Bent-up line doesn't break

Gaither, hurt shoulder and all, fills in admirably for injured Terry

November 24, 2008|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,ken.murray@baltsun.com

Jared Gaither went into yesterday's game with a "use only in emergency" label on his sprained right shoulder. The emergency arrived early, the wraps came off quickly and the Ravens' precocious left tackle responded magnificently.

Consider it another sign that Jonathan Ogden's old position is in capable hands.

Gaither (Maryland) played deep into the fourth quarter of a 36-7 romp over the Philadelphia Eagles after a concussion forced his replacement, Adam Terry, to the sideline early in the first half.

"I think it's a really courageous effort," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He's a young guy who has figured out how to play through pain and play well through pain. It's just a tremendous [statement] for where he's going as a football player. He's going to be a great football player."

Gaither's one-armed performance was the headliner for a gritty offensive line that defused Philadelphia's zone blitzes and took the fight out of the Eagles by late in the third quarter.

The Ravens punted on their first six possessions but still wound up with 40 rushes (worth 110 yards) and an advantage in time of possession of nearly seven minutes.

"I think an opponent can only take so much pounding," Gaither said, "and we just pounded and pounded and stayed on top of them."

Gaither, who is 6 feet 9 and 330 pounds, wore a sling on his right shoulder as recently as Wednesday and declined to use a harness yesterday. He yielded one sack to Eagles end Trent Cole but came through the encounter intact.

"I used it as best I could," he said of his arm. "I just had the will to do everything I had to do."

This was a game about wills as much as blitzing defenses. The Eagles came into Week 12 tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers for most sacks in the NFL (36). They managed to sack quarterback Joe Flacco three times yesterday, but they lost the battle of wills in the second half.

"That's what the game is all about," center Jason Brown said. "This game is about men challenging men. I'll tell you right now, we have some men on this team, a bunch of mighty men, as Coach Harbaugh likes to say."

Le'Ron McClain was the mightiest of the running backs. He blasted through the Eagles for 88 yards on 18 carries, and he punched over the final touchdown in the fourth quarter. The rest of the Ravens' runners combined for 22 yards on 22 carries.

"The way I run, and the mentality I have to run the ball, I know a team doesn't want to take that on the whole game," McClain said. "All props to the offensive line and [fullback] Lorenzo Neal for paving the way for me."

The key, the linemen all said, was pre-game tape study and determination.

"Our running game started off kind of slow, but we kept at it," left guard Ben Grubbs said. "[The Eagles] try to complicate it with all their different looks, but if you know who you've got to block, that solves the sack problem. We just kept pounding."

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