Ravens Pass Rush vs. Bengals Offensive Line: Battle in the Trenches


Oct 19, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs (55) and linebacker Pernell McPhee (90) celebrate in the second quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Skill position players often get most of the glory and the media attention.  Everybody loves a big play, of course.  On the defensive side of the ball, sacks are always a crowd pleaser, but simply getting pressure on a quarterback with consistency will ultimately have a big impact on the game.

What gets less attention is the battle that takes place in the trenches on every snap as the offensive line tries to work in harmony to either open up holes for the ground game or prevent the defensive front from pushing the pocket.  These guys are the true blue collar workers of the NFL, doing the work that isn’t flashy by any means.

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The Cincinnati Bengals have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, particularly in pass protection.  Pro Football Focus ranks them second in the NFL in pass pro, allowing a mere six sacks in seven weeks of action.  They have allowed a mere 23 hurries on Andy Dalton in 399 snaps, which means that he has felt pressure on only 5.7% of offensive snaps.

The Ravens offensive line has been almost as good.  Joe Flacco has absorbed seven sacks and 35 hurries while the Ravens rank 6th in the NFL in pass protection.  This is in spite of starting an undrafted rookie at left tackle the last few weeks, of course.  The Ravens have run 481 snaps on offense, which means that Flacco has been pressured on 7.3% of snaps.

The Bengals defensive line has struggled to generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks this season despite totaling 11 sacks.  PFF ranks them as the worst NFL pass rushing team, mostly because they have only generated pressure on 72 out of 483 defensive snaps (14.8%).

On the flip side, the Ravens pass rush is ranked number one in the NFL, generating pressure on 136 out of 484 defensive snaps (28%).  The Ravens have totaled 18 sacks so far as a team, which is only 14th in the NFL, but 11 of them have come in the last two weeks.  The team has consistently generated pressure in almost every game this season.

So Sunday’s game may very well come down to the Raven’s defensive front against the Bengals offensive line.  The Raven’s pass rush is on fire right now, but the Bengals have quietly done a fantastic job of protecting Andy Dalton.  It will certainly be a battle worth watching, and quite possibly the deciding factor in this crucial AFC North showdown.