The Ravens have a history of big, bruising fullbacks like Sam Gash and Alan Ricard. They have been looking for one this season and might have finally found one in fourth-year player Ovie Mughelli.
Running back Jamal Lewis rushed for 91 yards on 22 carries yesterday in the Ravens' 24-10 win over the Atlanta Falcons. Lewis wore down the Falcons, and was even cheered by the home crowd. The Ravens' reshuffled offensive line also drew a lot of praise, but one player involved in a lot of collisions creating holes for Lewis was Mughelli.
As Lewis' lead blocker, Mughelli not only made initial contact, but also got his hips turned while blocking linebackers, which allowed Lewis to make his cuts without hesitation. The offensive line opened holes at the point of attack, but Mughelli made some nice blocks into the second level. That has been missing from the running game all season.
"It was just one of those things where they kept him in a game, and we got a chance to build a relationship," Lewis said of Mughelli. "We finally got some time together. I had that kind of relationship with Ricard, where he would tell me how he was going to block on one play, or how he was going to block against a certain defense.
"Ovie and I still have room for a lot of improvement, but he was clearing holes at the point of attack, and that's all I can ask."
Mughelli definitely impressed the Falcons.
"Experience is invaluable, and I got a chance to get into the flow of the game, and learn the linebackers' flow," Mughelli said. "When the other team's linebackers were asking me if I was trying to kill them or not, I knew I was doing a pretty good job."
Closing it out
Besides a running game, the two other most impressive things to come out of yesterday's win was the killer instinct that has been missing from this team in closing out games, and that the Ravens got no freebies as far as turnovers from the opposing team.
In just about every game this season, the Ravens have gotten big breaks like poorly thrown passes that were deflected, intercepted and returned for touchdowns, or recovered fumbles that led to easy scorers. But this was a clean game yesterday. The Ravens earned the win.
Also, the Ravens have had to hold off teams such as Cincinnati and Tennessee in the closing minutes of games. But with 11:11 remaining in the game and ahead 17-10, the Ravens went on a 15-play, 87-yard touchdown drive that lasted eight minutes and nine seconds.
There was no chance of a last-minute comeback attempt by Atlanta. It was a good, old-fashioned beatdown at the end of the game.
When it comes to the Falcons' failures, critics like to point to the shortcomings of sixth-year quarterback Michael Vick. He surely has a lot of them. Vick has no pocket awareness. He doesn't know when to run or when to throw. In some ways, he reminds you of Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller, and maybe that's why Boller pretended to be Vick in practices last week.
But the Falcons have many more problems than Vick. Their offense is pathetic and extremely conservative. Atlanta doesn't have a single receiver that causes a defense to be concerned. The Falcons have a good running back in Warrick Dunn, who had only 10 carries during the final three quarters to finish with 52 yards rushing on 15 attempts.
Questionable play-calling? How about the gamble on fourth-and-one at the Atlanta 39 on the Falcons' first possession of the game? How about running Dunn off left guard on third-and-14 at the Ravens' 33 with 6:30 left in the half? Or how about that ugly jump ball Vick threw into double coverage in the end zone to tight end Dwayne Blakley with 2:05 remaining in the third quarter? It would have been better to allow Vick to roll to his left, giving him the pass-throw option.
Actually, Atlanta's offense looked a lot like the Ravens' during the past seven years. For a while, it looked like Matt Cavanaugh or Jim Fassel was calling plays.
Poor first half
Some of the Ravens were buzzing about the team's offensive turnaround in the second half, but it was hardly worth gloating about. Besides the closing drive, the only other drive the Ravens had was a 10-play, 65-yard possession to open the third quarter that ended with a 29-yard field goal by Matt Stover.
The Ravens had two possessions in the first half deep inside Atlanta's territory, and they came away with nothing on both of them.
"I don't know what kind of grade I would give the offense for the game, but it would have been an `incomplete' for the first half," Ravens left offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden said.
The Ravens started second-year player Jason Brown and rookie Chris Chester at the guard positions. Chester was making his first career start. Overall, he played well, except for the times he got overpowered trying to pass-block 345-pound defensive tackle Grady Jackson.
Chester has great athleticism and quick feet. He weighs 305 pounds, but will have to bulk up during the offseason to take on the big defensive tackles.
Sams steps up
Ravens punt returner B.J. Sams had a big day and provided instant offense, returning three punts for 121 yards, including one for 65. Sams also averaged 30.3 yards on three kickoff returns.
Sams said he knew there was the potential to have a big day because Falcons punter Michael Koenen had a "returnable ball."
Translation: On film, Koenen's punts were often low or short, and in the middle of the field.