By Abraham Gutierrez
In their first test against a legitimate NFL playoff contender, the Miami Dolphins got a bit of a reality check and a slice of humble pie. That's because the Baltimore Ravens dominated the proceedings from the opening whistle until the clock expired, snapping Miami's six-game win streak with a 38-6 shellacking in Week 13.
The loss drops the Dolphins to 7-5 on the 2016 NFL season, and with a long flight back home in their immediate future, there will be enough blame to go around. Even though Miami will remain in second place in the AFC East, this defeat—for the time being—put them on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, as it drops them out of the sixth and final Wild Card spot in the AFC.
Laying a goose egg in the first three quarters of a ballgame seldom translates into a victory, and that's exactly what Miami's offense did in Baltimore. Despite moving the ball into Ravens territory on a number of occasions, the Fins simply couldn't come away with points.
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (QBR: 63.1) had a day to forget. He completed 29-of-40 pass attempts for 226 yards, one touchdown, and tied his career-high with three interceptions—two coming in the red zone, and everyone knows those are drive killers.
Even though Tannehill is mostly to blame for the Miami's offensive woes, the truth is that the former Texas A&M standout was forced to air it out with the 'Fins playing catch-up. With Miami trailing from the opening possession of the game, it was hard to get running back Jay Ajayi going. The powerful back only carried the ball 12 times for 61 yards, which equals a respectable average of 5.1 yards per rush.
Wide receiver Jarvis Landry (11 receptions for 87 yards) certainly did his part in trying to get the offense going, and so did tight end Dion Sims (3 receptions for 39 yards), while surging wideout DeVante Parker (3 receptions for 34 yards, TD) was responsible for Miami's only score of the ball game.
As a unit, the 'Fins offense was only able to muster 15 first downs (10 passes, 3 rushing and 2 penalties) and 277 total yards (215 passing, 62 rushing). However, the biggest offensive takeaway from this loss was Miami's inability to convert on third down, as they went just 4-for-13 in crucial situations.
After getting torched in the first half and giving up 24 points, Miami's defense buckled down after the break and didn't allow points in the third quarter. However, the floodgates opened up once again in the final stanza, as the Ravens put up 14 points, which turned this game into a laugher.
Baltimore's offensive line certainly deserves a lot of credit, as they kept Joe Flacco (36-for-47 passes, 381 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT, 119.2 QBR) upright and comfortable throughout the whole game and did not allow a sack. The key to this victory was containing Miami's two-headed monster of Ndamukong Suh (2 tackles) and Cameron Wake (1 tackle, 1 pass defended).
Miami's defensive standouts on the afternoon were Isa Abdul-Quddus (10 tackles: 7 solo, 3 assist), Spencer Paysinger (7 tackles: 4 solo, 3 assist) and Byron Maxwell, who recorded three tackles and his third interception of the season.
As a unit, Miami allowed the Ravens offense to register a whopping 27 first downs—20 were through the air and seven on the ground-—and 492 yards of total offense (386 passing yards and 106 rushing yards). One of the key statistics of the game was Baltimore's ability to convert on third down and fourth downs, going 4-for-9 and 2-for-2 respectively, which kept Miami's offense off the field.
Special Teams: C
When going up against the second best defense in football, points tend to come at a premium. Therefore, early scoring opportunities are golden, particularly when it comes to momentum and rhythm.
Miami's special teams unit missed a crucial chance to get on the board with an early first-quarter field goal.
The only reason Miami's special teams isn't getting the same grade as the offense, defense and coaching is because of the solid play of punter Matt Darr. The second-year man out of Tennessee did his part, punting the ball six times for an average of 37 yards per boot—three that were beautifully placed inside the Ravens' 20-yard line, and a long of 48 yards.
Adam Gase and his staff were severely out-coached by a seasoned Ravens bunch in what was a humbling experience for the first-year head coach. Offensively, Miami couldn't get anything going because of penalties (7 penalties: 57 yards), turnovers (3 INTs), poor play-calling (e.g. not giving Ajayi enough touches to be a factor in the game) and a number of other factors that fall on the coaching staff's shoulders.
Defensively, Flacco picked Miami's "D" apart, and there was absolutely nothing that defensive coordinator Vance Joseph could do about it.
Even though Miami was outplayed on every aspect of the game, Gase must find a way for his ballclub to put this humbling experience behind them and focus on the remaining four games on the schedule.
Next up: Fins return home to host Cardinals
After going up against one of the premier defenses in the National Football League in Week 13, the Dolphins will have to do it again when the Arizona Cardinals come to town in Week 14. Opening kick-off is scheduled for Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET from Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.
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