Baltimore's defense took a beating this week.
The criticism was rampant after the disappointing loss to the Chargers in which the unit allowed 21 fourth-quarter points. Then news broke that All-Pro defensive tackle Haloti Ngata would miss the rest of the regular season because of a four-game suspension from the NFL for violating the policy on performance-enhancing substances.
Questions and criticism persisted about whether the Ravens could withstand another loss to their already-hobbled defense.
The Ravens answered those doubts with a commanding 28-13 road victory over the Miami Dolphins.
"We showed people that we're special, and we still got it," outside linebacker Pernell McPhee said. "It was a good opportunity for us to show the world that we're starting to come together."
Baltimore's defense relied on a suffocating pass rush that sacked Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill six times. The defensive front was also stout against the run, even without Ngata in the middle, and the secondary played tight coverage despite being down to just two healthy cornerbacks by the end of the game.
"[Defensive Coordinator] Dean Pees put together a game plan for the ages," cornerback Lardarius Webb said. "It was awesome what he came up with this week. That's just how it showed. Everybody was able to play fast."
The impressive outing by the defense came after a first quarter in which the Dolphins were able to move the ball and put up points. The Dolphins scored on their first two possessions and quickly had a 10-0 lead as Baltimore's offense struggled to get into a rhythm.
Miami put up 102 yards in the first quarter, but then the Ravens tightened up and allowed just 147 yards the rest of the game.
"We had to make some adjustments," outside linebacker* *Terrell Suggs said. "We had to get accustomed to what they were doing. We have the best coaches in the league and we made the proper adjustments and that's why we were successful in the second half."
The biggest difference after the first quarter was the defensive front stuffing Miami's running game. After a strong start, Dolphins running back Lamar Miller finished the game with just 53 yards on 12 carries. Miami had only 63 rushing yards in the game, and it marked the 23rd-straight game the Ravens haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher.
"We got a feel for their run game and I think that was the key for us."
Ngata typically gets the bulk of the credit for eating up blockers and stuffing the run, but his replacements continued the trend this week. Defensive linemen Timmy Jernigan and Brandon Williams anchored the middle of the line and clogged the running lanes.
"It's a lot, but you have to understand those are two big shoes [from Ngata] that are hard to fill and Timmy Jernigan did an outstanding job today and so did the rest of the line," Suggs said.
Improved coverage on the backend also allowed the pass rush to feast on Tannehill. Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil led the way with 3.5 sacks to give him a franchise-record 16 on the season, and Suggs also added 1.5 on the day.
"We have a ferocious pass rush when we're able to do what we want to do," Suggs said. "We started off slow but played phenomenal down the stretch."
Suggs even had a Tongan sack dance in honor of Ngata, his good friend and long-time teammate. Suggs said that he planned to give Ngata a call as soon as he got on the bus to the airport. Several players stressed that they need to sustain the success of Sunday to get to the playoffs so Ngata can return.
"We just have to win out so we can get him back," Suggs said.
Terrell Suggs celebrated his sack on Miami QB Ryan Tannehill with a Tongan sack dance.