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What went wrong in the Ravens’ loss to the Dolphins?

Just about everything that could outside of major injury.

Baltimore Ravens v Miami Dolphins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

After being heavily favored heading into their primetime matchup on Thursday Night Football to kick off Week 10, the Baltimore Ravens underperformed, were overwhelmed on offense and consistently showed one of their fatal flaws on defense as they fell to the lowly Miami Dolphins 22-10. There was a whole lot that went wrong for the AFC North division leaders that led to them falling victim to the proverbial trap game. This article will break down most of them.

Slow starts on offense continue

The Ravens’ offense actually moved the ball well on their first two drives of the game but managed just three points. They marched 52 yards in 11 plays on the opening possession of the game before ultimately settling for a 46-yard Justin Tucker field goal. However, they could’ve capped it off with a touchdown had veteran wide receiver Sammy Watkins hauled in a perfectly placed pass by Lamar Jackson in the back of the end zone.

The Ravens got down to Miami’s 30-yard line on their second drive and opted to trot Tucker out for a 48-yard attempt instead of going for it in a short-yardage situation in opponent territory like what has been customary for most of the season. The All-Pro specialist is typically automatic from inside 50 yards but missed the kick slightly wide right which was an ominous omen of what would, unfortunately, unfold the rest of the way.

Despite their defense allowing just 84 yards of total offense to the Dolphins before the last drive of the half where they allowed 84 yards in just eight plays, the Ravens offense couldn’t capitalize or find any consistency in the first half and went into halftime trailing 3-6.

Blown coverages lead to big plays in the passing game

The Ravens played stout defense for the vast majority of the game but like in most of their games this season, wins and losses alike, they allowed the opposing team to generate a handful of big plays as a result of blown coverages. While they seem to have better addressed their overall tackling issues that resulted in a fair amount of the field flipping plays and game-breaking scores they were allowing, miscommunication in the secondary continues to be a fatal flaw that has cost them dearly when the offense starts slow or is having an off day.

There were two plays late in each half of this game that went for over 50 yards, both were a result of blown coverages, and proved pivotal in deciding the final outcome. The first was the only bad play by fourth-year cornerback Anthony Averett who otherwise played a great game and put on a clinic with his consistently tight man coverage.

After giving up a pair of catches for a combined 21 yards less than a minute before halftime, Averett stopped running with Dolphins receiver Isaiah Ford when quarterback Jacoby Brissett rolled to his right. Ford continued upfield and Brissett hit him in stride for a 52-yard gain to the Ravens’ 15-yard line.

It’s unclear whether Averett thought he had safety help over top or assumed that the quarterback was just going to throw the ball out of bounds like he had so many times in the first half. Either way, his lapse in coverage was inexcusable. Even though the Dolphins were held to a field goal three plays later, the Ravens went in trailing 6-3 at halftime instead of holding serve at 3-3.

The second was the back-breaker that set the Dolphins up in a scoring position to essentially put the game out of reach with just under three and half minutes left in the game. Before this play, Miami wide receiver Albert Wilson had a modest 42 yards from scrimmage on five touches, two of which were rushes that accounted for 19 yards. Following this play, his yards from scrimmage total skyrocketed to 106 after he picked up 64 more on a wheel route where was left uncovered deep down the left sideline.

Had the defense held Miami to a short field goal, the Ravens offense would’ve had to come up with just one touchdown and a successful two-point conversion attempt to tie the game to force their fourth overtime period of the season. However, the Dolphins were able to punch the ball across the goal line on a 1-yard plunge by second-year signal-caller Tua Tagovailoa to give themselves a two-score lead with less than two and a half minutes left on the clock.

Drops and blown blocks

It was a bad day at the office for the offense across the board as Miami’s tenacious defensive effort made it tough sledding for both the offensive line and the skill positions players. However, that doesn’t absolve members of either unit from shouldering the blame for their overall poor performances or the blatant mistakes that they consistently made.

Marquise Brown had some pretty bad drops that could’ve led to first downs and possibly even bigger plays given the blockers and wide-open real-estate he had in front of him on many of those. The offensive line struggled to communicate, pass off and pick up the different pressure packages that the Dolphins deployed and didn’t gain much traction in the ground game either.

Lack of adjustments of offense

Not all of the Ravens’ woes on the offensive side of the ball in this game fall on the players and Head Coach John Harbaugh made that abundantly clear in the opening statement of his postgame presser.

As noted above, the offense moved the ball well on their first two drives but struggled the rest of the way until they were able to put together a late scoring drive. Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman didn’t seem to adjust and switch up their plan of attack until the game was pretty much out of hand. He called what seemed like screen after screen to no avail and couldn’t come up with a counter punch to all the relentless pressure packages and zero blitzes that came from all over the alignment.

