Five thoughts on the Ravens' 28-13 win over the Miami Dolphins Sunday at Sun Life Stadium:
It Was All Or Nothing
This game was closer than the final margin indicated, and it turned on several key moments. I'll give you one. Ahead by four points early in the fourth quarter, the Ravens defense held the Dolphins to a field goal after Miami had a first-and-goal at the Baltimore 4. That enabled the Ravens to keep the lead when the
Check out the best game action and behind-the-scenes photos from the field in Miami as the Ravens battle the Dolphins in a critical AFC match-up.
game was in the balance. I'll give you another key moment. Up by one point a few minutes after that goal-line stand, the Ravens appeared to experience disaster in the red zone when quarterback Joe Flacco was ruled to have fumbled while passing. But the call was changed (correctly, I thought) to an incompletion on a replay review and the Ravens scored a touchdown one play later. But of all the key moments in the game, the biggest came early in the third quarter. The Ravens trailed by a field goal and faced a fourth-and-1 at their 34. They had never led in the game. Head Coach John Harbaugh boldly went for it instead of punting, a huge gamble that could have turned the game in Miami's favor. But the Ravens converted the fourth into a first on a quarterback sneak and went on to score a touchdown on the drive, taking the lead for good. It was a statement play by a team with an offense on a roll. "The game wasn't going our way. We did something to make it go our way. It was all or nothing," wide receiver Kamar Aiken said.
Backups Come Up Big For Offense
It was Next Man Up Day for the Ravens, especially on offense. Torrey Smith was no factor because of a knee injury. Justin Forsett admitted he was limited, also because of a knee injury. Tight end Crockett Gillmore was inactive. Relying on their depth out of necessity, they received enough contributions to make the offense hum and score a huge road win that improved their playoff prospects. Kamar Aiken and Marlon Brown were especially effective as stand-ins for Torrey Smith, combining for nine receptions to give the
passing game balance. Rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro took over a chunk of Forsett's role and ran more effectively than Forsett for most of the game. Playing for Gillmore, tight end Philip Supernaw contributed a big reception that set up the touchdown that broke open the game. While the fresh faces made a batch of plays, the usual suspects also had big games. After a slow start, Joe Flacco picked the Dolphins apart. Steve Smith Sr. led the team with seven receptions. Forsett finished strong. Overall, after struggling in the red zone a week earlier, the Ravens scored touchdowns on four of their five trips to the red zone.
Ravens Defense Simply More Physical
There was a fair amount of Next Man Upping on the other side of the ball, too. Haloti Ngata was starting his four-game suspension. Defensive backs Danny Gorrer and Anthony Levine were lost to injuries during the game. Early on, it appeared the Dolphins offense was going to chew up the Ravens defense as miserably as San Diego's offense had a week earlier. Running and passing up and down the field, Miami led, 10-0. But the Dolphins only scored three points in the last three quarters. To its credit, the Ravens defense held its ground and then took over down the stretch. Rookie Timmy Jernigan replaced Ngata and "did a hell of a job" in the run defense, said linebacker Terrell Suggs. And once the Dolphins stopped running the ball, the Ravens' pass rush unloaded on Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who was sacked six times, with 3.5 sacks alone going to Elvis Dumervil. The Dolphins helped out by weirdly taking no shots downfield against Baltimore's battered secondary, but that's not their game, hasn't been all year. And given how the Ravens' pass rush took over, I'm not sure the downfield shots would have worked. In all, it was a nice day for the defense after a tough week. The Ravens were just more physical on that side of the ball.
Offense Showing It Can Carry Whole Team
Given the subtractions the defense is dealing with, it could well be that the Ravens go as far as their offense carries them in 2014. If so, this game served as a reason to be optimistic. The offense started slowly, with three straight three-and-outs as Miami jumped out to a lead, but once it got going, the unit completely controlled the game. At one point, from early in the second quarter to late in the third quarter, the Ravens had possession for 33 of 47 overall snaps. Flacco consistently moved the chains with throws to an array of receivers, and the running game got stronger as the game unfolded. Basically, the Dolphins defense couldn't get off the field, and their offense couldn't get on the field. Flacco had one bad moment, a second-quarter end-zone interception that was his first pick in four games, but otherwise, he was sharp, decisive and accurate. This was close to his best game of 2014.
Smith Sr., was targeted five times in the first 23 minutes. Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak was determined to get the veteran receiver in the loop after his rough game against the Chargers … After getting flagged for 14 penalties against the Chargers, the Ravens were flagged six times in the first half Sunday. But they tightened things up with just one penalty in the last 30 minutes. In fact, it was the Dolphins who had penalty problems as the game slowly slipped away in the second half … The Ravens now have a winning road record in 2014 with four wins in seven tries.