning field goal.

Nearly as importantly, the line didn’t draw drive-stalling penalties. The Ravens had just one false-start call and no holding penalties.

So, it may have taken a while to get here, but the Ravens have to be thrilled to have an O-line that makes them say, O-yes.

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