October 7, 2013 in Observations
Coming off a tough 23-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills, the Baltimore Ravens traveled to Miami to take take on the Dolphins. Led by a resurgent run game and another solid performance by the defense, the Ravens won 26-23 over the Dolphins. With this victory, the Ravens are 3-2 and the loss by the Dolphins puts them at 3-2 as well.
With less than two minutes left in the game, kicker Justin Tucker kicked a 44-yard field goal to give the Ravens the lead. This is his fourth career game-winning field in only his second season.
The Dolphins gave the Ravens a scare in the last minute as they were able to complete a fourth and 10 and a few plays later attempted a 57-yard field goal to send the game to overtime. However, kicker Caleb Sturgis missed win left giving the Ravens the victory.
The Ravens ran the ball the best they had all season setting a season high in rush yards with 133. On the flip side of things, the defense only allowed 22 rushing yards, good for the fourth fewest ever allowed in franchise history.
Third downs were key in this game and the Ravens went 6-16 (37.5 percent) but held to Dolphins to a meager 3-16 (19 percent) and the Dolphins were only 1-7 in the second half.
With six more sacks this week, the Ravens defense now has 19 sacks so far which is second best in the NFL and is the most ever through the first five games in franchise history.
While the stat-line was pretty, Flacco got the job done and was able to lead the Ravens to victory with his 16th career game-winning drive.
Throwing 32 times, Flacco completed 19 passes for 269 yards and one interception and a quarterback rating of 73.6. As always though, the stat-line doesn't tell the right story.
Throughout the game, Flacco was under pressure when passing the ball and he took some vicious hits. To his credit though, he always stayed in there to try and complete the pass. He did a good job of stepping up in the pocket multiple times and had numerous good throws right before getting hit.
The interception that he threw wasn't his fault. Left tackle Bryant McKinnie allowed Dolphins' pass rusher Dion Jordan to beat him to the outside and hit the ball while it was in Flacco's hand and reaching back to throw the ball. This resulted in the ball going straight up in the air and being picked off by Reshad Jones who had no Ravens around him, allowing him to return the ball 25 yards for a touchdown. Some blame also falls on offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell here as it was a third and 22 from their own nine-yard line and the Ravens were passing the ball. They should have just ran the ball playing it safe.
A few plays before this, Flacco almost threw an interception and this was all his fault. The Ravens ran a screen pass to running back Ray Rice and Flacco never saw Jordan who read the the play and jumped in front of Rice. Thankfully for Flacco, Jordan dropped the pass.
Early in the second half, we got to see Flacco the running back. On a third and five, he stepped up in the pocket and found no defenders in the middle of the field so he ran and picked up 14 yards before smartly sliding.
As already stated, the Ravens had their most success of the season running the ball yesterday and Rice was a big part of this.
Running the ball 27 times for 74 yards and two touchdowns, he only averaged 2.7 yards per carry, his longest carry was just seven yards, and he fumbled once. Despite the fumble and the lackluster average and long run, Rice had his best game of the season. His 27 carries almost totaled as many as he had through the first three games of the season (27).
Starting with the bad, his fumble came on an outside zone run to the right and was knocked out by Paul Soliai how got his hand on the ball while tackling Rice. The ball was recovered by former Raven Dannell Ellerbe putting the ball at the Baltimore 29-yard line. This field position resulted in a field goal for the Dolphins.
Moving to the good, two of Rice's runs went for first downs and another two for touchdowns. His first touchdown was on first and goal from the two and Rice just powered through the pile on an inside run to score. The other touchdown came from three yards out on an outside power play and Rice went untouched as the Dolphins had stacked the inside.
This was his first multi-touchdown game of the season and his 10th of his career. With his first touchdown, he tied the beloved Todd Heap for the second most touchdowns (41) in Ravens history. Rice's second touchdown gave him sole possession of second place. Running back Jamal Lewis sits in first place with 47 touchdowns so Rice should be able to pass him this season.
