Sunday, October 26th, 2014

Ravens 26 Dolphins 10 (The RETURN OF RAY RICE Game)

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Sure, Ray Rice was never “gone,” per se, nor has he missed any significant time with injuries, but the 2010 Ray Rice had, through seven games, looked a bit different from the 2009 version.  Due mostly in part to opposing defenses scheming heavily to stop him (but also some other factors, such as too much dancing in the backfield and Joe Flacco sometimes forgetting that he isn’t 7 feet tall), Rice was well off his 2000+ yards from scrimmage pace of a year ago.

Well, the Miami Dolphins apparently see no reason to pay any special attention to Ray Rice when preparing to defend the Ravens’ offense.  Asked after the game if they had shadowed or spied Rice out of the backfield, linebacker Karlos Dansby had this to say:

“No, for what?” Dansby said. “Why would we shadow him? He didn’t do anything. They checked down to him, but he was the last resort. Why would we need to shadow him?”

He didn’t do anything?

Ok, Karlos.  If seven receptions for 98 yards on the day (along with 83 yards on 22 carries) is “[not] anything,” than I’d be damn happy with “nothing” from Rice every week from here on out, wouldn’t you, Ravens fans?

The 180 total yards from scrimmage were Rice’s most since week 14 of last year against Detroit, when he racked up over 200 total yards from scrimmage.  The Ravens had 402 yards of offense against Miami.  Rice accounted for 45% of those yards.

That, as they say, is a whole lotta “nothing.”

Red Zone Woes

The 402 yards of offense were great to see from a Ravens offense that B’More has been waiting on to “click” all season long.  The news wasn’t all good though, unfortunately.

Miami was the team that came into this game with the reputation of red-zone futility, but it was the Ravens who were forced to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns far too often on Sunday afternoon.  On seven trips inside the Miami 20 yard line, the Ravens produced…ONE touchdown.

One-for-seven.  Unacceptable.

Granted, the final one of those was at the end of the game when John Harbaugh elected to kick a field goal from the 1 to push the lead to 2 touchdowns and 2 two point conversions at 26-10.  There are no excuses for the other six red zone tries.

On the second, following a Lardarius Webb interception and return all the way to the Miami four yard line at the start of the second quarter, the Ravens put together what may well have been the absolute worst red zone series in franchise history.  It went like this:

  1. 1-4-MIA 4 (13:25) 23-W.McGahee right guard to MIA 5 for -1 yards (91-C.Wake).
  2. 2-5-MIA 5 (12:47) 5-J.Flacco sacked at MIA 15 for -10 yards (96-P.Soliai).
  3. 3-15-MIA 15 (12:08) (Shotgun) PENALTY on BLT-5-J.Flacco, Delay of Game, 5 yards, enforced at MIA 15 – No Play.
  4. Timeout #2 by BLT at 11:41.
  5. 3-20-MIA 20 (11:41) (Shotgun) 5-J.Flacco sacked at MIA 20 for 0 yards (91-C.Wake).
  6. 4-20-MIA 20 (11:00) (Field Goal formation) 4-S.Koch FUMBLES (Aborted) at MIA 30, and recovers at MIA 30. 4-S.Koch to MIA 30 for no gain (30-C.Clemons).

Run for negative yardage? Check.

Delay of game penalty in your own home? Check.

Wasted timeout? Check.

TWENTY yard sack? Check.

Fumbled field goal try (now from 37 yards out)? Check.

Points? Nope.

To use tired internet language, that is some EPIC FAIL.

What Happened to Ronnie?

Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown started the game out with a bang, as his first two carries went for 12 and 14 yards.  Flashbacks to Peyton Hillis in Week 3 were filling the heads of fans all through M&T Bank Stadium.  On that drive, which he capped with a 12-yard touchdown scamper, Brown ran 6 times for 45 yards.  Despite reportedly spending the bye week focusing on fixing their run defense and tackling, it looked like the Ravens were going to have a long day dealing with the Dolphins’ rushing attack.

Then, Brown just kinda…disappeared.

After picking up those 45 yards on 6 carries on the first drive, Brown finished the day with just 59 yards on 9 carries.  Fellow running back Ricky Williams ran just twice for a total of a single yard.

In a game that saw the two teams separated by a single point at halftime (and which the Dolphins had a great chance to be leading at the break), Miami inexplicably abandoned the running game.  Twelve of the Dolphins’ last 14 plays of the first half were passes.

Quite puzzling.

And I’m hardly convinced that the Ravens issues stopping the run are suddenly a thing of the past.  Atlanta will not be nearly as quick to go away from Michael Turner on Thursday night.

