ENGLEWOOD, Colo. –One of the keys to the Broncos' 34-17 win over the Ravens in Week 15 was strong play from the front seven of the defense.
Linebacker Von Miller and the rest of the Denver linebackers and defensive linemen won their battle against the Baltimore offensive line, sacking quarterback Joe Flacco twice and limiting the Ravens running game to just 56 yards on 19 carries.
The way Miller played, both in that game and throughout the season, has made stopping No. 58 a top priority for the Baltimore offensive line.
"Speed, power, quickness, finesse – he's got it all," Ravens Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell said. "He can run past you up the field. He's got enough power to lean and bore and drive the protector back into the quarterback. He can make you miss inside and out. He is just an unbelievable performer."
In their first-round defeat of Indianapolis, Matt Birk was lined up at center, like he was in Week 15. But the other four positions on the line were occupied by different players. Tackle Michael Oher moved from left to right tackle, with Bryant McKinnie stepping in at left tackle. The Ravens also had two new faces at the guard positions, having moved Kelechi Osemele to left guard and gotten Marshal Yanda back from injury on the right side.
Behind their new-look line, the Ravens racked up 172 yards rushing in their Wild Card win over Indianapolis, with strong blocking allowing both Bernard Pierce and starter Ray Rice to rush for at least 70 yards. The rushing success in the postseason opener came on the heels of 224 and 206-yard days against the New York Giants and Cincinnati Bengals in the final two games of the regular season, respectively.
"I think they did a good job, obviously," Caldwell said. "Two guys had played the positions before with Michael going back to right (tackle) and Bryant (McKinnie) going to left tackle for us. Both guys did a nice job, and K.O. (Kelechi Osemele) probably had the biggest adjustment to make, so he had to go into our left guard position, but he played extremely well. He fought. He blocked well. Obviously, it wasn't perfect. I think you're just going to see he's going to get better and better all the time."
It's something that has captured the attention of Miller, who believes he will be facing a better unit than the one he saw in Week 15.
"I'm looking forward to going against Michael Oher, going against Bryan McKinnie, (Osemele), he is looking better at guard," Miller said. "He is looking like one of the league's best at guard as a rookie. I'm looking forward to going against these guys. I think the changes they made in their offensive line are for the better for them. We've been playing good offensive lines all year and I'm looking forward to playing these guys, too."