The Ravens had difficulty explaining what happened to them Sunday in the fourth quarter.
It was a nightmare for them defensively, as the Dolphins roared back from a 21-point deficit to shock the Ravens, 42-38, in Baltimore's home opener in Week 2.
Instead of protecting the lead, the Ravens squandered it and made costly mistakes in coverage. Miami's offense struck like lightning with big plays, ignited by Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who threw for six touchdowns and played a devastating game of pitch-and-catch with speedy wide receivers Tyreek Hill (11 catches, 190 yards, two touchdowns) and Jaylen Waddle (11 catches, 171 yards, two touchdowns).
Both of Hill's touchdowns game in the fourth quarter – a 48-yard reception that pulled Miami to within 35-28, and a 60-yard catch that tied the game at 35 with 5:19 left. The Ravens are dealing with injuries and All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey sat out Miami's game-winning drive that ended with a 7-yard touchdown pass from Tagovailoa to Waddle.
However, Head Coach John Harbaugh said that was no excuse.
"Never did you think we were going to have that many balls thrown over our head," Harbaugh said. "That just can't happen; that's not OK. I don't care who's back there, [or] what they're doing. Those plays will cost you a game when you have a lead like that. You can't have miscommunication; you can't have a guy running a post behind Cover-3. Those kinds of things can't happen."
Miami scored touchdowns on all four possessions during the fourth quarter, as the Ravens seemed overmatched at times. On Tagovailoa's 60-yard completion to Hill, he ran right past rookie cornerback Jalyn Armour-Davis, who seemed confused by what coverage the secondary was in.
"[quote]Just a miscommunication throughout the entire defense," Armour-Davis said. "It's something we've emphasized before. We've just got a lot of things we have to clean up. We've been playing football all our life. There's always going to be a crowd, there's going to be noise. That's never an excuse. Part of our job is to get the call, communicate, line up and execute. We didn't down that. We didn't do our job."
Rookie safety Kyle Hamilton said the onus didn't fall on one or two players, but on the entire secondary to play better as a unit.
"There's a ton of stuff I wish I would have done differently," Hamilton said. "First quarter, second quarter, third quarter, fourth quarter. Obviously as you get down to crunch time, you've got to hone in on what we've been practicing. I did make mistakes, and that's on me, and I'll get it fixed. I'll work with the guys to work on communication and be better next week."
Three-time Pro Bowl corner Marcus Peters was playing his first game since returning from a torn ACL suffered last September. After Hill got behind Peters for the 60-yard touchdown that tied the game, Peters came to the sideline and slammed his helmet to the ground in disgust.
It didn't help the secondary that Baltimore had just one sack, allowing Tagovailoa (36 for 50, 469 yards, six touchdowns) loads of time to survey the secondary and choose where he wanted to throw. The Ravens will be spend long hours studying film this week and there will be plenty of things to improve defensively.
"There's going to be a lot of stuff to clean up," defensive end Calais Campbell said. "We made mistakes, and we have to own it. That's just part of the game. It's part of the early part of the season, but no excuses. We have to wear that one. It sucks, but they beat us."
After a strong start in Week 1 under new Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald, the Ravens' defense felt much differently about its performance after this game. However, Campbell had no doubt the unit would bounce back.
"We're a veteran team; we're not going to let this beat us twice," Campbell said. "We're going to regroup. We go in there, we study the tape, we figure out what happened, and then we move on."