Another game, another great game from Smith this year. With six catches for 121 yards on nine targets, Smith continued his great start to his season.
All of his six catches went for first downs and he was able to draw a pass interference for a first down as well. His first catch of the game was on third and five where he ran a short crossing route and turned it into a 41-yard gain. This catch set up the Ravens first points of the game. The Ravens have used him on these crossing routes quite often this season allowing him to get into the open field and use his speed. The next catch came on second and seven for a gain of 13 on a deep in route. Another deep in on a third and 10 led to a gain of 22. A slant on first and 10 gained 13 yards and a post route led to a gain of 16 on second and nine. Lastly, he made a leading catch on a first and ten while running a deep crossing route. The pass interference that he drew came when he ran a slant-and-go into the end zone the defender was flagged at the two-yard line giving the Ravens a gain of 18 yards.
There were two negatives from this great performance though. The first is a pass interference call that went against him. He was called for pass interference when he hit his arm against the helmet of the cornerback. However, Smith was just trying to get his arm over the cornerback to be able to catch the ball. The other negative came from a dropped pass. On a first and 10, Smith had the ball in his hands but the defender was able to knock it out before Smith had full control of the ball.
Throughout the game, the Dolphins cornerbacks played about seven yards off of Smith to protect against the deep pass. This stopped the deep pass, but Smith was constantly able to get open underneath and then turned this shorter catches into more yards with his exceptional speed.
Other Pass Catchers
With Jacoby Jones and Marlon Brown inactive due to injuries and Brandon Stokley was cut before the day before the game (though he was re-signed today), the Ravens were down to three active wide receivers: Smith, Tandon Doss, and Deonte Thompson.
Doss got the start across from Smith and made the most of it catching three passes for 58 yards and all of them went for first downs. The first was a third and 11 where he gained 11 yards, the second came on, first and 10 and resulted in a gain of 40 yards, and the last came on a third and two for a gain of six.
The most impressive of these catches was the one that went for 40 yards. Flacco under-threw the pass as he got drilled as he threw the ball. Doss was able to adjust to the pass in air and made the catch.
Thompson had two catches for 11 yards with one going for a first down. The one that went for a first down was a gain of six on second and two and the one that didn't go for a first down was a play-action pass were Thompson came in motion and ran a short out route for a gain of five.
Dropping six passes so far this season, tight end Ed Dickson has been a major disappointment but this week he was able to actually make a catch and a contribution. On two catches, he had 51 yards with both going for first downs. Both catches were on play-action crossing routes with the first going for 43 yards and the other for eight.
Dallas Clark was nowhere to be found and I honestly can't even remember seeing him on the field.
Overall, these other pass catchers stepped up their game this week and gave someone other than Smith to throw to and trust for the first time this season.
Well, it is easy to see why the Ravens traded for left tackle Eugene Monroe in the middle of last week as the incumbent, McKinnie, had a terrible game yet again.
McKinnie gave up the already mentioned hit that caused the interception, and allowed a few more quarterback hits/pressures and a sack. The first pressure came on a third down and forced Flacco to have a bad throw, an incompletion. Next he was beat to the outside on the last play of the first half. On the aforementioned 40-yard pass to Doss, McKinnie was the lineman that gave up the pressure that got Flacco lit up, getting beaten on an inside speed rush. The one sack that McKinnie gave up actually wasn't really his fault. Marshal Yanda and Michael Oher both gave up instant pressure on the play forcing Flacco to scramble to McKinnie's side where he initially had his man stopped. However, Flacco's scramble ran towards where McKinnie was blocking his man, causing a sack.
Left guard Kelechi Osemele lasted just one drive before leaving the game with back spasms. This started pre-game but after the in-active list was already handed in. Osemele tired to play but wasn't able to. Backup center A.Q. Shipley came in for him and played decently. He was called for a face-mask penalty pushing the ball back to the Ravens' own 10-yard line, gave up a quarterback hit, and allowed his man to bat down a pass at the line-of-scrimmage.
