Few teams are willing to fiddle with their lineup entering the playoffs.
That makes the Ravens’ willingness to blow up their offensive line amazing, and the results have justified the decision.
They took former Pro Bowler Bryant McKinnie out of exile on the bench and started him at left tackle, which moved Michael Oher from left to right tackle, and Kelechi Osemele from right tackle to left guard.
But it took McKinnie convicing his coaches after an up-and-down offseason which included weight problems and a late arrival at training camp after he supposedly slipped and injured his back at his home.
The Ravens had allowed 15 sacks in their previous five games, when McKinnie went to coach John Harbaugh prior to the regular season finale.
“I just told him how badly I wanted to play,” McKinnie said, via Matt Zenitz of the Carroll County Times. “I just felt like I could help and make a difference, and he was like, ‘Just show me at practice.’”
He apparently did, as their offensive line has stabilized in recent weeks, allowing four sacks in three playoff games, and paving the way for their running backs to be an actual factor in the result (which wasn’t always the case in the regular season).
“It’s just clicked,” Osemele said of the new-look line. “I don’t know what it is, but, . . . it’s just a good fit.
“We really didn’t even have to take many reps before we realized how dominant we could be.”
McKinnie’s been the key, as he kept pass-rushers Dwight Freeney and Elvis Dumervil at bay, something quarterback Joe Flacco’s thankful for.
“ I think it’s a pretty solid group we have up there right now,” Flacco said. “Bryant’s fresh, playing quick and moving well. And obviously, with his stature out there, he’s a big, strong guy.
“It gives us five really good talents up there and they’re playing well together.”
That it happened when perhaps their most talented player had to beg his way out of the doghouse makes it that much more impressive.