Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston gives his rant after the Baltimore Ravens' win over the New Orleans Saints. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
NEW ORLEANS — There was some wishful thinking, but not anymore. If the Ravens are to get to the postseason, they have to run the football.
Coming here, the Ravens had new faces in the secondary — cornerbacks Anthony Levine and Danny Gorrer and safety Will Hill. There was hope that the secondary would show improvement over the previous weeks even though the Ravens were facing quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints' high-powered offense. But this group of new faces played poorly, like the old ones.
So now the Ravens have no other options. They have to run the ball to keep the other team off the field, and even that might not be enough.
The Ravens still have to play quarterbacks like Philip Rivers of San Diego in the regular season and possibly a Tom Brady or Peyton Manning in the playoffs, so they might as well hitch a ride to the running game.
The Ravens ran wild against the Saints, and they have a good running back in Justin Forsett and two solid ones in Bernard Pierce and Lorenzo Taliaferro. So they should play to a strength and try to keep their major weakness off the field as much as possible.
Like every team in the NFL, the Ravens want to be balanced and they have explosive receivers in Torrey Smith and Steve Smith, but quarterback Joe Flacco is too inconsistent to be involved in a lot of shootouts.
The most consistent unit on offense has been the offensive line. There were a lot of questions concerning the group heading into the season because they had two new starters, and both guards, Kelechi Osemele and Marshal Yanda, had to show they had recovered from injuries suffered last season.
The Ravens won't remind anyone of the Green Bay Packers of the 1960s, the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s or the Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s, but the offensive line has been solid.
On Monday night, the group was outstanding in its run blocking against the Saints. Okay, New Orleans has one of the worst run defenses in the NFL, but it was still an impressive performance.
The Ravens ran a clinic on New Orleans. It wasn't just about physically pounding the Saints; they were fundamentally better. The technique was superb.
They sealed and got to the edge. They made blocks into the second level. Yanda played well and so did right tackle Rick Wagner. Few offensive linemen finish blocks better than Osemele.
There are still some weaknesses for the Ravens. Left tackle Eugene Monroe has struggled and center Jeremy Zuttah has had problems with big nose guards. The Ravens aren't maulers, so they will struggle to knock big defensive lines off the ball in short-yardage situations.
The Ravens also still have problems picking up blitzes and stunts up the middle, but this unit will be key down the stretch. The offensive line has to be.
If the Ravens can run the ball, it will open up the play-action game for Flacco, as well as the playbook of coordinator Gary Kubiak, whose West Coast offense is predicated off the run and short-to-intermediate passes.
Also, this is the safer way to possibly ensure victory. Starting cornerback Lardarius Webb got picked on by the Saints Monday night. Hill, despite an interception that he returned 44 yards for a touchdown, looks slow in covering the deep ball and fellow safety Matt Elam just looks lost.
Maybe the worst play of the secondary occurred near the end of the half when Brees floated a 26-yard touchdown pass to receiver Marques Colston. Rookie safety Terrence Brooks was in great position to make a play, and he froze.
The secondary has to get better, or does it? Regardless, it's the time of the year when teams start building their running game and gaining momentum, especially on the East Coast where the weather is unpredictable.
It's a decision the Ravens have to make. In all honesty, they have very little choice.