5 Lessons Learned Vs. Dolphins

The Ravens are starting to separate from the pack. Rice, short pass game alive and well.

Posted by Sarah Ellison on Monday, November 8th, 2010 at 10:34 am | Categories: 2010 Season, Sarah Ellison, Week 9 vs Dolphins

The Ravens are starting to separate from the pack. Make no mistake; the Miami Dolphins are a good football team. Many analysts believe Miami to be a real threat to the Ravens’ playoff chances, perhaps good enough to steal a Wild Card spot from Baltimore if it came down to that. Yet the Ravens just finished pounding their playoff threat, partly because Miami simply didn’t have an answer for the Ravens’ talent. Now, Baltimore is starting to separate from the upper-middle class of AFC teams. Even receiver Brandon Marshall conceded the Dolphins “can’t beat the good teams.” Only four other NFL teams have a .750 winning percentage (Steelers still to play) and the Raven will face one, the Atlanta Falcons, who are also considered a Super Bowl contender, Thursday night. This will give the Ravens another opportunity to distance themselves further from the pack.

The screen game and check downs to Rice aren’t looking so conservative anymore. The Ravens running backs churned out 139 receiving yards, proving the screen game and check downs are still very effective, even though it was dubbed “conservative” in weeks past. When Dolphins linebacker Karlos Dansby was asked if Miami had a shadow on running back Ray Rice, he said, “No, for what? Why would we shadow him? He didn’t do anything.” If 180 total yards from scrimmage isn’t doing anything, I’d be interested to know what Dansby considers something. Rice and quarterback Joe Flacco exploited one-on-one coverage with Dolphins linebackers all afternoon and they couldn’t [or didn't know they needed to in Dansby's case] stop, limit or even slow Rice.

The Dolphins pawned off their offensive red-zone woes to the Ravens. Coming into this matchup, it was Miami that was having a hard time notching six points from the red-zone (they had the NFL’s third-fewest red-zone TDs). But it was Baltimore that finished the day 1-of-7 from the area, just a 14-percent success rate. Despite their struggles, the offense still put up 26 points. If corrected, it’s hard to imagine an opponent winning an offensive shootout with Flacco and Co. The good news is that there wasn’t one single recurring issue. Instead, as Head Coach John Harbaugh explained, a series of unfortunate mistakes piled up – penalties, a sack or not punching the line forward.

Wilson played strong enough to make a bid for a starting role. It brings peace of mind to know there is fortified depth at the cornerback position thanks to last-minute maneuvering by General Manager Ozzie Newsome in the preseason. For the second consecutive week, Fabian Washington was sidelined after starting the game. Josh Wilson, who came to Baltimore just weeks before the season-opener in exchange for a conditional 2011 pick, played so well that some outsiders believe he did enough to cement his status in front of Washington. It wouldn’t be a new role for Wilson, as he started a lot of games for the Seattle Seahawks at corner. In addition to his interception that finished off Miami in the fourth, Wilson kept receiver Brandon Marshall in check for most of the second half, plus he adds value on special teams.

The defense put together one of its better all-around performances of the season. Things looked bleak when the defense gave up this season’s first touchdown on an opening drive. The security squad turned its performance around and, from that moment on, put together one of its better all-around outings of 2010. For two consecutive games, the defense had failed to protect a 10-point fourth quarter lead, but it did so against the Dolphins. After surrendering 382 passing yards to the Bills, credit the secondary for their solid coverage on Brandon Marshall and Co. and not allowing a touchdown through the air. Quarterback Chad Henne was harassed by outside linebacker/defensive end Terrell Suggs and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. The front seven limited a rushing attack that found several open holes in the first series. And perhaps most promising are the turnovers. With safety Ed Reed back in the mix, the defense has notched at least three turnovers in each of the last two games.

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