Two of the baddest men in the NFL squared off Sunday at the Bank. In one corner was Ravens All-Pro right guard Marshal Yanda. In the other was Houston Texans All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt, the NFL's reigning Defensive Player of the Year. If this was a legit heavyweight fight, Watt would have won it in a decision.
Watt was a disruptive force and had a more than respectable stat line with a sack and nine tackles, three of them for a loss. But not all of that carnage came when Watt was matched up against Yanda.
Watt's sack came when he was lined up across from right tackle Michael Oher, who allowed Watt to slip between him and Yanda and sack quarterback Joe Flacco. He was also a handful for left tackle Bryant McKinnie -- quite literally, as McKinnie was flagged for a personal foul for grabbing Watt's facemask.
Yanda didn't allow Watt to sack Flacco, but Watt generated three quarterback pressures against Yanda, according to Pro Football Focus. Yanda had allowed just two pressures coming into the game. Yanda also uncharacteristically struggled in the run game. PFF graded him as a negative-1.8 in run blocking, his lowest grade in that area in nearly two years.
That is obviously not up to Yanda's perennial Pro Bowl standard, but many offensive linemen have fared much worse when asked to block Watt, who had 20.5 sacks in 2012.
"They didn't do anything differently," Watt said when asked if the Ravens had any surprises for him in Baltimore's 30-9 win.
Watt was graded as a plus-8.9 overall, which is pretty ridiculous. He was credited with seven defensive stops, according to Pro Football Focus, and was graded as a plus-7.0 against the run.
After the game, Yanda was asked where the breakdowns occurred on the offensive line against Watt and a talented Texans front seven that is among the NFL's toughest.
"I'm focused on my thing," he said. "I've got tunnel vision, and obviously haven't seen the film. We'll look at that film and correct the things we need to correct as an offensive line."
Yanda probably didn't like what he saw when he went back and looked at the tape. But all things considered, he hung in there for 12 rounds with his fellow heavyweight and didn't allow Watt to K-O his quarterback in a big victory. It wasn't pretty, but it could have been a lot worse.