Down in the house formerly known as Joe Robbie Stadium, the Baltimore Ravens rekindled their brand of football.
Sprinkle some of that old school rushing attack Ravens teams of old were accustomed to using to punish defenses, add a dash of a hungry defense that gives quarterbacks nightmares and you have the recipe for a 26-23 Ravens victory over a quality opponent in the Miami Dolphins this afternoon.
It wasn’t pretty again this week. Work still needs to be done, but the team gutted this one out under the hot Florida sun. An encouraging sign is the running game appears to be returning and the offensive line moved in a positive direction, despite terrible play by Bryant McKinnie and an injury to Kelechi Osemele.
McKinnie seems reserved that his days in Baltimore are over with his performance today. It was a poor outing as he was beaten badly on a spin move by Olivier Vernon for a sack in the second quarter. Newly acquired left tackle Eugene Monroe was inactive for today’s game, but he’s waiting in the wings and likely will start next week.
A.Q. Shipley who lost out on the center job to Gino Gradkowski in camp filled in for Osemele at left guard and handled his own, working in tandem on the inside with Gradkowski. Being the backup there paid off as Shipley told reporters he hadn’t received many snaps at guard. Osemele exited the game with what John Harbaugh described as back spasms that flared up during pregame warm-ups.
Joe Flacco threw for 269 yards and while he didn’t throw a touchdown, he connected on three plays of 40 yards or more and in each instance, the Ravens scored in that drive.
His interception came at a costly time, just as it seemed Miami was climbing their way back into the game. Dolphins DE Dion Jordan hit Flacco’s arm and the ball deflected into the air and the arms of Reshad Jones,returning it 25 yards to tie the game at 23. It wasn’t a great outing for #5, but he threw the deep ball pretty well when he had time to throw, something he didn’t have last week in Buffalo.
After an embarrassing outing in the rushing department last week, the Ravens vowed to stay with the running attack and did just that, even if it didn’t always net positive results.
Bolstered by a 133-yard attack (season high), Ray Rice ran for two short scores, overcoming a costly fumble in the first quarter. Bernard Pierce at times had holes that were opened up by the line, but just didn’t get there quick enough. He’s lacking the burst that we saw from him last season and that is due to his lack of vision. Pierce buries his head and bounces out instead of accelerating through the open space.
More and more each week, I’m becoming impressed with Torrey Smith. As I watched Smith carve up the Dolphins secondary, its apparent that he is rounding into a solid, all-around player. His route running and timing with Flacco is solid and in-tune with any other QB/WR in the league. He’s gone from a guy with amazing speed (which he showed off in college at Maryland) and average hands who was still learning the precision a true #1 WR needs with running routes, to being the team’s top offensive weapon.
Yes, Smith will bail Joe out once in a while because his hands are good enough to go and get a ball thrown out in front or behind him. That happened a couple times against the Dolphins defense. The Ravens finally have that WR that each week defensive coaches game plan to try and stop. Hasn’t happened much in this franchise over the years.
Ed Dickson and Tandon Doss both contributed to the offense this afternoon. Dickson made an acrobatic catch on a 2nd & 9 in the Ravens first drive of the second quarter that went for 43 yards. Doss snagged a couple Flacco passes across the middle in traffic and finished the day with three catches for 58 yards.
Color me not surprised or really impressed with how both played. They were high draft picks for a reason, so they should make the plays when their number is called. Its what has frustrated fans and coaches alike with both players; potential talent within, but outside factors hindering that talent.
The Miami Dolphins came into today’s game having allowed 18 sacks through four games and it didn’t get any better against a fired up defensive front of Baltimore. The Ravens recorded six sacks on the day. Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are tough to defend when both are dialed in. Suggs finished the day with a hat trick of sacks, totaling 15 yards of loss. That’s seven in five games for Sizzle.
Dumervil, after a slow start, recorded his third sack of the season taking the Dolphins out of easier field goal range late in the 4th. The sack from “Doom” was the biggest play of the game. Which one do you stop? Right now Suggs is reaping the rewards of attention towards Elvis.
With solid play from Haloti Ngata, Art Jones and Chris Canty, the Ravens dominated the Dolphins line up front. Running back Lamar Miller was held to 15 yards on seven carries. Running lanes were minimal and when they shut that down, the Ravens wore them out getting after the quarterback. The rotation of the unit was solid, dealing with the hot weather to keep players fresh. Pernell McPhee and Courtney Upshaw also recorded a sack each.
The Ravens were outstanding setting the edge most of the afternoon. During the Dolphins first drive of the game, Josh Bynes held the edge to force Miller back towards Ngata for a tackle on 3rd & 1. With the Dolphins facing a 3rd & 16, linebacker Arthur Brown shed a blocker on a screen play and made a tackle on running back Daniel Thomas in pursuit, forcing a Dolphins punt. It was nice to see Brown’s skills on the play, strength to bounce off a block and then use his closing speed to make the tackle.
When will Jimmy Smith learn to not turn his back to the football? Smith was beaten by tight end Charles Clay one-on-one in coverage for a Dolphins touchdown that put broke a 6-6 tie just before the half. He was also flagged for another holding penalty this week. Elsewhere, the secondary played somewhat underwhelming. Mike Wallace, the former Pittsburgh Steeler WR, burned most of the corners all day. Both he and Brandon Gibson were able to get past the safeties who were caught looking in the backfield.
Justin Tucker was solid as usual, booting a 50-yard try in the 2nd quarter and connecting on the game winner from 44 yards out. His counterpart, Caleb Sturgis had a chance to tie the game with seconds remaining, but missed wide left from 57 yards. Sam Koch had two head scratching punts that gave Miami good field position.
After two road games in the AFC East, the Ravens will come home to face the Green Bay Packers in Week 6. After a Cincinnati and Cleveland victory this week, all three teams sit at 3-2 in the AFC North.