1. The Ravens offensive line remains enigmatic, but there's reason for hope

The offensive line delivered a bipolar performance in Miami, looking every bit as bad in the first half as it had against the Buffalo Bills but improving greatly in the second half. Without the unit's mid-game improvement, the Ravens could not have scraped by with a vital road win. The line's struggles began on the Ravens' first possession. Former Raven Dannell Ellerbe crashed through to stuff Ray Rice for no gain. Then Bryant McKinnie got beat on the edge, leaving Joe Flacco no choice but to step forward and throw prematurely. Those plays ended a promising drive and offered a microcosmic preview of the half to come. For yet another week, Rice and Bernard Pierce found little room to run. Flacco threw from an ever-collapsing pocket. The offensive line, facing a bottom-quarter Dolphins defense, could not do its job. In second-guessing the Ravens' loss to Buffalo, many focused on the team¿s abandonment of the running game. The implication seemed to be that if the Ravens had simply committed to the ground attack, production would have followed. In reality, Harbaugh went all air all the time because his team couldn't run the ball effectively when it tried. This was a problem of execution, not philosophy or scheme. The depth of concern over the offensive line became apparent when the Ravens abruptly traded for a new left tackle, Eugene Monroe. Harbaugh also didn't wait long Sunday to pull left guard Kelechi Osemele (who was struggling through back spasms) in favor of usual back-up center A.Q. Shipley. Give the Ravens credit for addressing their flaws quickly. Monroe wasn¿t ready to help in Miami. But a funny thing happened in the second half, as the same old group, sans Osemele, played drastically better. The Ravens remained committed to the run this time around. Pierce finally broke a 28-yard gain behind Michael Oher and Marshal Yanda. Rice also grew stronger as the game went on. The line pushed defenders back in a way it hadn't all season. With the runs keeping Miami¿s front honest, Flacco gained more time to throw and played an efficient half. A struggling offense suddenly looked balanced and on-rhythm. So what to make of all this? The Ravens' overall performance in run blocking remains poor. They still need better play at left tackle. But after a rebound in Miami, with Monroe on the way next week, there's at least reason for hope.
Steve Mitchell, USA TODAY Sports
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