Baltimore Ravens vs Miami Dolphins: What We Learned


Dec 7, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) runs off the field after scoring a touchdown during the second half against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. Ravens won 28-13. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

After their impressive 28-13 win, the Baltimore Ravens are in great shape in the AFC at 8-5. Win out, and the Ravens are in the playoffs. And after their dismantling of the Miami Dolphins, the Ravens look quite capable of doing just that.

Let’s take a look at what we learned from the Ravens’ big win.

Joe Flacco is playing the best football of his career

Let’s start at the top with Joe Flacco, who has been absolutely lights out the past several games. In his past three games, Flacco has produced a passer rating of 120.7 against the Saints, 104.9 against the Chargers and 106.8 against the Dolphins. In that span, he has thrown five touchdowns to just one interception.

They key for Flacco this season has been his pocket presence. That has clearly been a priority, as Flacco is moving around much better in the pocket this year. Against a fearsome Miami pass rush, Flacco was sacked just once, and on the season, Flacco has been sacked just 16 times.

Even Flacco’s interception against Miami isn’t that troubling. He put the ball up for Steve Smith to make a play, and Smith lost the jump-ball battle. It happens. Regardless, it was a great game from Flacco picking apart the Miami defense and consistently finding the open man.

Steve Smith’s drops are becoming a problem

With the ball in his hands, Steve Smith is absolutely dynamic, and he is also capable of some highlight-reel catches. Inconsistency in his hands, though, is becoming a major problem. By my count, Smith dropped two balls, one a potential touchdown. The other almost turned into an interception.

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Make no mistake, Smith is still a huge threat and remains the best option at receiver. There is just some cause for concern here.

Lorenzo Taliaferro deserves a bigger role

With 35 yards on seven carries, Lorenzo Taliaferro had his biggest game since a Week 4 win over Carolina. It wasn’t the numbers that were so impressive (Bernard Pierce actually had more impressive numbers), but it was how they came about. With Forsett and the ground game struggling, the Ravens inserted Taliaferro, who promptly generated some yards by simply barreling over the Miami defense.

Taliaferro and Forsett are natural complements, with Taliaferro having the innate ability to wear down defenses with his size and tenacity. That Miami’s defense looked so worn at the end of the game is no coincidence. Taliaferro played a big role in wearing them down, and the result was several big runs late for the Ravens.

Elvis Dumervil is not human

With three games left this season, Elvis Dumervil has already set the Ravens’ single-season sack record. As astute fans will know, sacks are not the only measure of a great pass rusher. To that end, Doom has been remarkable not just in terms of sacks, but also total pressures, having racked up 47 total pressures this season and five against Miami.

What makes Doom special is his versatility. With his lack of height, Dumervil is great at producing leverage to unleash a killer bull rush, and he’s quick enough to speed rush effectively as well.

Having Terrell Suggs and Pernell McPhee to occupy blockers is a big help, but Dumervil has been legitimately great this season. His game against the Dolphins is just another feather in his 2014 cap.

Tackling is the key for the Ravens’ defense to succeed

What was the difference between a first quarter in which the Ravens gave up 10 points and the other three quarters, in which the Ravens gave up just three? Tackling.

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The Ravens were in position to make plays throughout the game, but they failed to wrap up and make the tackle more often than not in the first quarter. That’s why Lamar Miller ran roughshod over them early, and that’s why Ryan Tannehill was able to get into the zone, throwing to receivers who were picking up a ton of yards after the catch.

Once the Ravens settled in and tackled consistently, long catch and runs turned into short completions, and the running game became non-existent.

The frustrating thing for the Ravens is they’ve proven capable of tackling well, they just need to do it consistently. If that happens, the struggles in the secondary will at least be lessened while the run defense will continue to dominate, even without Haloti Ngata.