Bump in the Road: Grades and Analysis from Miami’s 38-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens
Well that happened. After nearly two months without an “L” in the win column, the Miami Dolphins fell back to Earth in a laughable affair against the Baltimore Ravens. While not quite as disheartening as some of the team’s losses in the beginning of the year, primarily due to the fact that the team remains a playoff contender with a 7-6 record, it was hard to maintain positive on Sunday. There were, upon closer inspection and disregard of the final outcome, some aspects of Miami’s performance to be happy about. However, predictably, the team’s performance was almost entirely negative and there will be no shortage of criticism.
Ryan Tannehill: D–
Ryan Tannehill had among his ugliest performances of the season. While he made a number of beautiful throws in the 1st quarter, particularly when flushed outside of the pocket, his bone-headed mistakes thrust Miami into the hole that their defense had dug. Tannehill’s near 75% completion percentage and ability to move the ball early keep him above the “F” rating he received in some of his early season losses, but this was about as bad as we’ve seen the quarterback play since his horrendous Thursday night performance against Cincinnati two months ago.
Tannehill’s first interception was simply a beautiful read and grab by cornerback-turned-safety Lardarius Webb, but his second and third were poorly thrown balls into double coverage:
His second interception (pictured above) to All-Pro Eric Weddle came on a horrendous underthrow to Jarvis Landry into double coverage that was tipped and ultimately taken back up field 53 yards. His botched exchange with rookie center Anthony Steen was also a drive killer. Tannehill’s recent string of solid performances have shown that he can be an effective chain mover in this league but, at the end of the day, Ryan Tannehill is still Ryan Tannehill. He is imperfect and, on a day where the team really needed him to play lights out, he folded.
Running Backs: A–
Jay Ajayi continues to be the most talented offensive weapon at Adam Gase’s disposal. Against one of the best defenses in the NFL (and best ranked run defense), Ajayi averaged over 5 yards per carry. Unfortunately, due to the team’s early deficit, Ajayi was not given an opportunity to will his team to victory as he only received 12 carries. The running lanes generated by the offensive line were few and far between, and Ajayi was constantly hit in the backfield. However, the Jay Train didn’t really seem to mind much as he broke tackles in the backfield on nearly half of his carries, including this 19 yard rumble:
It would have been interesting to see how Ajayi could have performed had the team afforded him the opportunity.
Wide Receivers: B–
For the most part, the Dolphins’ receiver corps did their job. Jarvis Landry had 11 receptions for 87 yards and found himself in his typical role as Ryan Tannehill’s safety blanket. DeVante Parker had an ill-timed false start penalty but made a very nice grab and toe-tap on the team’s only score of the day:
Kenny Stills and Dion Sims both made key first down plays, but were otherwise non-factors in the one-sided contest. I don’t recall any egregious dropped passes, and none of the team’s three turnovers were a result of any sort of lack of effort or skill on the part of the receivers. The lack of offensive efficiency in the passing game is almost entirely on the quarterback’s shoulders this time.
Offensive Line: D
The offensive line faced a tall order against the Baltimore Ravens front seven, but many thought that the unit would be up to the challenge with the return of both Laremy Tunsil and Branden Albert from injury. Boy, were those people mistaken. The pass-protection was actually mediocre, even decent, but Ryan Tannehill was unable to take advantage when the pocket actually remained clean. The run-blocking and overall discipline, however, were atrocious. As I mentioned before, Jay Ajayi was constantly hit in the backfield as the offensive line failed to contain Baltimore’s ferocious defensive line.
The greatest crimes committed by the offensive line were undoubtedly their many drive-killing penalties. Aside from the typical false-starts and holding calls, there was even a facemask penalty called on Laremy Tunsil that killed a drive before it even began. There was zero margin for error once the Dolphins found themselves down by three or four scores, and the offensive line made an improbable comeback impossible.
Defensive Line: F+
As I’ve said time and time again, Miami’s defense lives and dies by the play of its defensive line. Needless to say, it died on Sunday. As has been a recurring theme at times throughout the season, the defensive line struggled to contain the opponent’s ground game. The Baltimore Ravens’ 28th ranked rushing “attack” managed to bulldoze through Miami’s defensive line to the tune of 113 yards at over 6.5 yards per carry.
To make matters worse, Cameron Wake and company were rendered powerless by Baltimore’s offensive line and Joe Flacco’s suddenly Peyton Manning-like release. The D-line could not get any pressure on Flacco and were a major factor in his 381-yard and 4-touchdown career day. The team’s terrible defensive performance in Baltimore is indicative that the rest of the defense cannot make plays when the defensive line isn’t getting consistent pressure on the quarterback.
As has been a recurring theme all season, opposing offenses were able to take advantage of a linebacker corps that lacks athleticism. For the first time in months, however, Kiko Alonso could not make the spectacular plays to keep the unit somewhat respectable. The unit as a whole struggled in space and was absolutely exposed in coverage against Dennis Pitta, who had a career game (9 receptions for 90 yards and 2 touchdowns).
At this point, we’ve come to expect mediocrity from Spencer Paysinger, Neville Hewitt and the oft-injured Jelani Jenkins, as was the case during this play:
But watching Kiko Alonso struggle was definitely disheartening:
Defensive Backs: C-
Joe Flacco torched the Miami Dolphins’ secondary throughout the day, as he had no trouble diagnosing the defense’s soft zone coverage scheme. The defensive line’s poor showing only exacerbated the issues that the secondary has had all season with its consistency. The safeties continue to take poor angles and the cornerbacks continue to blow their assignments as was seen during Breshad Perriman’s long touchdown.
The only saving grace for the defense in general was Byron Maxwell. The inconsistent cornerback has been quite solid as of late and single-handedly forced two turnovers. His interception of Flacco gave Miami the ball back immediately after a series in which Tannehill threw a pick, and his forced fumble was indicative of the effort he has been putting in as one of the team’s few playmakers in the secondary:
Maxwell’s performance saves the secondary’s day as far as grades are concerned.
Special Teams: D-
The special teams has been a consistent weakness since Kenyan Drake and Jakeem Grant stopped getting miraculous return touchdowns. Andrew Franks is a liability, and watching Justin Tucker work his magic does not make me feel any better about it. Jakeem Grant is still returning kicks for some reason and had another unspectacular day, albeit one where he did not muff a punt (though he did come close).
The Miami Dolphins are not built to overcome large deficits, and yet the offensive game plan kept Miami in the game longer than it should have. While the defense was exposed at every level, Adam Gase’s ability as an offensive playcaller in unmistakable. It was not his fault that his quarterback and defense had money on Baltimore. However, the penalties need to stop in a hurry. The team came in unprepared, and though the effort seemed to be there, the execution certainly was not. Overall, a sizable step back for the young coaching staff.
Not the best game the Dolphins have played this season to say the least, as I certainly was not expecting such an embarrassing rout. But, after a six game winning streak, I can forgive one uninspired performance. The team’s putrid showing in Baltimore is not indicative of what the team really is, as evidenced by their streak and overall record. However, Miami’s margin for error has shrunk to an infinitesimally small size now that they are a full game back on the Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos for the 6th seed in the playoffs with four weeks left in the season.