The Ravens first road win can be attributed to pass-rushing depth, an offensive snap advantage (73 to 56), and an active rotation that kept them fresh for a decisive 2nd half in the Miami heat.
Terrell Suggs is playing as if demoted from a higher league right now. After a surreal 17-tackle performance against the Bills, he continued his fine play against the run while accumulating three 4th-quarter sacks:
• (Q4, 11:36) Suggs beat Martin outside and had a little extra time to return from behind the QB for a 5-yard sack as Ngata and Tyson compressed the pocket.
• (Q4, 5:25) He overpowered Martin with a bull rush to take down Tannehill for a loss of 4.
• (Q4, 4:53) He was too much for Clabo as he bulled the Dolphins RT, then turned inside for the 6-yard sack.
However, he was on the field for just 47 of the Dolphins 56 snaps (84%). He’s played 80% of snaps this season as compared to 95% in his 2011 DPOY season. The rest has served him well.
Suggs played 14 consecutive snaps at one point, but otherwise, no defensive lineman or outside linebacker played more than 8 consecutive snaps. That kept the Ravens fresh, and Dumervil, Suggs, and McPhee all delivered significant pressure as the game wore on.
The Dolphins 56 offensive plays exclude Tannehill’s final-drive spike:
Versus the Run: 11 plays, 22 yards, 2.0 YPC
Versus the Pass: 45 plays, 272 yards, 6.0 YPP
Overall: 56 plays, 294 yards, 5.3 YPPA
By number of defensive backs:
4 DBs: 10 plays, 43 yards, 4.3 YPPA
5 DBs: 46/251, 5.5 YPPA, 5 sacks
6 DBs+: None
By number of pass rushers:
4: 31/112, 3.6 YPP, 5 sacks
5: 10/122, 12.2 YPP, 1 sack
6: 4/38, 9.5 YPP
• Arthur Brown returned to the field and delivered 3 big plays:
o (Q1, 5:57) He tripped up Thomas on a 3rd-and-16 screen right for a gain of 8 when the Ravens had rushed 6 and that play appeared headed for a big gain.
o (Q3, 10:09) He delivered a QH as Dumervil disrupted Tannehill’s throw.
o (Q4, 0:43) He dislodged the football from Clay between the numbers and the right hash immediately preceding Sturgis’ missed FG.
• Brandon Williams played just 11 snaps, but was a presence. On his first snap (Q1, 10:24) he pushed Pouncey back into Tannehill as he threw the near interception to Ihedigbo. Williams also diagnosed the screen pass to Clay and took him down for a loss of 2 (Q2, 9:26). The absence of Terrence Cody was more significant last week in Buffalo, but neither he nor Marcus Spears was missed on the inside against the Dolphins.
• The Ravens tried with minimal success to confuse Tannehill with movement and additional players lined up at the LoS in the first half. In total, the Ravens dropped 10 players from the LoS into coverage on 9 plays. In the 2nd half, however, Pees abandoned the strategy and every single player who lined up within a yard of the LoS and inside the slot receivers was used to rush the passer.
• Haloti Ngata didn’t have a flashy game as his snaps were reduced (60%), but he was effective getting pressure against one of the best centers in the NFL, Mike Pouncey. On 2nd and 1 then 3rd and 1 (beginning Q1, 14:27) on the Dolphins first drive, he penetrated past Pouncey to take down Miller for no gain. When in on passing downs, he did a good job keeping the pocket compressed so Dumervil, Suggs, Upshaw, and McPhee were chasing Tannehill in a phone booth.
• Pernell McPhee was used again as a hybrid OLB and inside pass rusher, but he’s now seeing more snaps on the inside. He pushed by Franklin on the outside for his first sack of the season (Q2, 4:50). He beat a double from Pouncey and Incognito to push the Dolphins center into Tannehill, forcing a throw away (Q2, 0:58). He contributed to Suggs’ third sack when he worked the right shoulder of RG Franklin allowing Suggs free to bull RT Clabo and then beat him inside (Q4, 4:53). He beat Franklin outside for pressure (I can’t tell for sure if it was a QH) to force an incomplete (Q4, 1:42).
