Columnist Mike Preston empties his mailbox with responses to readers' questions about the Ravens' win Sunday in Miami and other topics going forward.
When John Harbaugh decided to go for that fourth-and-1 play early in the third quarter, what was your immediate reaction? That's a gutsy call. And it paid off, but man, I'm glad they didn't get stopped. – Matthew M., Ocean City
My immediate reaction to seeing the offense stay on the field was that they were desperate. The Ravens needed a spark, and they were trying to get it. It was early in the game, neither team had really taken control, and both teams seemed flat. It was a gamble that paid off. Would I have called it? Absolutely not.
Has Elvis Dumervil done anything differently this year opposed to his first season with the Ravens? It seemed like he wore down last season as the Ravens hit the stretch, but he robviously showed no signs of that Sunday – even without Haloti Ngata in the middle. – Ed, Monkton
Ed, I think it is a confidence in the system that has led to Dumervil playing better. Last season there were rumors of discontent swirling around Dumervil. You have not heard that this year. The full switches where you would see Dumervil and Terrell Suggs switching sides just before the snap have stopped as well. That may have something to do with it.
Also, John Harbaugh knew that Suggs, Dumervil, Haloti Ngata, end Chris Canty and linebacker Daryl Smith wore down at the end of last season. He has changed their routines, giving those veterans more time to relax. All of them have fewer snaps than a year ago.
It looked like the Ravens adjusted well Sunday to the loss of Haloti Ngata. Do you think they'll be able to keep that going in the final three games of the regular season and into the playoffs or will it be game-by-game depending on the opponent's adjustments? – Joseph T.
Joseph, that is the million dollar question. I think the Ravens are going to greatly benefit from playing Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel.
If the pass rush fails the Ravens for even one of the three remaining games, it could be season over.
You gave high marks in your report card to most of the position groups this week. Was this the Ravens' best win of the year? – Sean M., Perry Hall
I think this may have been the best overall team performance of the year. The running game struggled a little early, so Joe Flacco picked up the slack. The running game then picked up later in the game.
The front seven on defense played well, so the secondary was not an issue. The special teams did not allow any big plays even though there were several penalties. The coaching, as discussed earlier, was gutsy and showed faith in their players. Yes, it was a good, solid team win.
Bernard Pierce and Lorenzo Taliaferro both played well behind a banged-up Justin Forsett. Was this just a product of a poor rush defense for the Dolphins or can those guys be counted on to spell Forsett if his ailments continue to bother him down the stretch? – Charles
Charles, as discussed numerous times this season, the running back by committee is key for the Ravens. Forestt is dealing with a minor knee injury. Pierce and Taliaferro stepped up. That is exactly how this is supposed to work.
The Ravens' youth movement appears to be coming together at the right time. What do you think of two pairs – Marlon Brown/Kamar Aiken and Brandon Williams/Timmy Jernigan – and their impact? – John M.
It would have been nice to see more of Brown early in the season, considering the success that he had last year. Hopefully, we see more of Brown in the final three weeks to continue his development. Aiken has bounced around the league for a few seasons but has played well for the Ravens overall. He has shown up a couple of times. The most memorable moment for me was the on-side kick recovery where he skied for the ball to seal the win.
Williams has been excellent for the Ravens this season. He has been a force in the middle and often pushes the pocket. After a quiet rookie season, this is exactly what you had to hope for out of him. Jernigan seems to be in the place Brandon Williams was last year. You have seen him here and there with a small presence. You have to hope he steps up in the absence of Ngata.
How do you grade the season that Rick Wagner is having? He seems to be "under the radar" but rarely gets beat, and unlike his predecessor, you also rarely hear his number called for a false start. – Jeff R.
Wagner, for his lack of experience and lack of expectations at the beginning of the season, has to get a B or B+ at this point. He has been beaten a few times but holds his own for the most part, especially in the run game. Jeff, you are right that the penalties from the right tackle spot have dropped dramatically. Let us see how he finishes out the season before we grade him out fully.
You've opined many times in the past that Joe Flacco "can't carry a team." If he hasn't carried this team since taking the reins in Game 1 of his rookie season, who has? – Jerry B.
Jerry B., I have opined that many times and I have provided the answer to your question many times. It is simple: The defense and running game have carried Flacco for the majority of his career.
Look at last season for all the proof you need. The running game was terrible. The defense was average. Flacco was counted on to carry the team. The Ravens went 8-8 and did not make the playoffs for the first time since he came into the league. It was also Flacco's worst season of his career.
This season, the running game is playing better, the front seven of the defense is playing better (the secondary is a disaster), and Flacco is managing the games. He is not being asked to the carry the team. They have already matched their win total from last year.
Flacco has carried the team once in all of his time with the Ravens. It was for the four game playoff run that led to the Super Bowl XLVII title. He played way above his normal level and had a run that matched Joe Montana. That run earned him his contract and greater expectations. He has just not lived up to it. He is a good quarterback, not great, and certainly not great enough to carry a team for an extended period of time.
I think most of the people in Baltimore know that now.
Why didn't the Dolphins take more shots down the field against the Ravens' terrible secondary (that also suffered more injuries Sunday)? Does their offensive coordinator not watch game film? – P.J., Owings Mills
P.J., I have no idea. It was a terrible game plan. When you're playing against the second-worst pass defense in the NFL, you've got to take at least four or five shots down the field. I thought the Dolphins were a much better team. They gave up on the run in the second half after having success in the first, and they never moved Tannehill in the pocket on rollouts, sprint outs, bootlegs or waggles. They deserved to lose, and they did.
- Pro Football
- Baltimore Ravens
- Joe Flacco
- Elvis Dumervil
- Miami Dolphins
- Haloti Ngata
- Terrell Suggs
- John Harbaugh
- Super Bowl XLVII
- Cleveland Browns
- Houston Texans
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- Ryan Fitzpatrick
- Chris Canty
- Daryl Smith
- Justin Forsett
- Brandon Williams (football, linebacker)
- Rick Wagner
- Blake Bortles