Ravens 26, Dolphins 23
STRATEGY: Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell recognized a need for a more balanced, methodical approach, calling a season-high 40 runs for 133 yards. Torrey Smith, Ray Rice and Deonte Thompson were targeted on 24 of 32 throws. Caldwell ran plenty of I-formation with just 20 shotguns out of 74 plays and 14 no-huddles. Ed Dickson was involved, and the drop-prone tight end may have restored his confidence by catching both passes thrown to him. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees created pressure primarily with four-man pass rushes and hardly needed to blitz against the worst pass blocking team in the league. The Ravens blended Cover 2 schemes and man-to-man techniques with an emphasis on keeping $60 million wide receiver Mike Wallace from striking deep.
PERSONNEL: Backup center A.Q. Shipley was forced to play left guard almost the entire game when Kelechi Osemele was hampered by back spasms and did a respectable job. Dickson's playing time increased to 51 snaps, 16 more than Dallas Clark. Clark didn't get separation and wasn't thrown to at all. Vonta Leach played 27 snaps as the run game was dusted off. The Ravens were constantly in nickel with Corey Graham, James Ihedigbo, Jimmy Smith and Matt Elam playing every snap as Lardarius Webb was out just nine plays. Daryl Smith was the other defensive ironman. Elvis Dumervil got 37 snaps at strong-side linebacker, seven more than Courtney Upshaw, who notched a sack up the middle as an interior defensive lineman. Rookie linebacker Arthur Brown shut down a screen pass, playing 23 defensive snaps.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Terrell Suggs' textbook pass-rushing clinic included grabbing Jonathan Martin by the shoulder pads, driving him backward and reaching over him to tackle Ryan Tannehill for one of his three sacks in a dominant fourth quarter. Webb and Graham contained Wallace adequately, holding him to seven catches, 105 yards and no touchdowns. Arthur Jones, Daryl Smith and Haloti Ngata routinely shed blocks as Miami abandoned the run. Pernell McPhee was a factor as a situational pass rusher. Torrey Smith escaped Brent Grimes' jam attempts to defeat press coverage techniques. Ray Rice grinded out a season-high 74 yards and two touchdowns. Tandon Doss was elusive on returns. Justin Tucker displayed leg strength and accuracy on four field goals.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Joe Flacco is definitely tough, but shouldn't be hit and harassed this often. Bryant McKinnie was inadequate, failing to slow down Dion Jordan, who jostled Flacco to cause an interception returned for a touchdown. With Eugene Monroe learning the playbook, this could be the last stand for McKinnie. Elam and Webb were beaten badly on a 49-yard fly route by Wallace, and Ihedigbo was left behind by Charles Clay on another long pass. Rice lost his second fumble this season, raising concerns about ball security. He didn't break tackles and wasn't explosive in the open field. Sam Koch shanked two 26-yard punts.
TURNING POINT: If not for Dumervil coming through in the clutch, this game probably goes to overtime. His late fourth-quarter sack helped preserve the win, knocking Miami back to the Ravens' 39-yard line prior to rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis hooking a 57-yard field goal wide left
X-FACTOR: Packers rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari allowed a sack to Detroit Lions rookie Ziggy Ansah, a football newcomer. Against Suggs, Bakhtiari could be exposed to an advanced tutorial against one of the NFL's top pass rushers.
Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun