Dominant effort

ON THE RAVENS

Pats have hands full with Ravens' unrelenting unit

On the offensive line

December 04, 2007|By MIKE PRESTON

There is nothing more demoralizing in pro football than when an offensive line can physically dominate a team and sustain long scoring drives.

The Ravens' often maligned offensive line, consisting of tackles Jonathan Ogden, rookie Marshal Yanda, guards Jason Brown, rookie Ben Grubbs and center Mike Flynn, pounded the New England Patriots last night.

And there was nothing the Patriots could do about it.

The Ravens' offensive line opened huge holes for running back Willis McGahee, who had 134 rushing yards at the end of the third quarter.

But more important, the Ravens' dominance up front took the ball out of the hands of New England quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots' high-scoring offense.

The dominance up front, and a constant lead throughout the game, also cut down on the Ravens' passing attempts. Quarterback Kyle Boller had only one turnover.

This was old-school Ravens football. They ran the ball and controlled the tempo of the game, and the defense slowed one of the best offenses to ever play the game.

The only problem was that the Ravens gave Brady one too many chances. But overall, it was the Ravens' best game of the season.

Breaking down

The Ravens had some success running against the Patriots, and it's because New England's linebackers are beginning to show their ages.

Linebackers Mike Vrabel, Junior Seau and Tedy Bruschi have 41 years of playing experience among them, but the Ravens were getting to them easily in the second level.

It makes you wonder how the Patriots will hold up for the remainder of the season, especially playing in the cold in New England when every tackle and hit hurts and takes a toll on the body.

Bad judgment

Ravens return specialist Yamon Figurs has outstanding speed, but his decision-making is poor. Figurs can't decide when and when not to return punts. On kickoffs, sometimes he dips his shoulders going into the wedge.

The rookie has breakaway ability but also can be a catastrophe waiting to happen.

He had two good returns last night, so the Ravens apparently are willing to take the risk.

Good gamble

The Ravens have been guilty of conservative play-calling throughout the years, but I agree with Brian Billick's decision to go for it on a fourth-and-six from the New England 27 with 10:40 left in the first half.

Boller threw a 12-yard pass to Derrick Mason for a first down, and the Ravens eventually had to settle on a 29-yard field goal by Matt Stover. But at least the Ravens were playing to win and willing to gamble. The Ravens also added a new wrinkle by going with an unbalanced line, but they pulled a guard and ran back to the weakside.

That was a nice play.

Flags fly

It's official now.

A Ravens game isn't really a Ravens game until Derrick Martin and Devard Darling get penalties on special teams and tight end Quinn Sypniewski gets called for illegal procedure. All three had penalties in the first quarter.

Changing it up

Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan threw a lot of different looks at the Patriots. There were times when he had safeties Dawan Landry and Ed Reed 22 yards off the line of scrimmage.

There were times when he rushed only one defensive lineman. But the Ravens' intentions for the game were clear, and they didn't want to give up a big play.

Unhappy return

Adalius Who? Adalius Thomas, the Ravens' former Pro Bowl linebacker, didn't have a happy homecoming with the visiting Patriots.

He got blocked all over the field. He even got knocked around by Boller on a big run by McGahee.

And of course, Thomas couldn't handle Ogden, the Ravens' Pro Bowl left offensive tackle.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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