Something changed on Wild-Card weekend. A new sense of pride and accomplishment overwhelmed the Ravens locker room. Ever since, the team can’t seem to do anything wrong. Two victories against two very good teams later, the Ravens are healthy, confident, and prepared to take on New England.
During the stretch, Joe Flacco has played like the elite QB he and his agent say he is. He has the best passer rating in the playoffs (120.0) and has earned new playoff highs in yards (613) and TD’s (5). For the first time, he hasn’t thrown a pick in his first two postseason games. Because of the emerging running game, Flacco has been able to work his passing game easier in the balanced game plan.
Coach Harbaugh has had his fair share of tough decisions this year, but there hasn’t been one bigger than the movement of Michael Oher. Oher, who has struggled protecting Flacco’s “blind side,” has made the shift to the right side.
Bryant McKinnie has been inserted at the left tackle and has been Flacco’s biggest gift so far. The 6’8” tackle is in his 11th year in the league, but it hasn’t been any easier than his first. After being a full time starter in 2011, he showed up at the 2012 training camp overweight and claiming that he hurt his back at his home in South Florida after slipping on a wet surface.
McKinnie would eventually end up signing a contract that would result in him taking a million dollar pay cut and spending the year below Michael Oher and Kelechi Osemele on the depth chart. In October, reports surfaced that the 354-pound tackle owed over $300,000 in a lawsuit from a Miami strip club. Although McKinnie denied allegations, it just added another twist to his wild ride.
Now in January, the arising left tackle has been perfect in his two games. He goose-egged Dwight Freeney in the Wild-Card game against the Colts, and shut down star pass rusher Elvis Dumervil in Saturdays thrilling win.
He has given Flacco not only time to throw, but confidence in knowing that his blind-side would be protected. If McKinnie can hold up in New England, he might just secure another year or two in Baltimore.