Offensive Line Play Makes Ravens Look Like Real Super Bowl Contenders

September 27, 2009 | Glenn Clark

It is entirely too early to proclaim that a team has a legitimate chance of winning a Super Bowl. Three weeks into the season, there is way too much that can happen that can change the entire course of a year.

But through three games, my preseason thought that the Ravens were good enough to get in has given way to the idea that the Ravens might just be good enough to win it all.

There’s one big reason for my change in opinion. Actually, there’s five VERY big reasons for my change in opinion.

The Offensive Line of the Baltimore Ravens-through three games-looks like the type of unit that wins Championships.

Joe Flacco has been sacked THREE times this season.
The Ravens have ran for 470 yards on a 4.7 yards per carry clip.
Through three games, the Ravens have a total of 82 first downs.

These are the types of numbers that come with having a good quarterback, solid receivers, and a steady ground game. But they are also the types of numbers that come from a team that is getting such a push upfront that the offensive success feels absolutely commonplace.

In fact, when offensive players are asked about their success at this point, they almost blush, saying things like “we’re just clicking” (Willis McGahee) and “as long as we keep playing like this, we’re gonna be tough to beat this year.” (Joe Flacco)

The offensive line of this team has been so good that it is hard to even notice the unit is on the field. Matt Birk has made exactly one mistake (a fumbled exchange with Flacco against San Diego). Michael Oher and Jared Gaither have each been penalized ONCE. Even the guards (Ben Grubbs, Chris Chester and Marshal Yanda) have created holes so big Jonathan Ogden could run through them.

Facing the Browns, the Offensive Line limited Browns all-word DT Shaun Rogers to 3 tackles and frustrated him into an unnecessary roughness penalty in the 2nd half. They also cleared the way for Willis McGahee and Ray Rice to combine for three TD’s on the ground where they were COMPLETELY untouched. McGahee couldn’t help but laugh at the idea of going into the endzone untouched, saying “it feels good.”

The Ravens haven’t faced the best defenses in the NFL. The Patriots will provide another unique test for this Offensive Line next week in Foxborough. However, if this unit plays this good and stays healthy this season, it seems VERY apparent that they are good enough that a trip to Miami is an honest possibility.

-G

5:27-You can check the final stats from today’s game here. Joe Flacco finished the day with a new career high 342 yards passing. The Ravens extended their streak of not allowing a 100 yard rusher to 38 games.

5:04-You can hear from the following NOW in the Audio Vault at WNST.net:

Coach John Harbaugh
QB Joe Flacco
RB Ray Rice
RB Willis McGahee
WR Derrick Mason
LB Terrell Suggs
LB Brendon Ayanbadejo
DT Haloti Ngata
CB Domonique Foxworth
S Ed Reed

5:00-The only injury note to pass along following the Ravens’ win today is regarding Ray Lewis. John Harbaugh said Ray suffered a “stinger” (as I had guessed) to the shoulder. No real cause for concern.

Ray Rice told me he will have the football framed from his 1st career TD, and he will put it “in (his) bedroom……right next to (him).”

Derrick Mason said his 800th career catch “meant a lot”, but admitted that the Ravens “really don’t make a big deal about” personal milestones.

3:45-I’m not gonna wait. This one’s over. Ravens win 34-3. I’m headed downstairs. Will talk to you shortly. Nice play by Lardarius Webb on the punt.

3:38-Who the hell was Derek Anderson throwing the ball to there?

3:34-Doesn’t usually take until Week 3 for Ed Reed to get into the INT column; but it’s good to see him.

This one will look like a preseason game the rest of the way. Troy Smith under center, Matt “Jack Hunter” Lawrence toting the rock.

3:31-Jameel McClain deserved the chance to dance a little bit after rocking Josh Cribbs. A tip of the hat to Edgar Jones for tackling Cribbs to allow McClain to offer the punishment.

3:28-That one might be a little bit of “running up the score.” Oh well. I’ll be happy for Derrick Mason on his big day. Ravens up 31 with 8:05 to play in this one.

3:26-Do Ravens defensive players know they don’t HAVE to lateral the ball on every play? Congratulations to Dawan Landry for the pick……probably the easiest he’ll ever make.