Feasting on Chads

The last time these two teams met was in the 2008 playoffs.  The results then were eerily similar to yesterday.  In a 27-9 Ravens win, B’More picked off Miami QB Chad Pennington four times.

Yesterday, in a 26-10 win, it was a new “Chad,” but the same old results.

The Ravens intercepted Chad Henne (Pennington is now the backup) three times, with Ed Reed, Lardarius Webb, and Josh Wilson (after he again replaced a benched Fabian Washington) all getting in on the action.

On Reed’s, Brandon Marshall exhibited a severe case of “alligator arms,” with Ray Lewis closing quickly.  I’ll get a separate post up with screen caps of the play.  It’s pretty embarrassing for Marshall how scared he was of being “Dustin Keller’d,” or “Kellan Winslow’d” by #52.

Special Teams Gaffes (and Redemption)

I already mentioned the botched field goal attempt at the start of the second quarter.  I’ll have to go back and watch the play again, but it appeared on first glance as though it was a good snap by Morgan Cox.  Sam Koch just botched it, something he has rarely (if ever) done during his tenure as holder for the Ravens.

Koch would later make up for it in a big way.

With just under three minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter, Koch lined up for what would have been his first punt of the day.  On the play, though, it was Miami who made a big special teams mistake.  They left gunner Cary Williams uncovered, Koch saw it, and threw a bullet to Williams, who went 13 yards to convert the fourth-and-10.  The Dolphins’ special teams coach was flying down the sideline trying to get a timeout, but did not get it called in time.

Koch never punted during the game, something that has happened only one other time since he has been a Raven (the other being in the 27-13 loss at Cleveland in 2007).

Sam Koch isn’t a “punter.” He’s a football player who happens to punt.  Remember Dallas in 08, when he took off running and converted a fourth down off a fake field goal try?  Add “amateur quarterback” to “impromptu running back” on Koch’s resume.

Oh, but of course the special teams problems weren’t done for the day.  The same drive that included Koch’s first career pass completion ended in a Billy Cundiff missed 37-yard field goal try.

Dolphins Miscues

The Ravens are without a doubt a better team than the Miami Dolphins at this point, but that doesn’t mean this game couldn’t have went the other way.  There were a few plays that, had they went the other way, could have kept Miami’s road winning streak alive.

First, there was the 3rd-and-goal from the Ravens’ 1 at the end of the first half.  Chad Henne had tight end Anthony Fasano wide open in the end zone, but the ball fluttered over Fasano’s reaching hand.  Had they connected (as I’m sure they have on that play countless times in practice), the Phins would have led 14-13 at the half.

The Ravens were also helped by Dolphins cornerback Shawn Smith’s stone hands.  Smith jumped in front of a Joe Flacco pass intended for Anquan Boldin late in the third quarter.  Smith would have walked into the end zone and pulled the Dolphins to within 20-17.  Instead, two plays later came the Sam Koch pass.

And, one play after THAT came…

“Spat Gate”

I saved this for last because I hate that it’s even a thing.  Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder is accusing Le’Ron McClain of spitting in his face during an altercation at midfield after Crowder had called a time out.

Earlier today, I posted a video that seems to back up Crowder’s claims.

This is incredibly similar to the incident in 2008, when friend of the Nest Frank Walker was seemingly caught by cameras spitting on Steelers’ punter Mitch Berger.  That one was easier to digest. That was Frank Freaking Walker, who all Ravens fans hated anyway, and who we all hoped wouldn’t be long for this franchise.

Pain Train is a different story.  He has become a fan favorite with his twitter jibberish and “MCCLAIN 4 RB” campaign.  He has twice made the Pro Bowl, and is having another outstanding season.  McClain could very well be the best all-around fullback in the game today.  He SHOULD be with the Ravens for a long, long time.

However, this incident would mark the second time this season that McClain’s emotions have gotten the better of him in the heat of battle.  His unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in overtime in New England didn’t lose the game for the Ravens, but it certainly didn’t help.  Now this.

When the NFL sees the video of the spit, McClain should at least be fined.  If not by the NFL, then by the Ravens.  However, he could also be suspended.  The Ravens do not have another fullback on their roster, so that would put the offense in a very awkward position for whatever game McClain may end up being forced to sit out.  The Ravens would unquestionably be hurt by McClain’s absence, and for something that is nobody’s fault but his own.  That sort of thing won’t sit well with anybody in the organization, from his teammates all the way up to Ozzie Newsome and Steve Bisciotti.

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