GAME PLAN: Following a sluggish start in which they fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter, the Ravens outscored the Dolphins, 28-3, over the final three quarters. Gary Kubiak maintained his patience with a slow-starting running game that eventually wore down the Dolphins for 183 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries. Quarterback Joe Flacco orchestrated a controlled passing game, completing passes to nine different receivers through a series of timing routes, out patterns, slants and crossing routes. The Ravens got veteran wide receiver Steve Smith involved early, which seems to energize him and keep him happy. He was targeted a game-high 11 times Sunday. Since wide receiver Torrey Smith was dealing with a sprained right knee and the Ravens didn't want him to further aggravate it after it flared up during warmups, he wasn't thrown to and was just used as a decoy. Dean Pees stuck with what's working, having outside linebackers Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs pinch off the edge to harass quarterback Ryan Tannehill. He was sacked six times and hit nine times. Pees continues to use a three-safety alignment, deploying strong safety Matt Elam where he's more comfortable, close to the line of scrimmage.
PERSONNEL: With rookie tight end Crockett Gillmore out with a back injury, starter Owen Daniels played 97 percent of the snaps with Phillip Supernaw playing a career-high dozen snaps on offense. Torrey Smith played only 15 snaps. Kamar Aiken played 46 snaps, two fewer than Steve Smith, and Jacoby Jones played 10 snaps on offense. Rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley, free safety Will Hill and cornerback Lardarius Webb played every defensive snap. Jeromy Miles retained his role as a starting strong safety and played 43 snaps, but Elam played 35 snaps behind him. Starting due to Haloti Ngata's four-game suspension, rookie defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan played 32 snaps, the same amount as veteran defensive end Chris Canty. Asa Jackson started at cornerback in his first game back from a toe injury and played 40 snaps. Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil was extremely productive in just 35 snaps, eight more than Courtney Upshaw. Darian Stewart's playing time went up to 14 snaps from three snaps the previous game. In his first action of the season, backup nose tackle Terrence Cody played nine snaps, 18 fewer than starter Brandon Williams.
WHAT WENT RIGHT ON OFFENSE: Flacco was sharp overall with just eight incompletions (25 of 33). He alertly scrambled up the middle for 14 yards for his longest run of the season. Flacco threw two red-zone touchdowns, one off a play-action fake to Aiken in the back of the end zone and another to Steve Smith after Smith went in motion and bumped outside to get wide open. Flacco also scored a touchdown on a quarterback sneak. Despite a sore knee, Justin Forsett ripped off one of his longest runs of the season on a 44-yard sideline sprint in the fourth quarter. Rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro resurfaced in the offense for the first time since losing a fumble weeks ago against the Pittsburgh Steelers, rushing for 35 yards on seven carries. Bernard Pierce also had 50 rushing yards. The Ravens controlled the line of scrimmage behind center Jeremy Zuttah and guards Kelechi Osemele and Marshal Yanda. Aiken caught a career-high six passes for 65 yards and a touchdown on seven targets. Steve Smith was much more active and engaged, catching seven passes for 70 yards and a touchdown, one week after being held to one catch for two yards in a loss to the San Diego Chargers. The Ravens went 4-for-5 in the red zone after going 3-for-7 the previous week. Flacco was sacked once and hit once. Jones had an 18-yard reception and an 11-yard run on an end-around.
WHAT WENT WRONG ON OFFENSE: Left tackle Eugene Monroe was beaten badly on a spin move by Olivier Vernon as Flacco narrowly avoided a safety. Steve Smith dropped an accurate Flacco pass, squandering a potential touchdown. Flacco made a terrible decision on an interception picked off by R.J. Stanford in the end zone on a pass intended for Steve Smith. Flacco threw it up for grabs off his back foot while under duress. The Ravens committed several costly pre-snap penalties — a recurring problem. The Ravens had zero first downs and went three-and-out on their first three drives in the first quarter.
WHAT WENT RIGHT ON DEFENSE: Dumervil dominated Dolphins offensive tackle Dallas Thomas, capitalizing on the mismatch for 3.5 sacks and four quarterback hits. Dumervil keeps it simple with a relentless bull-rush and speed rush and tight angles to reach the quarterback. Terrell Suggs had 1.5 sacks and two quarterback hits. Mosley decked Tannehill for one sack and had a team-high eight tackles. Hill and Mosley held up solidly in pass coverage with several open-field tackles to prevent the Dolphins from gaining extra yards.
WHAT WENT WRONG ON DEFENSE: Elam, middle linebacker Daryl Smith, Courtney Upshaw and Canty missed open-field tackles. Jackson was beaten by Brian Hartline for a touchdown pass. Upshaw lost containment on a designed quarterback sweep. The Ravens' defensive depth was further thinned by nickel back Danny Gorrer tearing knee ligaments and being declared out for the season. Jernigan had one tackle and was frequently caught off-guard in pursuit and going in the wrong direction.
KEY PLAY: Leading by one point in the fourth quarter and threatening to score, Flacco dropped back to pass and was hit by pass rusher Cameron Wake, a play initially ruled a forced and recovered fumble for the Dolphins. The call was overturned following an instant-replay review and ruled an incompletion because Flacco's arm was moving forward in a throwing motion, allowing the Ravens to maintain possession. On the ensuing play, Forsett boosted the Ravens' lead as he scored untouched behind blocks from Zuttah, Osemele and Yanda.
BEST HIT: Dumervil delivered a punishing hit on Tannehill, driving the quarterback into the ground and shaking him up for the next play.
GAME BALLS: 1. Dumervil (3.5 sacks, four quarterback hits, one forced fumble); 2. Flacco (25 of 33, 269 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, 106.8 passer rating); 3. Aiken (six catches on seven targets, 65 yards, touchdown); 4. Forsett (71 yards, touchdown on 13 carries, averaged 5.5 yards per run).
INTANGIBLES: Maintaining their intensity following a rough start, the Ravens won a football game they absolutely needed to win in impressive fashion, keeping them relevant in the AFC playoff hunt. The Ravens' focus despite Ngata's suspension matched how the team has reacted to adversity all season, including the Ray Rice saga.
LOOKING AHEAD: The Jacksonville Jaguars are a 2-11 team that has gone winless in six road games. Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles is experiencing growing pains and has thrown 10 touchdowns, 16 interceptions and been sacked 38 times. He has a 71.4 passer rating. The Jaguars are extremely vulnerable against the run, allowing 1,726 yards and 14 touchdowns for the season and an average of 4.2 yards per run.