Baltimore Ravens vs. Miami Dolphins: Post-Game Report Card
Baltimore Ravens: Week 5 Post-Game Report Card
The Baltimore Ravens escaped their match against the Miami Dolphins with a 26-23 victory. They are now locked in a three-way tie in the AFC North with a 3-2 record, and the victory could come up huge when we look at the wild card standings at the end of the season.
After Joe Flacco threw ball 50 times in last week's loss to the Buffalo Bills, the Ravens committed to the running game, and were rewarded with two touchdowns from star halfback Ray Rice, while Terrell Suggs led the defense with an explosive effort.
The Ravens led this one wire-to-wire, and were up 10 with just 10 minutes left before a Flacco interception kicked off a furious Dolphins rally. Miami had a shot with a 57-yard field goal, but Caleb Sturgis' 57-yard try was wide to the left, and the victory was sealed for the visitors.
So who stepped up to seal this one for Baltimore? Who will need an extra film session in practice this week? And which starter could even by on his way out of town? Click along to find out.
Alexander Diegel is a columnist for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @ItsaDiegel, "like" him on Facebook or add him to your network on google
Flacco only gets part of the blame for the crucial fourth-quarter interception that turned this game around, as Bryant McKinnie was beaten around the edge on the play. However, even if we take that play out, the Ravens' QB was not exactly lighting it up. He completed just under 60 percent of his passes for 269 yards on the day. Not Great. Not terrible. Just average.
Ray Rice did not exactly light it up as Jim Caldwell re-committed to the running game. Rice did punch in two touchdowns, but only averaged 2.7 yards per carry, and lost a fumble that led to a Dolphins' field goal.
On the plus side, Bernard Pierce looked more like the explosive headbanger that Ravens' fans and coaches fell in love with last season. He was the more effective of the two backs, averaging over four yards per carry, including a 28-yarder that proved to be Baltimore's long rush of the day.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Torrey Smith continued his torrid start to the season with another 100-plus yard day. Without promising rookie Marlon Brown, the supporting cast stepped up nicely to complement Smith. Much-maligned tight end Ed Dickson stepped up with a 43-yard catch, and Tandon Doss stepped up with 58 yards in an expanded role.
We may have seen the last of Bryant McKinnie in Baltimore. McKinnie looked sluggish all day, and was beaten around the edge on a number of occasions, including Flacco's interception that was returned for a touchdown.
There was some debate over whether or not Eugene Monroe would start Sunday, just days after being traded for from Jacksonville, but the decision was to give him a few more days to get acclimated to the playbook. Expect him to start at left tackle next week.
The rest of the line did an OK job of protecting Flacco, and battled gamely against the Dolphins' talented front, opening up just enough holes for the team to remain committed to the ground game.
The Dolphins quickly gave up on trying to establish the run. Lamar Miller was held to just 15 yards on seven carries as the team decided it best not to battle Haloti Ngata and the front three.
Defensive end Pernell McPhee was active in the backfield as he accumulated a sack and tackle for loss. As a whole, the line forced Miami to abandon the run and were in Tannehill's face all day.
Terrell Suggs seems bent on capturing his second Defensive Player of the Year award. He added three more sacks to bring his season total to seven, and added three tackles for loss. His buddies Elvis Dumervil and Courtney Upshaw notched a sack apiece as well, and the trio made plays in the backfield all day.
This unit was a few crucial Dolphins drops from this grade being dropped a notch or two, but as it stands, they did hold Tannehill to a completion percentage just above 50. They allowed Mike Wallace to go for over 100 yards, but gave up only the lone touchdown to Charles Clay in the red zone.
This was a textbook "sometimes it's better to be lucky than good" game. Had those drops been hauled in, the game could have had a different outcome.
Only a couple of 25-yard kicks from punter Sam Koch prevent this unit from receiving top marks. Kicker Justin Tucker was 4-for-4, including a 50-yarder, and Koch got his game together in time to pin the Dolphins inside their 20-yard line on two occasions.
Deonte Thompson had a great day returning kicks, including a 47-yarder, to help set up Baltimore in solid field position. Tandon Doss was solid with the punt returns as well, averaging 12.5 yards on four chances.
Credit is due for realizing last week's mistake and getting back to the basics. Baltimore stayed patient and ran the ball 40 times compare to 32 throws from Flacco. The running was not easy against the Dolphins' stout defense, so it took dedication to stick with the rushing attack.
Defensively, coordinator Dean Pees dialed up the blitzes to help rattle the young and talented Tannehill.