Who Saw This Coming?
The Ravens pulled out a must-win game before a national television audience against the Miami Dolphins who had won 3 in a row coming into the game. Given the Ravens domination of the Dolphins in 2016 when they beat the Fins 38-6 and now this 40-0 shellacking, perhaps owner Steve Bisciotti should campaign to move the Dolphins into the AFC North.
I’m kidding. Sort of.
But let’s face it. The NFL is a league of matchups and reduced to their finest form, the outcome of a game is really the culmination of many one-on-one matchups. The team that wins the most of those matchups usually wins the game and for the Ravens, it was dominance across the board. The home team was motivated – perhaps they understood that their backs were somewhat against the wall. The visitors coming into Baltimore on a short week and on the heels of a 3-game winning streak, looked like they lacked a sense of urgency and clearly, they didn’t match the Ravens intensity.
It wasn’t even close.
The talk of the day seems to be focused upon the hit Joe Flacco absorbed from Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso. It put the Ravens quarterback out with a concussion and a lacerated ear.
The hit was nasty. The hit was late. The hit was not dirty.
Slow motion replays might suggest that Alonso had a chance to pull back. But Flacco was closing in on a big first down while facing a 3rd-and-10 from the Miami 20. And I give Joe credit for his determination to get that first down. It was the play of a gamer. But his slide was a tad awkward and a tad late. And it was that slight hesitation that resulted in the flagrant hit. Alonso got the penalty he deserved. Later he’ll get the fine that comes with the territory of head hits. But he should not have been ejected. And he wasn’t.
Omg Joe Flacco. Toss kiko for that. pic.twitter.com/s18bRdHrd5
— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) October 27, 2017
That said, there is clearly a pecking order amongst NFL quarterbacks and Flacco just isn’t in the same protective hierarchy like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. That same hit to any of those, perhaps a few others, and Alonso would have been tossed in a New York minute.
But let’s give the officials a lot of credit for keeping the game under control. Given the blowout score and the obvious chippiness from the Flacco hit forward, this game could’ve morphed into something even uglier than it was. And that would have really sent Jim Nantz and Tony Romo into a purple slumber, as both made it clear that they couldn’t wait for the snoozefest that ensued to end.
The pair, particularly Romo, only seemed to get excited when “Simba” entered the game.
Here kitty kitty… pic.twitter.com/oveS5lGgQV
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) October 27, 2017
The Ravens prefer to start fast and on their second possession and just 6:35 into the game, Joe Flacco dropped a dime on Jeremy Maclin following a nice out and up route from the Ravens WR. Maclin got behind the corner and Flacco hit him before the safety could get there in time to make a play. It was a laser from the Ravens signal caller and the play helped set the tone and establish momentum that the Ravens never relinquished…Buck Allen ran with purpose and is quietly putting together a nice season. His physicality is surprising and his vision inside the tackles is on point. While his YPC is a bit off, he’s been a grinder and helps to move the chains when sledding is tough. Against the Dolphins he had 55 yards on 17 carries and on the season he has racked up 356 yards, currently 18th in the league.
— NFL (@NFL) October 27, 2017
The Ravens offensive line didn’t really have its best game except for Ryan Jensen who is a determined force at the point of attack and plays to the whistle. Well, actually he plays way after the whistle but that’s another story. Jensen is having a nice season and long ago quieted all of the outcry for Nick Mangold…So if the Ravens O-Line didn’t play well save Jensen, how did they grind out 173 yards rushing? Credit that to yards after contact by the RBs and Nick Boyle who was a force as a blocker.
Brandon Williams…He’s back! He regularly disrupted and redirected Jay Ajayi and contributed 4 tackles of his own, three of which were in the Dolphins backfield.
— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) October 27, 2017
Terrell Suggs did a great job holding down his edge and while he didn’t show up much on the stat sheet, he contributed to the stats of his defensive mates…C.J. Mosley had his best game of the season by far. He did not get caught in the wash when defending the run and attacked the line of scrimmage. He only had 4 tackles but 1 was for a loss while another nearly negated a 3rd-and-1 run. He was an effective blitzer with 2 QB hurries and a ½ sack. Then of course was his textbook play when he rushed from the left, read QB Matt Moore, dropped in covered, intercepted the pass and took it 63 yards to the house.
Equally impressive was Jimmy Smith who is playing like a shutdown corner. The angular CB was targeted 7 times, allowed just two catches for 12 yards, knocked down two other passes, and of course his pick 6 from 50 yards out. When targeting Smith, Matt Moore’s passer rating was a big fat ZERO…Tony Jefferson was used in a role more suited to his strengths and the results were there. This was arguably his best game as a Raven…Lardarius Webb made some nice open field tackles and 1 in the Miami backfield for a loss…Sam Koch netted 44 yards on 5 punts, four of which were pinned inside the 20…The Ravens protected the football and didn’t commit a single turnover.
The Ravens coaching staff clearly had their team ready to play. Dean Pees’ unit looked like the one that impressed us all during the preseason. They did a great job of disguising coverages and blitz packages. On their first 10 Miami possessions, the Ravens forced six 3-and-outs. Marty Mornhinweg took some shots downfield and stayed with the hot hand – Alex Collins, in the running game. The ground attack was particularly impressive and bold given that the Dolphins entered the game as the 5th-ranked rush defense. He also quickened the pace on offense which kept Miami off balance. It’s an approach that always seems to favor Flacco.
One piece of good news is that the Ravens FINALLY introduced a change-of-pace cadence. The bad news? It seemed to mess up the Ravens O-line as much as it did the Dolphins defense. But they should stay with the concept…Breshad Perriman was on the field for 49 snaps, was targeted twice and he had zero catches. On the season he has just 4 catches for 26 yards. Let that sink in.
Count me among those who didn’t appreciate the arrogance of Jim Nantz and Tony Romo. Nantz to me is a Patriots apologist and he’s been hugging on Brady for the better part of a decade. I do like Romo but their collective and outward boredom while broadcasting the game disrespects the game and fans and the NFL really can’t afford either at this point in their history. Just check the TV ratings.
The hit on Flacco and the ensuing dirty play of the Dolphins.
And then Austin Howard was blatantly poked in the eye by Dolphins defensive end William Hayes.
The win was the 200th in Ravens franchise history. Here’s what John Harbaugh had to say about that.
“I didn’t know that – but thanks! It’s good to be a part of that. That’s big. That’s a big deal. We’re proud, and I’m proud, to be a Raven. I’m proud to be a part of this city. I know our players feel the same. We talked a lot about that last night, ‘What it means to be a Raven,’ kind of like with Konrad [Reuland] and his situation. Without getting too sappy, it’s meaningful to be in this program and a part of this community.”
C.J. Mosley, adding a defender’s perspective on Alonso’s flag hit on Joe Flacco…
“You’re taught when a quarterback slides, you want to aim for the head, because when he [does] slide, your trajectory is going to be going over where his head was at the initial play … Was it clean; was it dirty? It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, our quarterback went down, and the whole team took it personally. We were all right there on the sideline. That’s just how we are. We’re a family. That’s our quarterback, and that really set the tone for the rest of the game. It was a little chippy going throughout that. That’s our type of football. That’s what we do for four quarters. I hope he’s OK and everything. We were just looking out for our family.”
THE MEGAN FOX AWARD
Since his arrival, Alex Collins has played like a man with his hair on fire. Against the Dolphins he had 20 touches, producing 143 yards from scrimmage and more than half of those coming after contact. He set the tone for the Ravens struggling offense and helped keep Mornhinweg on schedule with a balanced attack. If he wasn’t before, he’ll now be the player opposing defenses will key on. And that could play into the hands of a play action passing game that opens the door for the best in Joe Flacco.