It appeared to be the biggest mismatch of the day. The Ravens' offensive line, which was missing three starters and playing another one out of position, was going to taste defeat early and often against the front four of the 12-1 Minnesota Vikings.
Or were they?
Lost amid yesterday's turnover-marred, 38-28 loss to the Vikings was a surprisingly strong performance by Ravens center Jeff Mitchell, guards Jeff Blackshear and Ben Cavil, and tackles James Atkins and Spencer Folau.
Blackshear, who suffered an abdominal muscle pull in last week's 16-14 loss in Tennessee, was the only starter to answer the call at his normal position. Atkins shifted from left guard to left tackle, replacing Jonathan Ogden, who missed the first game of his three-year career.
And on a day in which the Ravens ran up a respectable 267 yards, including 202 in the second half -- those numbers were pretty much squashed by six turnovers -- Atkins shined against Minnesota Pro Bowler John Randle.
The Ravens, who gained 3.4 yards per carry, but only ran the ball 16 times, did not allow a sack. Randle finished with one tackle.
"It was good facing Randle. He didn't say anything to me after the game. He just ran right off the field real fast. I think he was [ticked] off," Atkins said. "If I didn't block him [well], people would just say they didn't expect it. If I do block him, people will notice. I wanted to get a lot of respect today, and I shut him down."
Atkins, originally a defensive lineman at Southwest Louisiana, converted to offensive line after being signed as an undrafted free agent by Seattle in 1993. He went on to start every game from 1995 through 1996 at left tackle there, before moving to guard last year. The Ravens signed him to a two-year contract last winter, filling a need at backup tackle.
Atkins had started the last three games at left guard, before replacing Ogden.
"I consider myself a starter in this league, whether I play left tackle or left guard," Atkins said.
Folau made the first start of his three-year career by replacing Orlando Brown, who saw his streak of 69 consecutive starts (71 including playoffs) ended. The streak goes back to Brown's days as a Cleveland player.
"I think they played rather well," coach Ted Marchibroda said of his line. "If you [reporters] didn't know they were patchwork, you probably wouldn't have asked the question. The fact that you didn't notice them until the game was over [was good]."
Turner comes through
Veteran wide receiver Floyd Turner promised to deliver a productive game last week, and he wasn't kidding. Filling in for the injured Jermaine Lewis for the second straight week, Turner tied his career high with 10 catches, good for a game-high 147 yards and a touchdown.
Turner's 42-yard touchdown pass from Jim Harbaugh cut Minnesota's lead to 35-20 with 12: 05 left in the contest. He also caught the two-point conversion pass that accounted for the game's final points.
Yesterday marked Turner's third straight game with a touchdown and his second consecutive 100-yard game. It also moved Turner into second place on the team in receiving yards (463). He has five touchdown catches, putting him just one behind team leader Lewis.
"I do have a good rapport with Jim. I've played with him before and I know him and he knows me," Turner said . "It's all about finding the seams and holes and having confidence he'll get you the ball. It's frustrating to play well, then make mistakes and lose. I'm happy for the performance, but you would rather win. You have to be precise; you have to be more effort-free to beat a ballclub like Minnesota."
Turner also moved into a tie with Michael Jackson for fourth on the squad in receptions (27). Jackson, who was available yesterday after missing two games with a sprained foot, did not see action. He practiced for two days last week. James Roe started again in his place.
"I'm not upset about not starting. I felt if I practiced, I'd play, but it didn't happen," Jackson said. "Maybe [the coaches] didn't think I was ready. I'm just a vehicle. I can't move until somebody puts me in drive."
Rhett gets the call
After watching Priest Holmes lose two fumbles and drop a pass, Marchibroda replaced him with the forgotten Errict Rhett, who didn't exactly overwhelm with 16 rushing yards on seven carries. But Rhett sure felt better about his contribution. It was the busiest he has been in three months.
"When the thoroughbred comes out of that barn, he ain't coming out walking. He's been in the barn too long," said Rhett, who was sporting a dirty uniform and a bloody knee.
"Man, I've got some grass stains. I've got some blood. I'm going to take a picture of this."
Hoard busy, bruised
Former Raven Leroy Hoard shouldered most of the ground game for Minnesota. Filling in once again for the injured Robert Smith, Hoard was held to 68 yards on 26 carries.
Hoard also was the recipient of several nasty hits by strong safety Stevon Moore.
Moore and Hoard were teammates with the Cleveland Browns.