The Baltimore Ravens can’t play much worse than they did in Week 4. Despite that, they still found themselves with two chances to win the game, or at least send it into overtime.
If they play that poorly against the Miami Dolphins, they won’t have a chance to win. If the Ravens are to leave Miami with a victory, here are the most important things they need to focus on.
Utilize Dallas Clark
The Miami Dolphins have shown weakness against opposing tight ends, and the Ravens have to test them with Dallas Clark—because it appears impossible to accomplish anything with Ed Dickson.
Furthermore, tight ends have exploited them in the red zone by scoring four touchdowns in 2013. Getting Clark matched up against Philip Wheeler will be a good sign, since Wheeler has been the worst coverage outside linebacker this year, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
The Cleveland Browns took advantage of Wheeler in the red zone, and Jordan Cameron scored a touchdown on this play.
Cameron runs a corner route (yellow), and manages to get on top of Wheeler and the cornerback who drops back into zone coverage (black).
The corner route has been successful against the Dolphins.
Another defender that Baltimore should test in coverage is free safety Reshad Jones—the third-worst safety in coverage as calculated by Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
In Week 2, the Indianapolis Colts scored a touchdown with Coby Fleener running another corner route (yellow) and beating Jones’ coverage (circled in red).
This is a good matchup for Dallas Clark. Baltimore will try to get him involved throughout the game—especially in the red zone.
Attempt to Run the Ball
That isn’t exactly a confident subheading, but that’s how bad the offensive line has been for the Ravens. Miami gives up the ninth-most yards per carry at 4.2, so there will be opportunity to run the ball.
Then again, that’s what we thought about the Buffalo Bills.
It may result in having to once more give up on the running game, but they have to try to get the running game going...again.
Get Ray Rice Involved in the Passing Game
Ray Rice is the best offensive weapon Baltimore has.
Obviously, the running game isn’t working right now, so I don’t blame head coach John Harbaugh for abandoning the rushing attack. He isn't second-guessing that decision either, according to Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun.
But if that happens, the Ravens have to make sure they look for Rice in the passing game. He only got five total touches against the Buffalo Bills, in part because he had to stay in and pass-block for Joe Flacco.
He’s an elite receiver out of the backfield, and he needs to be involved in the offense.
In addition, the Dolphins have given up a ton of receiving yards to running backs over the past two games.
Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers combined to catch six passes for 65 yards and a touchdown in Week 3 for the Atlanta Falcons. Darren Sproles eviscerated the Miami defense en route to seven receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown in Week 4 for the New Orleans Saints.
New Orleans got Sproles matched up against slower defenders, and he burned them for big gains. On this play, he’s split out wide and covered by Reshad Jones (circled in red) because Philip Wheeler blitzes (red arrow).
Sproles runs a wheel route (yellow) and blows by Jones to pick up 48 yards on the play.
Both the Falcons and Saints also had success with screen plays against the Dolphins, so that’s another way to get Rice involved—although that requires the O-line to do some blocking.
Stop the Run and Get After Ryan Tannehill
The Dolphins, like the Ravens, haven’t been able to the run the ball this year. The result is that Ryan Tannehill is throwing 36 passes per game, and his protection hasn’t been great.
The second-year quarterback has taken the most sacks in the NFL, and that’s particularly damaging when you consider that he’s fumbled the ball six times so far.
The Ravens' run defense abandoned them on the road against the Buffalo Bills, and they can’t afford for it to happen again. They need to force Miami into obvious passing situations so their stellar pass rush can put pressure on Tannehill.
The Dolphins are the best team in the league at converting red-zone trips into touchdowns, with a conversion rate of 82 percent according to TeamRankings.com.
On the other sideline, Baltimore is the fifth-best defense in the red zone. Unfortunately, all 10 of the touchdowns that it has allowed have come on the road.
The offense just isn’t good enough right now to score many points—especially away from M&T Bank Stadium. The defense needs to hold Miami to field goals for Baltimore to have a chance in this game.