3:20-Don’t think Joe Flacco should still be in the game, but I’m also not a coach in the NFL. True story.

3:13-Apparently Willis McGahee did NOT want to lock up the #1 Spot on this week’s “Tuesday Top 7.”

3:12-Shaun Rogers is frustrated. If I was Shaun Rogers, I’d probably be frustrated too.

3:07-What type of grade would you give Chris Carr thus far this season? He hasn’t been great, that’s for sure. But has he been bad? I don’t think so.

3:06-Cundiff ends the shutout; and the Browns get on the board. Maybe we could see Troy Smith this quarter?

3:03-Mangini kicking the FG to open the 4th? He should be ashamed. But this should allow the Ravens to consider going to the bench this quarter if Cundiff can snap the shutout.

2:56-Ed Reed tried to time that hit for the right moment, but clearly was way too early. If that was a first quarter hit, I would have said “he sent a message” to the Browns’ wide receivers. But I think they already got the message.

If Eric Mangini kicks a field goal on this drive, he has no balls. There, I said it.

2:52-What a hell of a pass and catch from Derek Anderson to Mike Furrey there. Best thing they’ll do all day.

2:51-Justin Bannan just BLEW UP Lawrence Vickers in the backfield. Should the Browns think about just taking a knee?

2:50-A Santana Moss TD and we’re breathing heavily again. With no offense to everyone who is still interested in what is happening on the field with the Ravens and Browns-I have great interest in seeing Redskins fans suffer.

2:47-Nice call, Drew.

2:45-Ray’s gonna really burn me after this today. Rutgers beat Maryland AND he scored his first TD? Now how do I mess with him???

4 plays, 53 yards, 1:54 on the Ravens’ 5th scoring drive of the day. The hits just keep on coming.

2:43-One man shouldn’t do that to another. Willis is just embarrassing those guys. Come on now….

2:38-Brendon Ayanbadejo with the game of his life. I have not said to Drew “nice call” yet, but I get the feeling it is coming…

2:36-2 TD throws for Kyle Boller today in St. Louis. The Rams still trail the Packers 23-14. I always root for Kyle “Don’t Call It A Comeback” Boller myself.

2:35-Derek Anderson into the game……no word if Brady Quinn went to Eric Mangini at the half and said “no mas.”

2:33-Kelley Washington even catches the passes that don’t count. That’s impressive.

2:31-Forrester thinks we should have left at halftime to go down and see Darius Rucker at Merriweather. I’m not REALL convinced we would have missed anything.

2:11-70,950 here today-I’ve noticed a few empty seats around the stadium and can’t blame anyone who decided they would spend their day somewhere else.

2:10-Willis McGahee also doens’t have much to worry about in the “getting your uniform dirty” department. That is just downright unfair.

8 plays, 80 yards, 2:31 on the 4th scoring drive of the half.

2:08-Lions go up 10-0 in Detroit. I have a bad feeling I will be more interested in this in the 2nd half than I am in the game I am attending.

2:06-Standing ovation at “The Bank” as Mason is recognized during the 2 minute warning. Well deserved for the greatest receiver in franchise history.

2:02-A veteran member of the media just asked me if there’s anything the Ravens haven’t done well today. I didn’t have an answer. I guess they could have scored 3 touchdowns.

Derrick Mason with his 800th catch for his career. They’re REALLY gonna be in a tough spot with him when it comes to the Ring of Honor here.

1:53-What Ray Rice did there is almost unfair to those guys in white and orange. They’re trying, even if you can’t tell.

I think Harbaugh should have gone for it again there. Why not put this one away when you have the chance early? There’s no doubt in my mind the O-Line would have gotten the push to get 2 yards.

Hauschka’s 2nd kick still means this is a 2 possession game-which will keep everyone in the stands a bit longer.

16 plays, 82 yards, 7:34 on the 3rd scoring drive of the day for the Ravens. Sam Koch is hanging out with Demetrius somewhere.

1:50-If anyone sees Demetrius Williams today, please let him know kickoff was at 1. Meanwhile, Kelley Washington continues to look like one of the greatest free agent acquisitions in team history.