Center Gino Gradkowski allowed a hit when a linebacker ran right past him on a blitz and gave up a few other pressures.
Yanda, the right guard, saw the end of his streak of not allowing a sack and he should have allowed two. On the last play of the first half, McKinnie gave up the initial pressure but Yanda's man bull-rushed him and came in for the sack. Yanda also gave up a pressure on the play where McKinnie gave up a sack but Flacco was able to escape from Yanda's man.
Oher, the right tackle, also gave up a pressure on this play but Yanda was beaten worse. On a separate occasion, he allowed an unblocked blitzer to hit Flacco. Oher had two rushers coming at him and with no help Oher had to chose one and he correctly took the inside player. The outside player ended with a hit on Flacco and that needs to be fixed with a pre-snap read. Too many unblocked players are coming through the offensive line.
Like Smith, Suggs is having a dominant season and yesterday was no different; though it took him three quarters to get going.
Through the first three quarters of the game, the only impact that Suggs had was two run stops, one for a gain of two yard and the other for a gain of one yard. Once the fourth quarter rolled around though, he stepped up and played lights-out.
In a span of eight offensive snaps for the Dolphins, Suggs had three sacks, giving him seven on the season, and tied the franchise record for consecutive games with a sack (five), and his seven sacks during that five games are sure to be a record.
The first sack came on a second and two where he beat the left tackle Jonathan Martin with a speed move to the outside for a loss of four. Martin was the victim of the second sack where Suggs bull-rushed him, pushing him straight back for a loss of four on first and ten. Two plays later on third down, Suggs beat right tackle Tyson Clabo for a loss of six yards.
These last two sacks came at a key time as the Dolphins defense had just scored and quickly stalled the next Ravens' drive. The Dolphins had all of the momentum in a tied game with five minutes left. Suggs single-handedly stopped that with his two sacks that drive. His sacks forced a three-and-out by the Dolphins and the ensuing drive for the Ravens, Flacco drove them down for the game winning field goal.
While recording his fifth career three sack game, Suggs led the Ravens defense and changed the momentum at the end of the game and his five tackles were good for second on the team.
Playing across from Suggs on pass rushing downs, Dumervil made his impact in the passing game as usual, recording two tackles, one sack, and a pass defensed.
He made his presence made the most on the Dolphins final drive recording a pressure and a sack on this drive. On the fourth and 10 play, Dumervil got almost instant pressure and forced quarterback Ryan Tannehill out of the pocket. While Tannehill ended up finding an open receiver, Dumervil did his job on the play by getting pressure. Two plays later, after the Dolphins spiked the ball on first down, Dumervil recorded his sack for a loss of five yards. This push the Dolphins field goal five yards further back and they ended up missing this kick. If the kick is 52 yards instead of 57 yards, who knows is Sturgis is able to connect.
Early in the game, the Dolphins had a snap go though Tannehill's hands for a loss of 18 yards. Dumervil was the first Ravens to get to Tannehill and got credit for a tackle for a loss, not a sack.
Dumervil's pass defensed came when he hit Tannehill's arm when he was throwing it. This came on a third and six play in the third quarter. Dumervil beat his blocker and was able to get his hand on Tannehill as he threw the ball causing it to only a few feet.
Going up against a weak Dolphins offensive line, Dumervil joined Suggs in having a good day.
Yet again, Smith led the Ravens in tackles, making it the third time this season, with his six — a surprisingly low number to lead a team in tackles with.
One of these six tackles came as a run stop for a loss of one yard but most of his tackles came while in pass coverage as the Dolphins only ran the ball 11 times and these were usually bottled up by the defensive linemen before linebackers like Smith could get to the play.
