“A player like that can change a game at any moment,” said Ravens offensive lineman James Hurst on matching up against Broncos linebacker Von Miller. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)
The No. 58 loomed larger than any other last week as the Ravens planned for a bounce-back performance against the Denver Broncos.
They knew Von Miller, the Pro Bowl linebacker who wears it, needed just one play to ruin their Sunday afternoon.
“A player like that can change a game at any moment,” said Ravens right tackle James Hurst, who bore the greatest responsibility for blocking Miller.
In a potentially defining performance for their young season, Hurst and his linemates denied Miller that moment and played an essential role in the Ravens’ 27-14 victory at M&T Bank Stadium.
“It takes a team to block someone like that, no doubt. You keep him off balance, give him different looks, run the ball. We were able to do that,” Hurst said. “We felt good about our game plan. The coaches did a great job constructing that throughout the week. After having not our best game last week against a good front, we had another challenge this week, and I feel like we stepped up. We played a lot better.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said neutralizing Miller was priority No. 1 for his offense coming into the game. The team’s offensive line had played poorly in Week 2, allowing Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins to wreak havoc in a 34-23 loss.
The Ravens performed far better against Miller, not just with sound blocking but with a quick-strike game plan that gave him little time to mount rushes on quarterback Joe Flacco.
“You just can’t block this defense, or Von Miller, standard ways,” Harbaugh said. “You’ve got to do it in ways that are a little bit unconventional and keep his head on a swivel just a little bit. I thought we did a good job of that, run and pass.”
Right guard Marshal Yanda said many players shared in the effort.
“It’s not just one person doing it,” he said. “Whether it’s James blocking him one-on-one or me helping James a little bit a play here or a play there or the tight ends chipping or the backs chipping, it takes everybody. It takes all 11 guys on offense with Joe getting the ball out in time. It’s everybody. It’s all in sync and it all matters, and it was good to do that.”
Miller seemed to grow desperate as the game went on, drawing two offside penalties as he tried to jump Flacco’s snap count.
He came in with four sacks in two games but didn’t lay a hand on the Ravens quarterback all afternoon. He finished with as many penalties as tackles.
“We’ve got a lot of tough guys up front,” Flacco said. “And when you play the team that we did last week and you play the team that we did this week, and those guys hold up the way they did, it’s impressive. You give a lot of credit to Von. He’s able to get in there and make a lot of plays that change the game when you look at him on film. And that was the biggest thing, just not letting him be a factor. We had a plan for that, obviously, but at the end of the day, it’s really just up to those guys up front, one on one, being able to get the job done.”
Miller gave Flacco credit for throwing quickly and decisively.
“He isn’t going to hold the ball very long,” the three-time first-team All-Pro linebacker said. “We couldn’t get to him because we weren’t firing on all cylinders. When you’re facing a quarterback like Flacco, you’ve got to get pressure on him, and we didn’t do that.”