Ravens Q&A with Mike Preston

January 22, 2013

Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston answers reader questions about the Ravens' 28-13 win over the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game, and looks ahead to the team's Super Bowl matchup against the San Francisco 49ers.

Drew: I’ve been drinking purple Kool-Aid all year, and it’s gotten bitter at some points, but man, it has aged just right at the moment and tastes so GOOD! Can we change No. 5's nickname to Joe Money? I wouldn’t take any other QB in the league over Joe Flacco these last six weeks. No picks since Denver in the regular season? Dude is serious money....

Mike Preston: Drew, the purple Kool-Aid always tastes good.  Just ask the people over at The Castle.  And the nickname "Joe Money" will be appropriate for Flacco a few weeks after the Super Bowl.  He is still on his rookie deal. 

Mike Ginsberg in Arlington, Va.: I know we won the Patriots game and I should not be complaining about the officiating – they got most of the calls right – but I had a problem with two plays: (1) the hit on Dennis Pitta, which sure looked like a helmet-to-helmet hit, as bad as anything the Ravens got flagged for in that department (and surely worse that Dannell Ellerbe's little bit of pushing and shoving), and (2) Tom Brady's slide where he spiked Ed Reed, the sort of slide that if you slid into second base that way you'd get hit by a pitch in your next at-bat. I've seen a lot of QBs slide, and I've never seen them slide spikes-high like that.  Do you think that the refs look a little more closely at the Ravens for helmet-to-helmet hits and other types of personal fouls, and if so, why?

Mike Preston: The refs look closely at teams with a reputation for playing physical football. They are not supposed to, but they do.  The Steelers and Ravens draw more flags because they hit harder than most teams.  It isn't a conspiracy as most Baltimore fans would like to think, it is just human nature. Plus, if I were a quarterback, I'd slide spikes up, too.

Bob K.: Congratulations again on your correct pick. I was surprised that Vince Wilfork was such a non-factor in the game. I hardly heard his name mentioned. What changes did the Ravens make to keep him from having such a major impact like he did last year?

Mike Preston: The Ravens double-teamed Wilfork all game, and they have a lot of muscle at guard with Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele. For the most part it worked, however the strategy did get Flacco hit a couple of times by allowing a free runner because of all the focus on Wilfork. The offensive line played extremely well overall, and the group has improved tremendously since Bryant McKinnie was inserted as the starting left tackle.

Richard in Dallas: Which decision was the key decision that propelled the Ravens into the Super Bowl:  letting Bryant McKinnie out of the doghouse or firing Cam Cameron midseason? Do you see the Ravens in the Super Bowl if only one of those changes had been made?

Mike Preston: I think you would have to choose letting McKinnie out of the doghouse.  The Ravens had success with Cam Cameron over four-and-a-half seasons.  However, when the offensive line struggled, the whole team struggled.  It seems to me that actually having the best five offensive linemen on the field is a good idea. When your offensive line is dominating, you are physically controlling the game and the time of possession, especially with a strong running attack. You are also keeping your defense off the field. Your best defense is still a strong offense.

 Marty from Columbia: Does Bryant McKinnie have a chance to come back next year to the Ravens?  As you’ve stated, there is no doubt the offensive line is much better with him and now can be considered a strength and not the team's weakness. By the way, congrats on calling this ALL SEASON LONG.

Mike Preston: Marty, McKinnie definitely wants to come back next season. He doesn't want to start new again in another city and he likes his teammates, especially the group on the offensive line. He works well and has a strong relationship with Osemele. But now is not the time for thoughts like that.

Somebody, please pass the Kool-Aid.

John Snyder: My question is a two-parter dealing with Jim Caldwell. Why did he wait until the start of the second half of the New England game to open up the offense? Was it based on the score or the timing? Based on his success, there has been recent discussion that he should continue as the offensive coordinator, but I think he should be a head coach somewhere. Do you agree?

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