1:48-Is Rex Ryan going to go undefeated? The Jets are up 14-0 in the 2nd on the Titans. Glad I picked the Titans to make the playoffs……

1:43-Could Willis McGahee be earning back the “starting” RB job? He’s ran hard as hell every time he’s touched the ball.

Ed-I think coverage in general has been BETTER-but certainly could still improve a bit. That’s a bit of a panic penalty on Walker there, but given the spot on the field; that’s probably one that they won’t lose their mind about.

1:39-Attention Brady Quinn: It isn’t usually protocol to throw the ball away when you’re NOT flushed. He had plenty of time there.

Frank Walker was called for a hold there. Most of the city of Baltimore will want him released.

Lions up 7-0 on the Skins. GOD PLEASE LET THIS HAPPEN.

1:38-Ed Reed had to go low to make that saving tackle on Jerome Harrison there. As I said, the Browns HAVE to try to run the ball. Losing teams throw on every down. It felt like some fans forgot that the Chargers were a losing team last week.

1:35-Can you call a game an absolute blowout if it’s only a 10-0 game through one quarter? This would be that game if you could.

Nice play by Dwan Edwards there, by the way. I don’t get to say that enough. And Edgar Jones made a nice play on coverage as well.

1:28-Watching Kamerion Wimbley sack Joe Flacco (on a play where Flacco had plenty of time), I can’t help but remember the Draft that lead Haloti Ngata to Baltimore. Not that Wimbley hasn’t turned into a nice player for the Browns, but I think the Ravens are pretty happy with Ngata.

12 plays, 68 yards, 6:03 on the scoring drive-capped by Hauschka’s 36 yard field goal. It’s 10-0 here. Rich Dubroff (or Carroll County Times fame) nailed the time of possession on that one. He’s also provided me a few one-liners today. With him on my right and ol’ Forrester on my left; it could be a real zinger-fest.

1:27 Flacco hasn’t had AS MUCH time in the pocket today as he’s had in the first two games, but he’s had MORE than enough. This offensive line makes this team a Super Bowl contender.

1:24-Brandon McDonald should have made that play on the jump ball to Derrick Mason. That is the only area where the Ravens are behind the 8 ball-as they ABSOLUTELY lack tall wide receivers-and no, neither Brandon Marshall nor Anquan Boldin is coming through that door.

Flacco to Kelley Washington on 3rd down-I’ve heard that before. Don’t stop dancing Kelley.

1:21-Drew says Zastudil is Browns’ MVP thus far. He’s probably right about that, too. Le’Ron McClain with some hard running after his catch; and it is nice to see LJ Smith make an appearance. Say what you want about Smith’s health, he IS capable of catching the ball.

1:18-I guess if Joe Thomas does it, it isn’t considered holding. Spencer Folau was freaking out on the play where Ayanbadejo got the sack-SCREAMING for the hold call. Funny stuff.

1:15-Where were fewer people breathing? Last night in Lexington when Tim Tebow got hit, or a minute ago here when Ray Lewis stayed down?

Ray’s fine.

1:11-6 plays, 31 yards, 2:01 on that first TD drive. The Offensive Line might not have broken a sweat, either.

1:09-ABSOLUTELY the right decision by Cam Cameron and John Harbaugh to go for it on 4th and 1 there.

With Willis McGahee getting into the endzone, I remind everyone that Ray Rice is still yet to get one himself. (Love you Ray.)

1:07-Flacco did the right thing in getting to the line of scrimmage quickly after Mark Clayton’s catch. I was afraid the Browns’ PR staff was actually going to throw the red flag from all the way up here.

1:05-No word on whether or not Domonique Foxworth yelled “Still think we can’t play?” towards Mike Preston after making that pick.

1:04-Brady Quinn comes out throwing. He’ll have success (including an early first down), but the Browns will NOT be able to pull off an upset without running the ball. And with no offense to Jerome Harrison and James Davis…….

1:03-Josh Cribbs is particularly dangerous every time he touches the ball. Jerry Rosburg admitted that there is little he can do to slow down the Browns’ speedy returner on kickoffs. Ravens just have to maintain their gaps and can’t allow him to break tackles.

