It looked like the Baltimore Ravens were well on their way to a convincing Week 2 victory over the Miami Dolphins. They scored a touchdown on the game’s opening kickoff, led by 21 points at halftime and led by 21 points still at the end of the third quarter.
Then, their once seemingly-insurmountable lead quickly slipped away as the Dolphins mounted a furious comeback. The Ravens were badly on the ropes for the final 12 minutes of play and ultimately let a surefire win turn into an embarrassing defeat.
What just happened?
A complete defensive 180
Last week against the Jets, the Ravens’ defense limited big plays, got consistent pressure on the quarterback, forced turnovers, and got off the field on third down. In short, it was pretty much a complete defensive performance. Against the Dolphins, the first half was mostly a carryover of this and the Ravens ceded just seven points through two quarters.
Then, things quickly and utterly took a turn for the worse. A quick 13-play touchdown drive to begin the second half by the Dolphins was only a glimpse of the avalanche to come in the fourth quarter. The Ravens’ thought-to-be vaunted defense allowed 21 straight points and it took the Dolphins just about 14 plays across three drives to score three touchdowns.
The defensive line was missing in action and with a clean pocket to work with, Tua Tagovailoa picked apart Mike Macdonald’s secondary. No pass rush combined with miscommunications in the secondary saw Tyreek Hill get loose for two deep touchdown catches, both on third down, for over 100 combined yards. Jaylen Waddle was seemingly uncoverable all afternoon and that did not change over the final few drives.
Yes, the offense could have “put the game away” a couple of times, but there’s little excuse for giving up 28 points in one quarter — especially at home. The Ravens needed a stop and couldn’t get it at all. This was an utter defensive collapse.
Lamar Jackson’s big day spoiled
For the entirety of the first half and most of this game, the story was Lamar Jackson dominating the Dolphins’ defense. He tossed three touchdowns in the first half with only two incompletions, rushed for 39 yards, and orchestrated just about whatever he wanted.
When Jackson ripped off a 79-yard touchdown run just before the end of the third quarter, the longest of his career, it felt like the cherry on top of an elite performance — and victory. That score gave the Ravens a 35-14 advantage heading into the final frame and Jackson had a perfect passer rating.
Unfortunately, the next drive was a quick three-and-out (in which Jackson nearly threw a pick-six, then had a long would-be third down conversion dropped by Isaiah Likely). Then, the Ravens settled for a 51-yard field goal to go up three points with just over two minutes. It felt like a touchdown was needed there given how the defense was performing, which ultimately proved to be true.
Of the team’s 155 rushing yards on the day, Jackson had 119 of them. He carried the offense to a 31-point performance. It could have been more had he converted a couple short-yardage conversions on fourth down, but an individual output of 437 total yards and four touchdowns (with no turnovers) should have been enough to win.
The running game is nowhere to be found
To that last point above, take away Jackson’s rushing contributions and what do you have? 16 attempts for 36 yards, good for an average of just over 2.0 yards per carry. Quite frankly, even that feels a bit high compared to what the eye test suggested.
The Ravens’ running game was a near non-factor for a second straight week, an issue that dates back to the first preseason game now. Justice Hill was the offense’s second-leading rusher with 16 carries on three attempts. The platoon of Hill, Mike Davis and Kenyan Drake are providing next-to-nothing in terms of explosive plays or first-down conversions.
This isn’t a complete referendum on the running backs but more the rushing offense as a whole. The offensive line again struggled to open up any sort of rushing lanes. Multiple running plays were blown up for no gain or negative yardage. This issue compounded with the Ravens going 0-for-4 on rushing attempts at the goal line in the first quarter, which spoiled an 18-play drive that could have resulted in a touchdown.
The struggles in short-yardage situations is where the Ravens badly miss Gus Edwards, who is money in converting third-and-shorts. They clearly miss the explosiveness of J.K. Dobbins, too. Their inability to threaten the Dolphins’ defense with any semblance of a ground game was overshadowed because of Jackson’s success through the air.
In pass protection? No sacks allowed, no quarterback hits. In the run game? The complete opposite. It can’t continue that way moving forward.
There is plenty of blame to go around
Yes, the defense is the side of the ball that gave up 28 fourth-quarter points. But you don’t lose this type of game, in the fashion they did, without plenty of blame to go around. The offensive play-calling in key moments surely could have been better.
As mentioned previously, the Ravens spoiled an 18-play (!) offensive drive that lasted over 10 minutes by coming away with zero points. They possessed the ball for almost the entire first quarter and drove 74 yards downfield. Then, just four yards out from a touchdown, ran five straight run plays and failed to convert.
Jackson’s touchdown on third-and-goal was overturned because he was short of the goal line. The next play? Another designed QB power call, which resulted in a bobbled snap and fumble — and turnover on downs. Flash forward to the fourth quarter. The Ravens faced a 3rd-&-3. Jackson gained two yards on a power run, then was stuffed for no gain on a fourth down attempt via the same call.
It didn’t work earlier and they clearly were getting no push in run blocking all game, so going a different route probably was a better idea. Especially considering the success Jackson was having in the passing game.
The Ravens were flagged for a penalty once this entire game and did not turn the ball over a single time. Yet they lost, again after leading by 21 points at home to a rookie head coach. That should be a referendum on more than just one coach or position group.