• Dean Pees is using Courtney Upshaw similarly as a standing OLB on running downs and in a 3-point stance at DT on some passing downs. Courtney’s sack came on a stunt through the right A gap as Daryl Smith blitzed by Pouncey’s left shoulder. Upshaw was in excellent position to alter Tannehill’s final pass (Q4, 0:43) when he beat Franklin with a spin move, but he failed to get his hands up.
• While the front 7 was outstanding, only Lardarius Webb turned in a good performance in the secondary. Webb played outside corner in the nickel (46 of 56 snaps) with Graham playing LCB on snaps with just 4 DBs. Mike Wallace beat Lardarius for a 49-yard gain (Q2, 10:16). The ball was underthrown, which allowed Elam time to make the tackle or Webb’s string of games without a TD allowed (now 30) would probably be over. After that Webb was terrific:
o (Q2, 8:19) He had good coverage on Gibson in the corner of the end zone as Tannehill threw incomplete to force a FG
o (Q2, 1:21) He knocked down a 35-yard pass down the right sideline for Wallace
o (Q2, 0:54) He dislodged the football from Wallace with a big hit that went uncredited in the Gamebook
o (Q3, 2:56) He had coverage on Wallace and appears to be pushing him as Wallace caught the ball backpedaling with his heel out of bounds
o (Q4, 5:00) In the middle of the Ravens most impressive 3-and-out, he anticipated well to knock down Tannehill’s pass for Wallace approximately 9 yards down the right sideline
• Jimmy Smith had a very poor game at RCB. He was flagged for a defensive hold on Wallace (Q1, 3:45). Jimmy was slow to react to Hartline’s comeback, then whiffed on the tackle (Q2, 1:13) on what would end up as a 30-yard gain. He was beaten by Clay for the Dolphins’ only offensive TD (Q2, 0:50) when he could not find the ball and outran the play by the left pylon. He was too soft against Hartline again (Q4, 10:23), but a badly underthrown ball from Tannehill was incomplete. In his time with the Ravens, Smith has generally been able to stay with receivers stride-for-stride. However, when he’s been successful, he’s located the football in the air and displayed good ball skills. If this Ravens team is to make the playoffs, they will need another corner to play well opposite Webb. I believe there is still enough evidence to think it could be Smith.
• The Ravens were a study of contrasts. They played nickel for virtually the entire game, but held the Dolphins to 22 rushing yards. Similarly, they had a fabulous game of 4-man pressure with 5 sacks in 31 such rushes as they held the Dolphins to just 3.6 YPP on those plays.
• For the season, the Ravens have now sacked opposing QBs 15 times in 126 4-man rushes (12.9%). By comparison, the 2012 Ravens had just 21 such sacks in 20 games (6%).
• Thus far, the Ravens have escaped a lousy turnover differential (-4) with a 3-2 record. They won on Sunday with another -2 that included the Dolphins’ pick-6. It’s rare to win at -2, but turnover ratio is an area where I would expect the Ravens to improve in light of their pass rush.
The Dolphins’ big gift to the Ravens was Tannehill’s spike (Q4, 1:01) after his 46-yard pass to Gibson on 4th and 15. The gassed Ravens’ pass rush had difficulty getting onside. In particular, Dumervil was one of the last to set after he had pressured Tannehill from the pocket on the previous play. Given the brief interlude to rest, Elvis mustered a bull rush to beat Clabo for a 5-yard sack. After an incomplete pass, Sturgis failed the game-tying FG from 57 yards.
Setting aside the actual result, the Dolphins had ample time to use the middle of the field and possibly score a TD had they not committed to wasting the down. In doing so, and considering their field position (Bal 34), Miami essentially committed to playing for a 1st down on 2 plays.