Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis have been a deadly pass rushing duo for years now in the NFL. Throughout those years they have caused a lot of problems for the Baltimore Ravens during the regular season and especially the playoffs. The Ravens knew this heading into the wild card round where they faced the Colts' deadly duo and made a change to their offensive line.
So, when game planning for this weeks game the Ravens coaching staff came to a decision that fans have been wondering about all season. The Ravens decided to start Bryant McKinnie at left tackle and Michael Oher at right tackle with Kelechi Osemele and Marshal Yanda at guard and the usual Matt Birk at center. Many fans and media pundits alike have wondered why the team hadn't used this lineup at all earlier this season. With Oher still struggling at left tackle and a constant rotation at left guard it seemed to be the best option throughout the season but for some reason the team always seemed to favor a lineup that left McKinnie on the bench.
Some believed it was a ploy for the team to save money. Keeping McKinnie on the bench for most of the season saved the team incentive based bonus money in his contract. There is also the "Harbaugh Doghouse" theory, that because McKinnie showed up to camp out of shape and over weight again, head coach John Harbaugh designated him to the bench early on causing McKinnie to sulk and slack off in practice. It may have even been a combination of both reasons combined with the Ravens need to see if Michael Oher could ever really pan out as a true NFL left tackle.
Whatever the case may be a few things definitely became apparent this season. One, Michael Oher is much better suited as a right tackle than left. Two, the offensive line plays better with McKinnie at left tackle and Osemele and Yanda at guard and three, Jah Reid is better off as a guard but isn't one of the teams best five linemen. Reid may be best suited for a back up role in which his versatility can be used as he seems to be a jack of all trades but master of none.
After all of the tinkering with the offensive line all season it seems that the Ravens organization finally came to the same conclusion that most of it's fan base had come to before the season even started. When the playoffs came around the team finally used their best five linemen and it worked out well. I didn't hear Freeney's name called all day yesterday. Which begs the question, why didn't the team use this line up all season? Maybe they could have won a few more games and ended up with a higher seed in the playoffs with at least one more home game.
Did McKinnie finally prove something to Harbaugh towards the end of the season to earn his playoff start? Or, did the team simply think they could win enough games with the previous lineup to still win the North and then switch back for they playoffs just to save a few bucks?
We will probably never get a straight answer when it comes to this question but I hope the team decides to stick with this lineup throughout the rest of the playoffs because it certainly gives them the best chance to win.