I’ve already spent nearly 500 words telling you all of that before even getting to my more significant football-based point. I guess I should do that now.
The most significant reasons the Baltimore Ravens defeated the Denver Broncos Saturday and will play in their third AFC Championship Game in the last five years are twofold.
1-Their Offensive Line negated one of the best defensive fronts in all of football, allowing their quarterback to stay on his feet and make the plays we all know he’s capable of.
2-Their defensive front finally got the necessary pressure of their own to force a future Hall of Fame quarterback into making bad decisions that would cost his team the game.
There it is.
Broncos LB Von Miller and DE Elvis Dumervil combined to post a staggering 29.5 sacks in the 2012 regular season. Miller will either hear his named called soon as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year or he’ll find out he finished just behind Houston Texans rush monster JJ Watt. The duo had finished the year particularly strong, totaling 11.5 sacks combined over the last seven games of the season.
Through four quarters Saturday night in the Mile High City, the duo was completely shut out. Stymied. Not even a single Tackle For Loss (TFL) to show for their effort. The duo would finally split a sack in overtime, but it would be merely a coverage sack on third down where Ravens QB Joe Flacco smartly decided a punt would be better than forcing a ball to a covered receiver.
The team’s new look Offensive Line (Bryant McKinnie, Kelechi Osemele, Matt Birk, Marshal Yanda, Michael Oher from left to right) played together for the first time as a unit just one week earlier in the Ravens’ Wild Card win over the Indianapolis Colts. Against Denver, the unit allowed Flacco a nearly spotless pocket which he used to throw for 331 yards and three breathtaking long touchdowns.
If you’ve ever defended Flacco’s struggles in the past by saying something along the lines of “if only someone would block for him”, Saturday’s game was for you.
On the opposite of the field, the Ravens could do NOTHING to get to Broncos QB Peyton Manning early in the football game. The future Hall of Famer was barely hurried on an early interception, the ball was instead tipped before Ravens CB Corey Graham returned it to give the team it’s only lead of regulation.
But after halftime, the Ravens were finally able to dial up the pressure. Terrell Suggs posted two sacks and Pernell McPhee added another strip sack recovered by Paul Kruger. The Ravens’ pressure forced Manning to roll to his right on his final pass attempt of the game, an ill-advised toss across his body intended for Brandon Stokley that would prove fatal for the Broncos’ season.
The Ravens kept the pressure off of Flacco and forced pressure on Manning. What happened in between was significantly more memorable (and will probably ensure Jacoby Jones won’t have to buy a meal any time soon in Charm City), but winning in the postseason might well be explained just that easily.
Pressure the incredible quarterback on the other side of the field. Keep your own very good quarterback on his feet to let him make plays.
Seems like the type of gameplan that (if executed properly) could hand the Ravens their first AFC Championship Game win since January 2001 next week.
And if it does, I promise to wait a few days to step all over the emotion.