In coverage, Smith had a good game allowing just two passes to be completed against him and neither of them went for first downs. The first was a gain of five on second and nine and the other was a gain of five on first and ten. Fifteen of Tannehill's 21 completions went to wide receivers, leaving only six to tight ends and running backs, the players that Smith would be covering. This stayed the same in targets as 28 of Tannehills 38 targets went to wide receivers.
Smith's best play of the game came on a third and 10 with 1:30 left in the fourth quarter. He broke up a pass by diving in front of the intended receiver. This pass break-up set up fourth and 10 for the Dolphins, which they ended up converting.
All but one of the notable plays that Ihedigbo made were in pass coverage which is no surprise for the strong safety considering the Dolphins struggles running the ball.
His best play of the game was one that didn't end up counting but we will still look at it. On the first play of the Dolphins second drive, he jumped an under-thrown deep pass and made a diving interception. He was able to get both feet down on the catch, but his left came down out-of-bounds as he was trying to brace his fall. Initially this was ruled an interception but it was reviewed and overturned. Even though it was overturned, this is still a great play from Ihedigbo.
In other coverage plays, he gave up two catches with both going for first downs — which isn't unusual for safeties considering they play the deep zones — for a total of 91 yards — which is unusual and not good. The first catch he allowed was on a third and six and tight end Charles Clay beat him deep for a gain of 45 yards, putting the ball on the Baltimore 31-yard line. A few plays later, the Dolphins kicked a field goal. The other pass that Ihedigbo allowed to be completed was for 46 yards to wide receiver Brandon Gibson. If the 46 yards gained wasn't bad enough, this completion came on the fourth and 10 play that the Dolphins had with about 1:30 left in the game. Since the Dolphins missed the field goal, this play didn't come back to haunt the Ravens though it would have if the Dolphins tied the game and won in overtime.
In the run game, he had a run stop for no gain. For the day, he had three tackles and one pass deflection (the overturned interception).
With most of Tannehill's passes being completed to receivers, the cornerbacks allowed most of the catches on Sunday.
Starting with Lardarius Webb, he gave up five catches for 82 yards and two first downs, a very good ratio. The two that went for first downs were a second and four gain of six and a 49 yard deep pass allowed on second and eight. Webb only deserves half of the blame for this catch as safety Matt Elam was beaten deep on this play as well and Webb was expecting Elam to be there to help.
Despite these five completions, Webb had almost as many good pass breakups/coverages with four. The first came on a third and three pass into the end zone where he dove to break the pass up. The next came on a deep pass with under two minutes left in the second half. Another came when he hit Mike Wallace on a slant route causing him to drop the pass. The last came on the play between Suggs' two sacks. Webb dove in front of a curl route breaking the pass up.
The Dolphins made a clear attempt to go after Webb who was playing with a hamstring injury and for the most part, Webb held up well.
Allowing three catches for 40 yards with one first down and a touchdown was Jimmy Smith. On the catch that didn't go for a first down of touchdown, he made a nice play stopping the pass for a gain of only one. The first down he allowed came on a third and 10 with under two minutes left in the first half and put the Dolphins in field goal range. Smith gave up the only touchdown allowed by the defense when Tannehill hit Clay on a back-shoulder fade on third and goal from the nine with under one minute left in the half. In man coverage with no help, Smith didn't turn around and find the ball until it was too late. Smith was also called for holding, giving the Dolphins a first down at the Ravens' 24-yard line.
Nickel cornerback Corey Graham gave up four catches for 63 yards with three going for first downs. These first downs were a gain of 11 on second and five, a gain of 21 on first and 10 putting the ball on the Baltimore 9-yard line, and a gain of 19 on first down and 10. On the play where Ihedigbo had his overturned interception, Graham was beaten deep by the receiver but Tannehill under-threw the pass allowing Ihedigbo to get to it. Graham did have two good pass deflections though on an under-thrown deep pass and a diving breakup on a third and two pass.