Five thoughts on the Ravens' 40-0 win over the Miami Dolphins Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium:
This Dominating Performance Resembled Wins From the Ray Lewis Era and it Revived the Ravens' Playoffs Hopes
As this lopsided rout unfolded, I'm sure fans watching CBS' national broadcast wondered how it was possible that the Ravens brought a losing record into this game. They looked nothing like the team that had lost four of its past five games. Their offense moved the ball with the run and pass and built a big lead. Their defense smothered the run, choked off the pass and finished with authority. It was a physical, energetic, dominating performance, almost like something out of the Ray Lewis era, and it presented itself just in time. Another dispiriting home loss might have pushed the Ravens out of the playoff picture, but this impressive win should calm the roiling waters. It certainly offers hope. The Ravens are back to .500 after enduring a rough patch, and now they only have to play one game before Nov. 19, giving them a chance to get healthy for the stretch run. It's a long season, full of surprising turns.
Kiko Alonso Deserves to Be Suspended for the Hit on Joe Flacco
Joe Flacco has hesitated to tuck in the ball and run this season, and now you know why. Not because he might hurt his back; because bad things tend to happen even with rules in place to protect you. Flacco had gone into a slide at the end of a scramble in the second quarter when Miami linebacker Kiko Alonso closed in and delivered a brutal shoulder to the quarterback's head – not a helmet-to-helmet blast but, in my opinion, the definition of unnecessary roughness. It drew a flag and gave Flacco a concussion that knocked him out of the game, but Alonso wasn't ejected, probably because it wasn't a helmet-to-helmet hit. But he should be suspended when the league takes a closer look. In the rule book, the league defines "flagrant" as "extremely objectionable, conspicuous, unnecessary, avoidable, or gratuitous." That's pretty much a spot-on description of Alonso's hit. What's the point of having specific language like that if you can't wield it on a pointless hit that concusses a sliding quarterback?
Ravens Defenders Played Like They Took Scrutiny Personally
The Ravens' run defense was under intense scrutiny coming into the game in the wake of troubling back-to-back performances that left Baltimore ranked dead last in the league. From the outset, though, it was clear this was a different night. The Ravens' defensive interior dominated Miami's front, giving Jay Ajayi few holes to run through. Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees supplemented the effort with an array of blitzes that kept Miami guessing. From beginning to end, the tackling was pointed and sure. The players talked about technique and fundamentals, but I think this was more about inner motivation than X's and O's. The defense simply was tired of not playing as it knows it can against the run, and it was supremely motivated to change the narrative. "They took it personally; sure, they did," Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said. Miami, ranked No. 29 in the league in rushing, was the perfect opponent for the moment. The Dolphins came in riding a three-game winning streak, but they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Without a running game, quarterback Matt Moore had to win the game, and that wasn't going to happen against the Ravens' solid pass defense.
Jeremy Maclin Got the Ravens a Lead, and Alex Collins Took It From There
For a week, the conversation in Baltimore centered on whether any of the Ravens' top receivers would play, unlike in Minnesota the week before. The answer was yes, and Jeremy Maclin immediately showed why that question was so important when he snagged a long touchdown pass from Flacco midway through the first quarter. Moral of the story: Yes, it helps to have a big-name target on the field. Once the Ravens had the lead, though, the presence of their top receivers wasn't as important. If the Ravens offense has done anything consistently well this season, it has ably protected early leads with a solid running game. That blueprint had led to three earlier wins, and it unfolded again in this game. Alex Collins, a South Florida native, had a breakout game against the team he grew up cheering for. Collins averaged 6.3 yards per carry on 18 attempts and came close to breaking a half-dozen runs. It looks like he's the No. 1 back now, and that's warranted. He has become the Ravens' most explosive offensive player.
After failing to register a sack in their previous two games, the Ravens sacked Moore three times and maintained steady pressure whenever he dropped back to pass … After yielding five sacks the week before, the Ravens' offensive front allowed no sacks in this game. "I thought the line as a group played really well," tackle Ronnie Stanley said … Although Maclin contributed the touchdown catch, it still wasn't a big night for the Ravens' banged-up receiving corps. Maclin's three receptions for 53 yards constituted the entirety of the wideouts' production. Running backs and tight ends made the team's other 10 catches … The Ravens are now 2-2 at home and 2-2 on the road with four home games and four road games left to play. But their next two are on the road, at Tennessee and Green Bay.
Check out the best photos from M&T Bank Stadium as the Ravens host the Dolphins on Thursday Night Football.