Sports

2013 Super Bowl Preview: Ravens’ Offensive Line Deserves More Respect

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If you were picking an MVP for the Ravens during their playoff run to the Super Bowl, whom would you choose? Ray Lewis? Maybe, he’s certainly led the team emotionally during his farewell tour. Ray Rice? His numbers haven’t been all that impressive, but he had a big game against Denver and he’s played an important role in Baltimore’s three wins. Joe Flacco? He’s probably the obvious choice, and for good reason. Flacco has been awfully impressive, as he’s led his time to new heights and proved a lot of people wrong just by getting to the Super Bowl.

How about this, we change “most valuable player” to “most valuable players” and give the title to the entire Baltimore offensive line. The big guys up front have been an invaluable part of Baltimore’s postseason push. As good as Flacco has been at leading the offense, and for as much as Lewis has done for the defense, without the great play of their offensive line, the Ravens would not be playing in the Super Bowl.

Against Indianapolis, the offensive line allowed just one sack against the Colt’s defense, as Flacco was hit just twice. Against the Broncos, the Baltimore offensive line shut down Denver’s extraordinary pass rush. In their biggest test of the season, the Raven’s front-five passed with flying colors. In over five quarters of play, Denver recorded just one sack, and for the most part didn’t come close to disrupting Flacco. As a result, Flacco had the time he needed to not only complete passes unimpeded, but he had the time to complete passes down the field, as the Ravens scored on passing plays of 59, 32, and 70 yards. The offensive line also worked hard in thin air and freezing temperatures to give the Ravens a viable rushing attack, showing great persistence and determination through difficult circumstances. Without the threat of the run or the time that allowed Flacco to throw the deep ball, the Ravens would not have been able to pull off the road upset of the top-seeded Broncos.

In the AFC championship game against the Patriots, it was more of the same. New England sacked Flacco just twice for a loss of only five total yards. Even when the Ravens all but abandoned the running game, they gave Flacco time to throw the ball, and with that time he picked apart the New England defense all throughout the second half. Names like Vince Wolfork and Chandler Jones were rarely heard from because they were kept in check by the offensive line all game long. All the credit for the 21-point second half may have gone to Flacco and his receivers, but it was the Baltimore offensive line winning the battle up front that put the rest of the offense in a position to succeed and created the offensive explosion that ultimately won the game and the AFC championship for the Ravens.

It was actually the re-insertion of veteran Bryant McKinnie back into the lineup late in the season, and the subsequent switch of Michael Oher from left tackle to right tackle, that strengthened the Baltimore offensive line. That small shakeup has been the catalyst for Baltimore’s success in the postseason. The pass protection has improved tenfold and given Flacco the time he needs to make plays, lead the team to touchdowns, and win games.

While it’s been Flacco receiving a majority of the credit, it’s been the offensive line of the Ravens that has been performing at an exceptionally high level and allowing the rest of the offense to be effective. They may not be getting the credit they deserve, but all things considered, the members of the Baltimore offensive line have been the real MVPs of the Ravens run through the AFC playoffs and into the Super Bowl.

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