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Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Conference Champs Weekend OLR: Route to NOLA

The San Francisco 49ers will meet the Baltimore Ravens in the Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans to fight it out for Superbowl XLVII. It wasn't an easy ride for either team, but in terms of offensive line it was easier for some more than others.

The Ravens have had some issues at OT all season, with Michael Oher and LT and rookie Kelechi Osemele playing well enough, but often struggling against quicker pass rushers. With the prospect of facing first Dwight Freeney, then Von Miller, and finally Chandler Jones in the playoffs, the Ravens made a change, bringing veteran LT Bryant McKinnie back into the starting role, shifting Oher back to his more natural RT slot, and kicking Osemele in to LG. With veterans Matt Birk and Marshal Yanda at C and RG completing the lineup, the Ravens hoped their answers would be solved. Through 3 playoff games, it looks like they have been.

Despite allowing another 2 sacks on Sunday, both to Rob Ninkovich, the Ravens have allowed a total of 4 sacks in 3 post-season games, a massive improvement on the 38 they allowed in 16 regular season games (2.5 per game). They've also been able to pound the ball, with a total of 9 rushing 1st downs on Sunday night, even if a YPC of 3.7 is nothing to write home about.

So much has been made of the fact Ray Lewis' career is coming to an end this season, and the possibility of Ed Reed throwing in the towel is also being mentioned, but seemingly no-one is discussing Matt Birk. The 15 year veteran and former Viking is finally getting his shot at the Superbowl, having been to six ProBowls, named All-Pro twice, and until this season never getting his shot in the big game. His less savory opinions on certain civil rights aside, Birk deserves recognition for what has been a great career, that many expect will end in Louisiana, victorious or not.

For the Ravens opponents, their OL season has been even better. The 9ers finished 6th overall in 2012, and continued their strong form into the Conference Championship game, putting up the week's high OLR score of 0.416 against the Falcons. The key to their success was the run game, with a YPC of over 5, and 3 rushing scores, as well as 8 rushing first downs. And they did it this week without Kaepernick going crazy on the ground. Frank Gore put up 90 yards, LaMichael James 34, whilst CK and 3rd RB Anthony Dixon combined for 25. No single rush from an RB went over 15 yards, and both of Gore's 4th quarter TDs came from inside the 10, where the OL really earn their money. Of course, when the left side of your OL is made up up two of the Top 3 Linemen of the Year candidates from the TPL Awards in Joe Staley and Mike Iupati you can always rely on a strong performance, and they got that on Sunday night.

They'll want the same in a fortnights time.

- Phil Gaskin (@sosayitisaid)
- The Pulling Linemen

1 comment:

  1. This is proving to be really interesting. It's going to be really exciting this next few months and I can't wait to see it.