Ravens Defense Is Having a 'Disconnect' as More Big Plays Strike

Miami Dolphins tight end Adam Shaheen (80) makes a catch during an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday, November 11, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida.

Watching an opposing player running uncovered in the secondary is disgusting to the Ravens' defense. Yet, it has remained a major problem.

Two coverage lapses by Baltimore's defense were part of Thursday night's 22-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins, one of the least explosive teams in the NFL. Entering the game, Miami (3-7) didn't have a single play that gained more than 50 yards all season. But against Baltimore, the Dolphins morphed into a big-play team.

A 52-yard pass from Jacoby Brissett to Isaiah Ford in the first quarter led to a field goal, and a 64-yard pass from Tua Tagovailoa to Albert Wilson led to Miami's fourth-quarter touchdown that iced the game.

Both Ford and Wilson were left wide open after blown coverage by Baltimore. The defensive mistake against Wilson was particularly galling because the Ravens had just scored their only touchdown of the game and still had a chance to win. But instead of getting a stop, Baltimore's defense made another costly coverage mistake, something that has happened too often this season.

All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey says the Ravens need to make plays, not excuses.

"You are what you put on film in the game, and that's kind of been our Achilles heel, you know?" Humphrey said. "Even when we play good, good, good – a slip up here – good, good, good – a slip up there, a slip up, bad quarter. As a leader in that secondary, that's on me, man. We've got to communicate better through the secondary and then throughout the whole defense."

It's hard to say exactly what went wrong on both big plays. On the first, cornerback Anthony Averett released Ford deep as he dropped into zone coverage, but there was no safety help over the top.

On the second, nobody accounted for Wilson as he motioned across the formation. Rookie safety Brandon Stephens, who stepped into the starting lineup with DeShon Elliott out for the year, dropped to the line of scrimmage and neither linebacker on that side of the defense, Patrick Queen or Tyus Bowser, followed Wilson up the sideline either. Safety Chuck Clark was left alone in the middle of the field.

Albert said the Dolphins ran that same play he got loose on "a ton of times the whole game."

"It was a look that we were getting all night and I just put the speed on to see if he was going to see me. He didn't happen to see me and it worked out pretty good," Wilson said. "It's just different looks, changing your speed before the play, continue with it up the sideline kind of made it look like a different play."

Humphrey thinks having 10 days before facing the Chicago Bears in Week 11 will be good for Baltimore's defense to sort out its issues. But the Ravens have already had the bye week to regroup, yet gave up an easy touchdown to Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson last weekend, followed by Miami's two big plays on Thursday. Opponents have every reason to keep taking downfield shots against Baltimore, especially after watching the Dolphins have success Thursday night.

The loss of Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters to a season-ending knee injury prior to Week 1 took away one of Baltimore's most experienced members of the secondary who is masterful at recognizing formations and communicating that to his teammates. Losing safety Elliott for the season against the Vikings took away more experience in the secondary, but the Ravens say there is no excuse for some of the lapses they are having.

Veteran defensive end Calais Campbell said the onus falls on the entire defense to improve, not just the secondary.

"The first thing you have to do is look in the mirror and figure out what I can do to help the team win a football game, get us better to where we want to be as a football team," Campbell said. "Because, you know, right now wasn't our best football.

"We still have a whole lot of getting better to do. We got a lot of pride in who we are. So, it takes one play at a time, and we have to earn it. Can't make excuses."

Humphrey believes the Ravens are working on the right things, but that their play in practice is not transferring to the games. It's a dilemma Baltimore needs to solve, because the Ravens will face plenty of offenses over the final eight games that will make them pay if their defense continues to make mistakes.

"It seems like we're getting to the game and there's kind of a disconnect, at times," Humphrey said. "Seems like there's certain series or plays that's kind of getting us … mistakes that I think can be fixed. So that's the encouraging thing.

"I believe this will be a great wake-up call for everybody to be like, 'What is it? Am I not understanding something I'm doing? I'm not playing the technique I'm coached? Do I need coach to coach me a different way?' I think there's going to be so many different things to look at and I think, you know, how we understand the coaches, how the coaches coach us. We can spend a full day to really figure out what went wrong tonight, what we can do getting better, and take another day or two to ourselves, and just sit down and have those mental talks with yourself. You know, 'What can I do to be better?'"

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