In the wake of Miami’s humbling defeat by the Ravens in Baltimore, there is a great sense of frustration and anger.
The frustration was perfectly illustrated by wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who said in his post-match interview, “We can’t beat the good teams.”
Indeed, Miami has continued to struggle against teams with a winning record, as its only win against such a team came courtesy of an overtime field goal in Green Bay, where Miami knocked off the injury-riddled Packers.
The anger is a result of the claim made by linebacker Channing Crowder, who accused Ravens’ fullback, Le’Ron McLain, of spitting in his face.
However, as the 26-10 score suggests, Miami had little to complain about in its defeat; unlike the match against the Steelers two weeks ago, the Dolphins were not undone by a poor official’s call—they were soundly beaten.
Ray Rice did the majority of the damage, with 97 receiving yards and 82 rushing yards. Joe Flacco was consistent and measured, completing 20 of 27 passes, for 266 yards, and two touchdowns. Even “the old guy,” Derrick Mason, showed he still has the ability to perform at the highest level, with four catches for 42 yards and a touchdown.
Meanwhile, the Miami offense just could not get it done. Despite a Ronnie Brown touchdown to cap off Miami’s opening drive, the 'Fins failed to consistently move the ball down-field. A rare Dan Carpenter miss signalled the end of the Dolphins’ real chances.
A poor pass from Chad Henne missed a wide-open Anthony Fasano in the end-zone, and Miami again settled for a field goal as its drive stalled on the Ravens 1-yard line.
The decision to kick the field goal perhaps sums up the conservative nature of the Dolphins’ coaches that has upset so many fans this year.
Brandon Marshall was held to just 50 receiving yards thanks to excellent coverage from the Ravens’ secondary. However, this was negated by the excellent running attack Ronnie Brown led in the first half.
Unfortunately, Miami’s coaches decided to withdraw the “hot back” yet again. While Ricky Williams struggled to make any yardage, the Dolphins turned back to an ineffective passing game.
Miami was succeeding on the ground, but the inconsistent play-calling hurt Miami badly. It inexplicably ran only two running plays for 17 yards in the second half, having accrued 45 yards from six running plays on the opening drive.
The issue of offensive play-calling has hindered the Dolphins all year, and the problem is unlikely to subside. Sadly for Ronnie Brown, the running back is in a contract year and despite a strong showing yesterday, he may be the biggest casualty from Dan Henning’s play-calling.
One positive was the play of outside linebacker Cameron Wake. The pass-rush specialist recorded another two sacks, giving him 8.5 sacks for the season, and he has continuously showed his importance to the Miami defense.
In addition, Karlos Dansby recorded 10 tackles, further cementing his position as a fantastic free-agency acquisition.
Unfortunately, the positives appeared to end there, as poor coverage and a number of missed tackles cost Miami dearly. The usually-reliable Vontae Davis was out-foxed by Mason in the second half for a touchdown, and fellow cornerback Sean Smith dropped a certain pick-six with the score at 20-10.
Smith admitted he took his eyes off the ball as he looked toward the end-zone, and his mistake proved to be the game-changer that never was. From there on, the Ravens’ dominance never looked in doubt.
Three interceptions did not help Miami’s cause. The first came following a Brian Hartline slip and the second was the result of a tipped pass.
Henne threw a high pass to Brandon Marshall on the slant, and Marshall failed to haul it in, tipping the pass into the waiting arms of ball-hawking safety Ed Reed.
The pass showed poor execution from both quarterback and receiver and essentially ended the contest.
The third pick compounded the misery for Henne, who finished without a passing touchdown for the second successive game.
In all, Miami struggled to move the ball against the Ravens’ strong defense. The secondary failed to stop Joe Flacco when it needed to, and the entire team failed to stop Ray Rice at all. The play-calling was again questionable, and Miami fell to another defeat against top opposition.
The truth is the Ravens are considerably better than the Dolphins.
The Ravens are actually better than most teams in the NFL.
While the defeat is disappointing, a sense of realism should be applied to the whole situation. The Ravens are genuine Super Bowl contenders and Miami is not the only side to have been outplayed by Baltimore this season. They are certainly not the last team to suffer that fate either.
It would be nice for Miami fans if the team was capable of taking down strong opponents, but the visit to the M&T Bank Stadium was always going to be difficult, and as Marshall suggested, Miami does not quite have what it takes to defeat the top teams in the NFL.
Fans who hoped that Miami’s acquisition of Brandon Marshall alone would transform the Dolphins from a 7-9 football team into a Super Bowl contender were optimistic, but potentially unreasonable.
There have been some bitter disappointments, but the tough schedule the Dolphins have faced in the first half of the season will now begin to ease up, and a winning record is certainly not out of reach come the end of the year.
The playoffs? Who knows—it will be difficult considering the level of opposition within the AFC East, but one win on the road against their two divisional rivals, and Miami certainly has a chance of securing a wild-card spot.
Next week will effectively decide the Dolphins’ season, as they host the Tennessee Titans (and Randy Moss). A win will lift the mood in South Florida; a loss will all but end their quest for the playoffs.
Following Tennessee, Miami has a series of winnable games, as they face Chicago, Oakland and Cleveland. After a visit to the Jets, they then host Buffalo and Detroit. Miami needs to begin a run of winning games, and hope that their divisional rivals continue to struggle.
New England lost conclusively at Cleveland, while the Jets pulled off an overtime win in Detroit, but were far from convincing. Coming off a defeat against Green Bay where they were held without a point, New York needs to find form fast to avoid any further problems in the race for the AFC East title.
The Dolphins, however, can only control their own fate. They must put together a winning run, and at least put pressure on their rivals, forcing them to do the same.
There is no shame in going down fighting. As disappointing as a failure is; fans will hope that if Miami cannot make the playoffs, the least they can do is go down in style.
The Ravens are the better team. However, Miami will not have a more difficult game this season than the visit to Baltimore.
If they Dolphins can begin to defeat those teams who also have eyes on the playoffs, such as Tennessee, then they are still in with a chance. If not, their season is already over.
This week’s defeat was tough, and the Dolphins’ limitations were all too obvious.
As Marshall said, Miami must find a way to beat the good teams. Only then can they push on towards a much-coveted Super Bowl win.
Miami must now beat the Tennessee Titans if they want a chance of reaching the playoffs.