The life of an NFL left tackle was best summed up by former New
England Patriots All-Pro Bruce Armstrong, who said, "If we have
65 offensive plays in a game and I do my job on 64 of them and on
[the other] I allow a sack, I've had a bad day. And everyone in
the stadium knows it."
"That's our life," says the Baltimore Ravens' 6'9", 340-pound
Jonathan Ogden, the game's top left tackle. "With us, one snap
can mean everything."
Ogden played 78 downs in a 44-41 overtime win against the Seattle
Seahawks on Nov. 23 in Baltimore, blocking defensive end Chike
Okeafor or outside linebacker Chad Brown. After watching tape of
the game at the Ravens' training facility five days later, Ogden
broke down the 37th play for SI: second-and-five from the
Baltimore 40-yard line with 7:24 left in the third quarter and
the Ravens trailing 27-10.
"Dot Right Flex, Hound Right Divide" is the call quarterback
Anthony Wright makes in the huddle. "On one."
December 8, 2003
"Dot" is the Ravens' basic two-back, one-tight-end, two-wideout
formation. "Right Flex" tells tight end Todd Heap to line up
split to the right by five yards. "Right Divide" means the
formation is strong to the right with the wideouts split, and it
also tells them what their routes will be. Wright is to take a
seven-step drop, and his first option will be a deep out pattern
to the sure-handed Heap. "Hound" is the only word in the sequence
that matters to Ogden. It tells him the line will slide to the
strong side of the formation. That means he will most likely go
one-on-one against Okeafor, unless Seattle calls a stunt--when
the defensive tackle and the end quickly switch spots on the
snap--or a blitz, with Brown or a defensive back coming right
behind Okeafor. In the latter scenario Ogden would take one of
the two pass rushers and a running back would have to pick up the
As Ogden walks to the line, he sees Okeafor wide to his left and
no one opposite left guard Edwin Mulitalo. Neither Brown nor the
safeties appear to be blitzing. Ogden has five inches and 75
pounds on Okeafor, but Okeafor is quicker. This is the first game
Ogden has played against him, and so far he hasn't had any
difficulty pushing Okeafor back on running plays or containing
him on passing downs. From the previous 36 snaps Ogden has
learned that Okeafor works hard and does not excel at any one
aspect of his position, but barrels around the outside like a
poor man's Simeon Rice. Okeafor hasn't shown an inside move all
day, so Ogden's 90% sure that on this play the Seahawks end will
try to outrun him to get to Wright.
"Here I'm in a two-point stance," Ogden says, "so [Okeafor] knows
it's a pass or a draw. He knows I'm not coming right at him, like
I would in a run block. My left foot's behind my right because I
want to get a quick start. I've got to get my body going backward
quickly at the snap."
The ball is snapped, and Wright pulls away from center. Okeafor
comes rocketing out of his stance. "My left foot moves back, my
right foot slides, and I'm in good shape," Ogden says. "He's
going outside, which I knew, and I've got to get my hands on him
to slow him down. He likes to knock your hands away to get
outside, so I'm thinking, Keep your feet moving. Get out there.
Don't let him use his hands. Sometimes you take a chance giving
up the inside lane to the pocket."
As Ogden slides out, about four yards behind the line of
scrimmage, he begins pushing Okeafor, who is wildly and futilely
slapping Ogden's long arms to get them off him. "It's not only
[about] having great hands and strength but also balance," says
Ogden. "I have to engage this guy while he's sprinting toward me
and I'm moving back and to the side. Without balance I'll fall,
and he'll be past me." Ogden pushes Okeafor and then moves back
as they engage again. It isn't until Okeafor is 10 yards past the
line of scrimmage that he can straighten his path toward the
pocket. Advantage, Ogden.
The 27-year-old Wright, however, is inexperienced and
mistake-prone. He's supposed to be seven yards deep, looking for
Heap, but instead he's 10 yards behind the line. Ogden, in a
split second, has gone from being in control to being in crisis.
"You may think, Seven yards or 10 yards, what's the big deal?"
says Ravens coach Brian Billick, "but it's huge. You think the
Green Bay Packers linemen don't know exactly where Brett Favre is
on every pass drop? Our guys are just getting used to Anthony,
and this [type of mistake] drives linemen nuts. [Offensive
coordinator] Matt Cavanaugh's told Anthony, 'You're pissing off
your offensive linemen.'"
With his back to Wright, Ogden can tell from watching Okeafor
that there is a problem. "I could see he was looking at the
quarterback," says Ogden. "He was running straight for him."
Ogden lunges at Okeafor and knocks him down just before Okeafor
can get his hands on Wright, who feels the heat and takes a step
forward. Then, with a clear lane, Wright sprints left and
scrambles for a five-yard gain and a first down.
"That's the kind of thing you've got to handle in this job,"
Ogden says. "You've got to block big guys, little guys, all kinds
of guys. You've got to handle the pressure."
In 43 pass plays against Seattle, Ogden allowed no sacks and only
one quarterback pressure by Okeafor and Brown. For Ogden it's
been a good day. No better, no worse. --Peter King