Harbs: O-Line Will Be Ready For Steelers

The Cardinals hit Joe Flacco four times, sacked him three times and caused two fumbles.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Monday, October 31st, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Categories: Ryan Mink, Week 8 vs Cardinals

The Ravens’ offensive line had troubles stopping an opposing pass rush for the third straight game – so much on Sunday that the team ended up partly going to a no-huddle offense to relieve the pressure.

The Arizona Cardinals hit quarterback Joe Flacco four times, sacked him three times and caused two fumbles, including one on the 2-yard line that set up a touchdown.

There was also a penalties problem. Despite playing at M&T Bank Stadium, the offensive line was flagged five times.

Asked to evaluate the status of his offensive line, Head Coach John Harbaugh looked ahead, not backwards.

“My assessment is that they’ll be ready to play against Pittsburgh and we’ll be the best offensive line we can be,” Harbaugh said. “They’re capable of playing winning football against Pittsburgh.

“That’s really the only thing you need to assess as a coach. You look at where you can get better, specifically, and you try to work on those things and you build on the good things.”

Baltimore’s offensive line still waiting for starting left guard Ben Grubbs to return and reclaim his spot from converted center Andre Gurode, but at this time that’s an unknown. They’re simply just going to have to go with what they have for now.

The unit is surrendered seven quarterback hits to the Houston Texans and three sacks and a fumble to the Jacksonville Jaguars last week.

Flacco has now lost four fumbles through seven games this year, matching his total from all last season.

“We need to be more consistent, and it’s execution,” center Matt Birk said.

“When the quarterback gets hit, one out of six times the ball ends up on the ground, which is a bad deal. It gave them an opportunity for easy points. We can’t do that. That’s not a recipe for winning games.”

The Ravens’ offensive line’s first-half performance was exemplified by its final play.

Arizona sent an all-out blitz and several Cardinals came streaming through the line to sack Flacco. While defensive end Calais Campbell and inside linebacker Paris Lenon split credit for the sack, it could have been shared by more.

The loss of 11 yards forced a field goal, killed Baltimore’s final-drive momentum and sent the Ravens into halftime trailing, 24-6.

On the key fumble earlier in the half, left tackle Bryant McKinnie was beaten on an outside rush. Flacco couldn’t step up to avoid it because there was also inside pressure. Gurode has also had a difficult switch to a position he never played.

The coaching staff helped the line in the second half, moving into a no-huddle formation to keep the Cardinals defenders on the field and wear out their pass rush.

The offensive line also simply “played better” as the game went on, Harbaugh said.

They’ll need to continue that against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who will no doubt still bring the heat even if they don’t have outside linebackers James Harrison (eye) and LaMarr Woodley (hamstring).

“We definitely have to do a better job protecting Joe and executing our plays,” McKinnie said.

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