Five thoughts on the Ravens' 15-13 loss to the Miami Dolphins Sunday at Sun Life Stadium:
Loss Frustrating Because Ravens Completely Dominated
In a season of frustration, this was an especially galling defeat. The Ravens completely dominated, rolling up almost twice as much offensive yardage as Miami and almost three times as many first downs. It seemed clear they were the better team. But they had to play from behind after the Dolphins, who did little offensively all day, scored 15 points in 20 seconds thanks to a pair of interceptions just before halftime. The Ravens quickly rebounded, but couldn't finish the deal. Their offense drove into Miami territory a half-dozen times during the game, but punched the ball into the end zone just once. One long drive was snuffed out on a fourth-and-inches play at the 2. A late turnover in Miami territory produced nothing when the offense couldn't move the chains and Justin Tucker missed a go-ahead 55-yard field goal. Earlier, a pair of penalties, one dubious, nullified Baltimore touchdowns. Whew. More weirdness. With a strong defensive performance and plenty of offensive production, the Ravens were in control, but after a day of just-misses, they walked off the field having lost to the team they dominated.
Schaub's Interception Habit Can't Continue For Ravens To Win
The Ravens were hoping for consistency from Matt Schaub in his second start. If that meant fewer turnovers, they didn't get what they wanted. His two interceptions matched his total from his first start in Cleveland, and for the second straight game, one of his interceptions was returned for a touchdown. Schaub rightfully called the picks "the difference in the game," because without them, Miami probably would have lost. Both picks came on deflections rather than reads, doubling the frustration. But as he did in Cleveland, Schaub hung in there, raising his game after the pick-six and hitting 17-of-21 attempts for 150 yards and a touchdown in the second half. Overall, he moved the chains and had a 300-yard passing day; you can't ask for much more from a backup quarterback, especially one who absorbed the kind of beating Schaub did. He's strong and productive. But his interception habit can't continue if the Ravens are going to win more games.
Can't Make Up Referees' Gaffes
The Ravens had two scores nullified by flags. One shouldn't have been thrown. When rookie receiver Daniel Brown was flagged for offensive pass interference in the first quarter, wiping out a 52-yard touchdown play, he never touched Bobby McCain, the Miami defender covering him. McCain simply fell down, fooling the official into making a call that looked very, very bad on replay. Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh was unafraid to call out the official after the game, saying, "He's a rookie and he messed it up." Late in the second quarter, the Ravens blocked an extra point attempt and Terrence Brooks picked up the ball and ran it in for a touchdown (you can do that this year), but Lawrence Guy was ruled offside. The Ravens also weren't happy about the spots that left them shy of a first down on consecutive plays at the 2 in the second quarter. But the Brown call was the rough one. Oh, and by the way (I'm not making this up), at the midfield coin flip before the game, the Ravens made the correct call, but the lead official, John Parry, announced the Dolphins had won the toss. Parry soon corrected himself, saying the Ravens had won the toss. Indeed, they did.
Ravens Defense Playing Better Under Radar
The Ravens defense controlled Miami's offense pretty much all day. The Dolphins had said they were going to focus on getting their rushing game going, and they did, having more success than I expected against Baltimore's top-ten rushing defense. Miami's Lamar Miller reached the secondary with a handful of cutbacks, gained 73 yards by halftime and finished with 113. But the Ravens shut down Miami's passing game with strong coverage rather than pressure (no sacks) and Miller's rushes weren't enough to sustain drives. The Dolphins never threatened on offense other than on one big play, which was a beauty, a 38-yard touchdown from Ryan Tannehill to Devante Parker just before halftime. Otherwise, the Ravens defense was physical and in control, with Harbaugh praising the secondary for its "discipline and eyes," areas that caused problems earlier in 2015. It's happening under the radar, but the defense is playing better. It even forced what could have been a decisive turnover late in the game when Kendrick Lewis forced a fumble and Courtney Upshaw fell on it, but the offense failed to convert the break into points.
I had no problem with John Harbaugh's failed gamble on fourth-and-inches at the Miami 2 in the second quarter. The Ravens have been gambling on fourth down all year, with a lot of success, and their line had dominated on the 15-play, 80-yard drive that got them so close to the end zone. You would think they could convert against the NFL's worst run defense … For the second straight game, Buck Allen and Terrance West gave the Ravens a strong one-two tandem at running back. In a performance reminiscent of Ray Rice in his heyday, Allen caught 12 passes out of the backfield for 107 yards and broke a 41-yarder for a touchdown. Allen is quickly showing the Ravens he's a valuable commodity and clearly a puzzle piece going forward.
Check out the best photos from Sun Life Stadium as the Ravens battle the Dolphins in week 13 of the 2015 season.