Late for Work 11/12: Pundits Try to Explain Ravens' Shocking Loss in Miami

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Baltimore Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen (6) reacts during an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins on Thursday, November 11, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida.

After every pundit picked Baltimore to beat the two-win Dolphins on "Thursday Night Football" in Miami, the Ravens suffered their ugliest loss of the Lamar Jackson era.

The Ravens fell, 22-10, after the offense struggled for nearly the entire night and the defense gave up more big plays.

Here's what analysts are saying after the loss that dropped the Ravens to 6-3 on the season:

Dolphins Blitz Was Highly Successful, But Not Totally Out of Character

When talk circulates on how to defeat a Jackson-led offense, it typically centers around copying what the Tennessee Titans or Los Angeles Chargers did in their respective playoff games against the Ravens. But the Dolphins did something different.

Jackson said after the game that he was "hot" the entire game, and he didn't mean on a roll. Jackson said there was a free runner coming at him constantly.

"In the ugliest game of the season, the Ravens looked clueless offensively as the Dolphins blitzed Lamar Jackson the entire night," The Baltimore Sun's Ryan McFadden wrote. "The Ravens played conservative throughout the evening and had some questionable play calling on third down. You have to give credit to Miami's suffocating defense, as the Dolphins delivered their best performance of the season."

Ebony Bird's Justin Fried shares McFadden's opinion.

"It was the worst performance of the Lamar Jackson era as Baltimore managed just over 300 yards of total offense, many of which came in the fourth quarter," Fried wrote. "The Ravens were an abysmal 2-of-14 on third down and averaged a lowly 4.3 yards per play. This coming against a Dolphins defense that was allowing the sixth-most yards per game entering the night."

Wide Receiver Screen Pass Abundance Surprises Media

The Ravens game plan appeared to involve punishing the blitz-heavy Dolphins with screen passes to the wide receivers, mostly Marquise "Hollywood" Brown. Jackson said he was trying to get the ball out his hand as fast as possible.

The media was shocked to see the frequency of said plays being dialed up, however, with Russell Street Report's Darin McCann calling it an "unsightly obsession."

The Ravens aren't typically known for having a successful screen game, which made the abundance of screen plays all the more puzzling. They worked against the Vikings on Sunday, helping to jumpstart the offense, but fell flat in Miami.

Lapses In Coverage Outweigh an Otherwise Solid Performance

Early in the first quarter, the Ravens cornerbacks stood strong. Cornerback Anthony Averett took care of his assignment while cornerback Marlon Humphrey shut down Miami Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki on third down with a tough pass breakup. The linebackers were creating pressure, including rookie Odafe Oweh notching sack No. 4 on the season.

But for all the successful plays, it takes only a few lapses in coverage to wipe away all the positivity, according to The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker.

Two of the Dolphins' three offensive scoring drives featured big plays, with Isaiah Ford breaking wide open behind Averett for a 52-yard gain on one and Albert Wilson getting loose for a 64-yard play on the Dolphins' game-sealing touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter.

"Again, [the Ravens] undermined a generally impressive defensive performance by blowing coverage on a few back-breaking plays," Walker wrote. "Only this time, Lamar Jackson could not muster the magic to overcome it all…Their flaws feel like trends, not anomalies."

It's become a significant story of the season; the Ravens' defense performs admirably for most of their time on the field, but a few plays are blown wide open to allow scoring drives from their opponents. NFL.com's Chase Goodbread called it "inexplicable."

"Two inexplicable busts in the Ravens secondary accounted for a massive chunk of the Dolphins' offense, and were as big a factor in the outcome as anything," Goodbread wrote. "…Those two plays accounted for nearly a third of Miami's offense (116 of 374 yards)."

According to The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer, this defensive performance was the worst part of the game.

"But on a night of many indignities, maybe none was greater than watching Tua Tagovailoa, a quarterback asked to play with a fractured finger, and starter Jacoby Brissett, a journeyman backup turned caretaker starter, walk off the field with a comfortable win and 290 yards of net passing," Shaffer wrote. "Miami's offense entered the night without a play longer than 42 yards all season. They had two that went for 50-plus Thursday — the sixth and seventh such plays the Ravens have allowed this season."

First Quarter Woes Once More

A talking point all last week was how the Ravens have struggled to get points on the board early. The team was hoping to buck the trend and was given an opportunity to do so with the offense on the field to begin the game.

That opportunity was squandered as the Ravens scored three points in the first quarter following a missed field goal attempt by Justin Tucker, leaving the metaphorical door wide open for the Dolphins to walk through.

Baltimore Beatdown's Frank J. Platko noted how this was a season-low for first half production.

"It does not appear to be a trend/issue [the Ravens] corrected during their week off," Platko wrote. "We now have a nine-game sample size saying the Ravens are a slow starting offense. Thursday night was the second time the Ravens have scored only three points at halftime, but their 132 offensive yards marked a season-low."

ESPN's Jamison Hensley called it a "troubling trend."

"The Ravens outgained the Dolphins, 93-11, in the first quarter and they only had a field goal to show for it," Hensley wrote. "That's been an ongoing problem for Baltimore, which has scored one first-quarter touchdown in its last seven games. Earlier this week, Jackson said he 'had no clue' why the Ravens are starting so slow. Baltimore obviously found no answers in Miami."

Jackson commented on them also, expressing frustration with the lack of first quarter scoring.

Did Exhaustion Play a Factor?

The Ravens played well into overtime Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, shortening their time to rest and prepare for their upcoming matchup with the Dolphins. Some say the tiredness was visible from the Ravens.

Along the lines of the Ravens' fatigue, the offense frequently snapped the ball when the play clock showed few seconds remaining, if any.

Even so, The Baltimore Sun's C.J. Doon thinks the Ravens should've delivered a more competitive outing.

"What a nightmare," Doon wrote. "The Ravens played 98 offensive snaps Sunday in an overtime win over the Vikings, so you can forgive them for having tired legs in the balmy South Florida weather after a short week of practice. But there's no excuse for scoring just 10 points against one of the league's worst defenses."

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