OAKLAND, CALIF. — Joe Flacco mentioned it to his offensive linemen on several occasions during the game, but as the Ravens took a knee on the final drive with a 30-17 victory over the Oakland Raiders assured, the veteran quarterback wanted to express his appreciation some more.
So as the offense huddled, Flacco made sure to give his offensive line the credit he thought it deserved after a game in which the quarterback wasn't sacked and the Ravens rushed for 143 yards to put the game away.
"They played awesome," Flacco said. "At the end, just putting it on them and being able to run the clock down and do what we did there, that was huge. You have to give credit to our tight ends, too. We put them in spots to kind of help out on [Khalil] Mack a good amount of times. They did really good. Bruce Irvin over on the other side and whoever they have coming on the other side, they're really good players, too. You have to give a lot of credit to our backside to have Bruce one-on-one a lot of those times. They did awesome."
After two game in which Flacco was hurried and harassed, there was plenty of angst about how the Ravens' patchwork offensive line would hold up against a Raiders defense that had 10 sacks over the first four games.
That angst extended to the Ravens' offensive line meeting room during the week.
"We just hadn't played well the past few weeks," left guard James Hurst said. "In our room, we knew that we had to step it up and that our team had more potential than we had shown. We weren't doing our job to the level that puts us on par to our ability. We knew we had to improve."
Ravens veteran right tackle Austin Howard, who was facing his former Raiders teammates, sensed a greater sense of urgency from his teammates up front in every meeting and in every practice during the week.
"I think our entire team felt different. Our practice was different than what it's been. Our preparation was very through. The process was great this week. We had a lot of intent — every little detail," Howard said. "Especially the past two weeks, Joe has been taking a little bit of heat because of our protection up front. We took that personal and we still are. We're not done. We're going to keep working on it."
The Ravens offensive line played one of its best games of the season as Flacco was hit just twice. The Ravens used their tight ends to help out on Mack, who had a sack in each of his first four games, and the reigning Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year finished with eight tackles but no sacks or hits on Flacco.
Raiders defensive end Mario Edwards Jr., who had three sacks coming in, had one hit on Flacco but finished with just two tackles. Irvin, meanwhile, had just two assisted tackles.
The performance didn't drop off when starting right guard Matt Skura went down with a knee sprain in the third quarter and was replaced by rookie fifth-round pick Jermaine Eluemunor.
"The pass protection was very good, and our offensive linemen did a good job, and that is one of the best pass rushing units in football," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "No question, it was a group effort. We had the ball out at times. Our offensive line, obviously, did a very good job. Our backs did a good job protecting, and our tight ends were involved quite a bit with chips and things like that, so it was a good game plan, too. I thought our offensive coaches put together an excellent plan in that way."
The highlight of the day for the offensive line came on the Ravens' final full drive. With the Ravens leading by 10 points with less than nine minutes to play in the fourth quarter, the Raiders know the visitors were going to run the ball. However, they still couldn't stop it.
The Ravens ran the ball 10 times for 42 yards on a 13-play, 54-yard drive that ate up 6:26 and ended with Justin Tucker converting a 44-yard field to give the Ravens a 30-17 lead.
The Ravens ran the ball on nine straight plays on the drive and picked up three first downs during that span.
"It takes tremendous effort, practice and time and sacrificing everything to come out and perform today," Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley said. " I'm proud of everyone on the O-line about the way they performed and all the sacrifice they made. It showed."