Mon, 26 Sep 2022

The Breakdown: Mink's Five Thoughts After Dolphins Collapse

Baltimore Ravens
19 Sep 2022, 23:25 GMT+10

Ryan Mink

Five thoughts on the Ravens' shocking 42-38 loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 2 at M&T Bank Stadium:

This one stings, but it's just Week 2.

Just a bad, brutal, gut-wrenching, add-your-negative-adjective-here loss. Baltimore had a 21-point lead entering the fourth quarter and squandered it. They gave up 28 points in the fourth quarter. It's one of the biggest meltdowns in Ravens history. On a day that should have culminated with a celebration of Lamar Jackson's brilliance, the Ravens were left scorched by Miami's air raid from Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.

The bad news is the Dolphins are probably going to be in the AFC playoff chase when all is said and done. Have to hope the Ravens don't end up kicking themselves looking back on the Week 2 win that slipped through their fingers. In an ultra-competitive NFL, you have to win the games you should. Entering the game, this was essentially a toss-up between two talented teams. But with a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter, it's absolutely one that should have sent the Ravens and fans home smiling.

The good news is it's Week 2. There have been countless "sky is falling" moments in years past and the Ravens have been just fine. How about the 34-20 loss to the Chiefs in Week 3 of 2020? Or the 40-25 loss to the Browns in Week 4 of 2019? Both seasons ended with the Ravens in the playoffs. As Head Coach John Harbaugh said, the Ravens will be defined by how they rebound, not by a Week 2 loss. Maybe it stings more now, but it's better than getting destroyed and having a million issues. Coming out of this, two items are clearly at the top of the fix-it list: the run game and secondary breakdowns. Those can be fixed, and I expect they will be.

The Ravens secondary is hobbled, not broken.

There's no excusing what happened Sunday. As Harbaugh said, "Never did you think we were going to have that many balls thrown over our head. That just can't happen; that's not OK." But the Ravens secondary isn't broken. It's banged up. Marlon Humphrey (groin) was so hobbled that he didn't take the field for the Dolphins' final winning drive. Brandon Stephens (quad) was out, and Marcus Peters was playing in his first game in over a year. The Ravens already lost Kyle Fuller for the year in Week 1.

No matter how much cornerback depth the Ravens fortify themselves with, it seems like it's never enough. Searching for answers after the two long touchdowns to Hill, Baltimore's secondary pointed to communication breakdowns on the back end. There's no excuse for it, but that sort of thing happens when you've got backups and rookies on the field, and it gets magnified when the players lining up opposite them are Hill and Waddle.

The Ravens defense finished last in the NFL in passing yards allowed last year. After the offseason additions, there was talk about Baltimore having the best secondary in the league. It's tough to see that watching Tagovailoa throw for 469 yards, but I wouldn't expect many repeats of this kind of day. The Ravens are far from the first team Hill has torched. Marcus Williams looks like a stud already with three interceptions in two games. The Ravens need to get healthier in the secondary, first and foremost.

The run game issues need to be solved quickly.

The lack of a consistent rushing attack meant the Ravens couldn't salt away their big second-half lead as they have so many times before. Not being able to run the ball is an issue that now spans two weeks. That makes it a problem. The run game struggled to get going against the Jets and Baltimore ran its head into a wall in short-yardage situations a week later versus the Dolphins. Jackson sprinted for 119 yards, but the Ravens' running backs had just 28 yards on 14 carries.

One series that will haunt the Ravens after this one is their 18-play drive in the first quarter that ended with zero points. They had five shots at the end zone from inside the 5-yard line, including three from the 1-yard line, and went with five runs that all got stuffed or were fumbled. On a key fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter, Jackson was again stonewalled, keeping the door open for the Dolphins' comeback.

The Ravens run game will be better when top running back J.K. Dobbins and left tackle Ronnie Stanley get back on the field, but that won't solve all the issues. The majority of the blockers are out there playing. It's hard to doubt a Greg Roman run game, but Baltimore has to figure this out quickly.

Jackson snapped the Dolphins' blitz puzzle.

Lamar Jackson not only solved the Dolphins' blitz puzzle., he picked up the board and snapped it across his knee. Jackson put a 2019-style beating on Miami with his arm and legs, leading Ravens fans at M&T Bank Stadium to shower him with MVP chants.

Jackson carried a perfect passer rating into the fourth quarter and finished with 318 yards passing and three touchdowns, as well as 119 yards and a touchdown on the ground. It was a historic day for No. 8 that got spoiled.

Though the offensive line has work to do in the run game, it has helped Jackson look more patient and comfortable so far this season in the passing game. He flexed his stronger arm several times, ripping passes down the seam and to the sideline with pinpoint accuracy. It was one of Jackson's finest throwing days. If he keeps playing like this, the Ravens are going to be hard to beat no matter what else happens around him.

Quick takes:

After getting after Joe Flacco in Week 1, the Ravens pass rush sacked Tagovailoa just once and hit him twice. That's part of the reason it was bombs away in the second half. ... For all the offensive success Sunday, the unit didn't make the plays in the clutch when it had to. If rookie tight end Isaiah Likely makes that fourth-quarter catch, it may have been enough to seal the win. His drops have been a surprising early development. ... Another play that would've sealed the win was a dropped third interception from Williams in the fourth quarter. It was his easiest one of the day. On the next play, Hill scored his 48-yard touchdown. Brutal turn of events. ... Surprised the NFL didn't automatically review the (insane) Mike Gesicki touchdown catch in the back of the Ravens end zone. They took their sweet time reviewing and reversing Jackson's 1-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. ... There was so much handwringing about the Ravens' receivers this offseason, but Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay have been nothing short of spectacular. Bateman's yards after catch ability, smooth releases and flat-out speed scared off the Dolphins' blitz. The Ravens will cross their fingers Duvernay's concussion doesn't linger. ... Why does it seem like injuries always pile up at certain positions? Steven Means was carted off with an ankle injury, leaving the Ravens even thinner at outside linebacker.

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