Missed turnover opportunities

With their offense struggling mightily to get anything going the Ravens defense had a handful of opportunities to either set them up with short fields to work with or thwart eventual scoring drives by the Dolphins with turnovers, but failed to capitalize.

Averett had an opportunity to record the third interception of his career and season just before halftime but couldn’t reel it in. On a third-and-7 deep down the right sideline in tight coverage of rookie Jaylen Waddle, he turned into the receiver on the play and had it drop right in his breadbasket but didn’t corral the intended pass for the turnover. Miami wound up punting on the next play and if he had caught it one might just chalk it up as an arm punt but who knows what kind of return he could’ve generated if had caught it and managed to stay in bounds.

Second-year inside linebacker Patrick Queen could’ve set the Ravens up on Miami’s side of the field trailing 15-3 with just over 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. He came unblocked off the edge on a blitz and got a strip-sack on Tagovailoa but wasn’t able to recover the loose ball before it was recovered by Dolphins offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg.

It looked like he was trying to do for the Ravens what Howard did for Miami minutes earlier with a scoop and score touchdown. However, he failed to secure the ball which is always the priority first and foremost above all else. The Dolphins wound up punting the ball away two plays later but instead of starting their next drive in plus territory, the Ravens began at their own 1-yard line.

The Ravens had a few more squandered turnover opportunities that could’ve set the Ravens offense up advantageous field position or prevented the Dolphins from putting points on the board. One was on veteran outside linebacker Justin Houston’s 100th career sack and the other was on a pass deflection by veteran inside linebacker Josh Bynes.

Houston dislodged the ball from Brissett’s grasp on his third-down sack but it was Eichenberg to the rescue again as fell quickly jumped on the loose ball and Miami punted on the next play. Bynes made an incredibly athletic play in the end zone where he jumped up and deflected a pass over the middle but wasn’t able to tip it back to himself or any of his teammates for potential interception. The Dolphins extended their lead with a short field goal after a trio of penalties and an incomplete pass.

Controversial calls at inopportune times

Despite their sluggish start on offense and only one truly egregious blown coverage on defense through the first three-quarters of the game the Ravens trailed by just a single possession late in the third and were only down 9-3 early in the fourth. A pair of controversial calls by the officials pertaining to a catch that was overturned and a catch fumble that looked incomplete were huge swings that proved pivotal in deciding the final outcome.

The first came on the Ravens’ final drive of the third quarter trailing by just a field goal. Facing a second-and-9 from their own 34-yard line, Jackson threw a low pass over the middle that was corralled by tight end Mark Andrews and ruled complete. Despite there being no indisputable video evidence to suggest otherwise, the Dolphins successfully challenged the play got it reversed.

Instead of having a new set of downs just shy of midfield, the 14-yard gain was negated and the Ravens were forced to punt two plays later after Jackson was sacked for a 7-yard loss on third down. The defense held the Dolphins to a field goal in the ensuing drive but disaster struck on the offense’s first drive of the fourth quarter.

Facing a third-and-10 from their own 42-yard line Jackson threw to Watkins in stride a few yards shy of the line to gain. Watkins barely had the ball in his grasp before it was dislodged and hit the turf for what was ruled a fumble but looked like an incompletion on a quick ‘bang-bang’ play. The “loose” ball was picked up by Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard and returned 50 yards for the first touchdown of the game.

All scoring plays are automatically reviewed but the “turnover” itself happened so fast that ordinarily in those instances the play is blown dead because it looked like the ball got knocked out before the receiver could complete the process of the catch. While Watkins does take three steps, it doesn’t appear that he had possession and full control of the pass before he takes the second and by the time he took the third, the ball was already loose which shouldn’t constitute a catch or at least a whistle should’ve been blown right after it hit the ground.

The refusal to unleash Ty’Son Williams

The Ravens failed to rush for 100 or more yards for the second time this season and just the second time ever since Jackson became the starter. One of the main contributing factors to the inconsistent results from the rushing attack this year has been the Ravens’ reliance on their veteran running backs and the reluctance to get second-year pro Ty’Son Williams more involved.

The Ravens signed a trio of seasoned pros at the position after their depth chart was decimated by injuries just before the regular season. However, Williams has been the most impressive, explosive, and productive in what has been limited opportunities after the first two games of the year.

They could’ve used his speed to get around the edge and burst into the second level on several occasions in this game but opted to overutilize the pairing of Devonta Freeman and Le’Veon Bell and underutilize Williams to the point that he might as well not even dressed for the game. He not only didn’t receive any touches, but Williams also didn’t take a single snap on offense and played just six on special teams.