Offense Needs To Produce: Ravens vs Dolphins

Baltimore Ravens What to Look For
Joe Flacco

In a 23-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills last week, the Baltimore Ravens’ offense turned the ball over five times (all interceptions). The offense also ran the ball a total of nine times for 24 yards. Despite this dreadful performance, the Ravens only lost by three, and were on a drive with about one minute left in the game but, predictably, they turned it over. This week, the 2-2 Ravens continue their travels as they head to Miami to face the 3-1 Dolphins.

1.  Joe Flacco
Throwing those five interceptions was the quarterback, Flacco. Making matters worse was that the Bills’ secondary was missing three starters and a total of four players.

This week he will need to bounce back against the Dolphins who have the 24th ranked passing defense based on yards per game (297).

At this point in his career, Flacco has had no problem bouncing back from a bad day. After throwing three or more interceptions in one game, he is 3-0 in the next game. In these games he has a passing rating of 123.9, a completion percentage of 70.2, and has thrown five touchdowns. Most importantly though, he has thrown zero interceptions in these games which is quite impressive. This shows that Flacco is able to put these bad games behind him and move on to the next one. If you want to be a top quarterback in the NFL, you need to be able to put these game behind you.

None of those games that he had to bounce back from were as bad — interception wise — as last week. Five interceptions is a new career high for Flacco. These aren’t the type of career highs that Flacco wants to be setting, especially after becoming one of the highest paid players in the entire league this offseason.

One way for Flacco to have a bounce-back game is to target running back Ray Rice more. Rice, who is normally one of the most targeted Ravens in the passing game, was only targeted once against the Bills and he never had a chance to catch the pass as Flacco forced it into double coverage in the back of the end zone.

Expect the Ravens to come out running a few short passes to get Flacco’s confidence up. A play that the Ravens like to run that would fit this is a play-action pass to fullback Vonta Leach. After that, expect the Ravens to try and go deep, which is Flacco’s strength.

2.  Run Game
One way to help Flacco out is to actually gain some yards in the running game. Normally a team that focuses on running the ball, the Ravens are averaging 2.6 yards per carry, which is tied for second worst in the league.

Joe Flacco

Courtesy of ICON SMI

The source of this problem is the offensive line which isn’t opening up any holes. At running back, the Ravens have Rice and Bernard Pierce which is one of the best one-two punches in the league but it doesn’t matter how good your running backs are if the offensive line can’t create any holes.

To try and fix this problem, the Ravens traded for left tackle Eugene Monroe this week. Playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Monroe didn’t get much media attention but Pro Football Focus graded him as the 10th best left tackle in the NFL last season. His main strength is pass blocking but he is a quality run blocker as well. He is certainly an upgrade over current left tackle Bryant McKinnie whose overall play, espcially run blocking, has been poor all season.

Currently, it is unknown if Monroe will play on Sunday as his first practice with the Ravens was yesterday. He needs time to be able to get down the playbook and the offensive line calls that the Ravens use. Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said the amount of playing time that Monroe will receive Sunday depends on how fast he is able to learn the Ravens playbook and line calls. This makes sense; even though Monroe is better than McKinnie, they don’t want to send him out there if he isn’t ready.

Not helping he situation is the Dolphins’ run defense which ranked 10th in the league allowing 98.5 yards per game. However, they allow 4.2 yards per carry which is 24th in the league. This disparity comes from the fact that the Dolphins have been leading in most games that they have played so their opponent has needed to pass more then run.

There is no way that the Ravens’ running game can get worse, so it has to get better this week. Right?

3.  Pass Rush
So far this season, the most consistent part of the Ravens has been the pass rush, which is led by outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil.

Over the first four games of the season, the Ravens have 13 sacks, which is tied for seventh best in the league. The Dolphins offensive line is tied for last in the NFL allowing 18 sacks, which equates to a whopping 4.5 sacks per game.

Facing Suggs for most of the game will be second-year left tackle Jonathan Martin. In his rookie season, Martin played right tackle and struggle immensely. This offseason, he switched to his college position of left tackle and the results aren’t exactly better. He has allowed four sacks so far which is tied for second worst out of all offensive tackles, left or right. Considering how Suggs is playing right now, this will be a concern for the Dolphins. Expect them to either leave a tight end or running back in to block on Suggs’ side to try and stop him.

With a sack this week, Suggs will tie a Ravens’ franchise record of five consecutive games with at least half a sack. So this season, he has had a full sack in each game. This ties his old record where he had a sack in his first four games as a pro.

If the Ravens are to win this game, they need to pressure Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. This pressure could lead to mistakes from him and mistakes lead to turnovers, which lead to points.

4.  Force Turnovers
Coming into this game, the Dolphins have a record of 3-1 and turnovers have played a key role in every game that they have played. When the Dolphins win, they have two turnovers and in their only loss they had four turnovers.

All of the Dolphins turnovers this season have come from Tannehill. He has thrown for four interceptions and has lost two fumbles.

On the Ravens’ side of things (defensively speaking that is), they have forced five turnovers this season (three interceptions and two forced fumbles). Surprisingly, in their two wins, the defense has only forced one turnover.

The best way to stop any offense is to force turnovers and the Dolphins’ offense is no different. The one game where they failed to take care of the ball, they lost.

As stated above, the best way to do this is by getting pressure on Tannehill. If he is has to hurry his decision-making process, he will makes mistakes and since he is only in his second season, he is more likely to make mistakes when under pressure.

If the Ravens are to win this game, they need to force at least two turnovers. Not only do they need to force turnovers, the offense then needs to capitalize on these turnovers and turn them into points.

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