2. The offensive line has to play better next week if the Ravens are going to advance to the Super Bowl. I'm a little burned out on the weekly Joe Flacco arguments, to be frank, and I think readers are, too. I feel like the past two weeks have been Flacco overkill. God bless my friends who work in talk radio because it continues to fill the airwaves and drive ratings, but I think the discussion requires a little more nuance at this point, a surgeon's touch if you will, and most people can't resist using a hammer instead. ("JOE IS ELITE!!!" or "NO, HE SUCKS!") As soon as Flacco cracked a joke last week about not getting any credit when the Ravens win, and getting ripped for throwing the ball every time they lose, I knew this town was going to get a serious case of the vapors. Arguing over Flacco has become about as fun as arguing with a door. We need a little break, at least in this column. Instead, let's talk about the offensive line, which got bullied and bludgeoned on Sunday. I don't know what happened, but they had a really difficult time picking up stunts, and they got whipped in short yardage. Even Marshal Yanda, arguably the most reliable Raven at any position this year, didn't have a very good day. J.J. Watt and Brooks Reed are rookies, and they combined for five sacks, 20 tackles, four tackles for loss, and five quarterback pressures on Sunday. (Guess how many sacks and quarterback pressures Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata combined for? One, a pressure by Ngata.) The Ravens' blocking during short yardage runs was ugly, and that's putting it kindly. I actually completely agree with John Harbaugh's decision to go for a touchdown on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line, but the Ravens can't run a play where the Texans' best linebacker, Brian Cushing, is able to run downhill at Rice unblocked. It was a great play by Cushing, but if someone gets even a little piece of him, it's probably a touchdown. Instead, Cushing made the perfect form tackle. The Ravens are lucky that didn't cost them the game. It's clear the Texans have a great defense. They played some great football. And the offense did get bogged down by some dropped passes in the first half. But dropped passes don't account for the fact that the Ravens rushed for 2.8 yards per carry, and they don't account for five sacks either. The Patriots didn't have a great defense this year, but they did have 40 sacks, which is more than the Pittsburgh Steelers had, and it's more than the Titans, Jags, Seahawks and Chargers had, four teams that gave Baltimore trouble. I know some of the offensive line is banged up and playing through pain, but they need to give Flacco a chance next week, so at the very least we can have a real debate about him again.
Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.