Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 8/9/13
The 2013 AFC title game was one for the history books. This game between the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens had every story line imaginable. Would Ray Lewis get to one more super bowl? After the injury, could Peyton Manning win his second ring? And then came the most important question, would Baltimore's offensive line hold up against what, according to the defensive hog index, was the best defense in football? The Baltimore Ravens had the 13th best offensive line in football according to our offensive hog index. When looking at their matchup from afar you would think they wouldn't stand a chance against the Denver Broncos. The one thing this stat did not take into effect was the Bryant Mckinnie effect.After playing sparingly throughout the year, McKinnie went on to start and play in every snap for the Ravens 2013 Super Bowl run. This allowed the Ravens to play Michael Oher at right tackle where he is a more natural fit. The other major contributor here was the health of Marshal Yanda.Yanda, when healthy, is the best guard in football. The Ravens offenseive line communicates so well pre-snap they often have a blitz sniffed out before the play starts. This wasn't the case all season but with players back and McKinnie starting you could tell the cohesion was there.Marshal Yanda and Matt Birk are both veteran players who make reads and adjustments at the line. Watch the first Ravens touchdown, a 59-yard bomb to Torrey Smith. The Broncos show their hand too soon with the inside linebacker blitz, the Ravens calmly pause, communicate, and get it picked up. This leads to Flacco having 3.6 seconds untouched in the pocket, which was enough time for Smith to beat Champ Bailey deep. Watching Kelechi Osemele and Matt Birk trade the noseguard for the blitzing linebacker was textbook. These types of what I call "communication blocks" happened throughout the game. When watching the adjustments from the first time these teams met in the regular season, with Denver winning 34-17, the one thing that stands out is the difference in offensive line play from the Ravens in the first game to the second. In the first game Joe Flacco was sacked three times and in the rematch he was only sacked once.There is a rule of thumb every offensive line should live by: a great pass rusher, in this case Von Miller, will get his regardless. Focus on blocking the unit and not one person. In the first game the Ravens did what they could to ensure Miller wasn't a factor, and they were successful in that he finished with only three tackles. While this may seem like a sound strategy, I promise you it's not. Focus too much on one guy and other players, in this case guys like Derek Wolfe and Robert Ayers, make the difference. Focus on the entire unit like they did in the rematch and Miller gets his but you keep their defense at bey.A lot of you will read this and tell me that Joe Flacco was the reason the Ravens won. Others will say the blown coverage in overtime is why the Broncos lost. In reality, all of those played a factor. None more important than a veteran offensive line unit in Baltimore having seen what the Broncos did as a defense and adjusting to it for their rematch. Our offensive and defensive hog indexes are as close to a sure thing in football as there is. But anytime when looking at statistical rankings, dive in deeper and see what could have caused such a change. When you factor in Mckinnie's play in the playoffs coupled with the health of Yanda and Oher sliding back to the right side, you have the formula for an offensive line that can beat the system. 
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