1:00-Browns won the toss, they’ll take the ball. Unfortunately, I’m not sure they can hold for the entire 60 minutes though…

12:55-Starting offense introduced this week after defense was introduced before home opener against Chiefs. Particularly loud ovations for Oher, Ray Rice, Todd Heap, Derrick Mason, and Joe Flacco. It isn’t quite as electric without a Ray Lewis dance, though.

12:52-I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the fact that the Ravens serve Nantucket Nectars Premium Orange in the Press Box before games. They don’t advertise with us, but their product is OUTSTANDING.

12:29-I have two friends from Texas in town this weekend. One of them just texted me to say “I’m pretty sure I’m the only person in downtown Baltimore not wearing purple.”

Awesome.

12:16-Jerome Harrison is starting for the Browns in place of Jamal Lewis. Hank Fraley is starting in place of Floyd Womack, meaning the Browns DID err in listing him as inactive. Rex Hadnot was the player that should have been listed as inactive.

12:14-Ravens inactives:

LB/DE Paul Kruger
DT Kelly Talavou
TE Tony Curtis
OL Tony Moll
OT Oniel Cousins
LB Dannell Ellerbe
RB Jalen Parmele
QB John Beck (3rd QB)

This means LJ Smith WILL dress for the first time as a Raven, and the team will have 3 active Tight Ends. It will be interesting to see if LJ contributes at all on Special Teams.

12:10-I get the feeling the Browns mistakenly listed Hank Fraley as inactive when Rex Hadnot was supposed to be. The word was that Hadnot wasn’t even traveling.

12:01-Did anyone see the shot of Rex Ryan walking into Giants Stadium today? Brian Billick would have lost his mind. Rex looked more homeless than even I usually do! Just noticed Rob Ryan (now the Browns Defensive Coordinator) down on the field here at “The Bank”, and he looks EXACTLY the same as you remember him from Oakland.

11:55-There’s a rumor being passed around that Paul Kruger is inactive again today. As I just told Chris Bonetti and Jason Jubb, I did not expect him to be active this week despite the fact that the Ravens let go of Prescott Burgess Tuesday. A reminder that Tom Zbikowski was NOT active last week and will be today. Jarret Johnson is the only REAL injury question mark; but he’s also one of the toughest guys on the team, so I bet he’s dressed.

11:53-Ravens in purple tops and white pants-they’re expected to wear purple until the final home game of the season. Browns in white tops and brown pants.

11:50-From the Cleveland Browns’ official Twitter page, here are their scratches:

RB Jamal Lewis
K Phil Dawson
OL Hank Fraley
OL Floyd Womack
TE Greg Estandia
WR Brian Robiskie
DB Gerard Lawson
QB Brett Ratliff (3rd QB)

11:15-The Ravens are 13-7 all-time against the Browns; including a sweep of the Brownies last season. They are 7-3 all-time against the Browns here in Baltimore.

10:40-As I noted yesterday, 4 Browns aren’t here in Charm City-as Jamal Lewis, Phil Dawson, Rex Hadnot and Floyd Womack are already OUT according to Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk.com. Billy Cundiff was signed by the Browns to kick. Former Raven Cedric Peerman was waived to make room for Cundiff.

10:30-Greetings from the Press Box here at M&T Bank Stadium in beautiful downtown Baltimore; where the Ravens put their 2-0 record on the line in their first AFC North contest of the year against the 0-2 Cleveland Browns. The Ravens have started a season 3-0 only once in their history-2006, when they went on to finish with the 2nd best record in the AFC.

Today’s game can be seen on CBS, the great Gus Johnson and Steve Tasker are on the call. According to The Weather Channel, it will be 71 degrees and mostly sunny today at 1pm; with just a 10% chance of precipitation.

Drew Forrester will be manning the WNST Twitter account today (@WNST), with Nestor Aparicio, Chris Pika, Luke Jones and myself chiming in. Don’t forget about our “Purple Haze” live chat tonight at 7 on WNST.net, where we’ll break down everything about today’s game and the other NFL action.

-G

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