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Week 18 Game Recap: Baltimore Ravens 27, Miami Dolphins 9
What you need to know
The Ravens took advantage of five Miami turnovers, returning an interception for a touchdown and scoring a touchdown on the ensuing drive after forcing and recovering a fumble. Although they did not win the time of possession battle, Baltimore leaned on their running game with some success. LeRon McClain had the bulk of the carries, and averaged just under 4.0 yards per carry. McClain lost a fumble early that resulted in the Dolphins scoring a field goal for the game's first score, but was not discouraged. He ran with excellent power, running hard at Miami's defenders and constantly fighting for extra yardage, usually successfully. Although he did not break long runs, McClain gained four or more yards on 11 of his 19 carries, with most of the yards coming after contact. Willis McGahee relieved McClain and averaged just over 2.0 yards per carry until he broke free for a 48 yard run late in the game until he was tackled three yards from the end zone late in the game.
Joe Flacco had an inconsistent game. Thirteen of his 23 passes were intermediate or deep, and six of them were thrown deep. While he connected on a couple of those passes, he missed receivers who broke open a few times, including Mark Clayton three times. Flacco did have good rapport with Derrick Mason, connecting with him on mostly intermediate routes and one deep pass. Flacco was under some pass rush pressure, but he was not sacked and typically had enough time to get his passes off. Clayton was targeted the most, with nine passes thrown his way, but only had two receptions as six of the passes thrown to him were too low, wide or high. Although he only completed nine passes, Flacco did contribute directly to the scoring by running in for the last touchdown on a play designed for him, showing good running ability in traffic from five yards out.
The Ravens attempted 13 plays on four possessions in the red zone, and two touchdowns and two field goals. They ran seven times, with McClain getting four of the carries, including one for a touchdown where he broke several tackles before barreling into the end zone. McGahee had two of the carries and Flacco ran one in for a touchdown. Of the six red zone passes, two were to Mason in the end zone, but one pass was wide and the other incomplete although Mason's arm was entangled with his defender, but no penalty flag was thrown. Another red zone pass was to Todd Heap at the goal line, but he was stripped of the ball before he could secure the pass. Flacco had another shot at a passing touchdown when he threw low to McClain who was just outside the goal line. Clayton was the recipient of Flacco's other two red zone passes.
The Dolphins turned the ball over five times, after only having 13 turnovers during the regular season. They were able to move the ball thanks to Chad Pennington moving the ball fairly efficiently by using short passes, but turnovers did them in, with two of them coming 6 minutes and 26 seconds apart in the first half. Miami's only score in the first half was a field goal that came after they recovered a fumble by McClain. The Dolphins had to rely on the short passing game, as they could not get their running game on track against the stout Baltimore defense. Five of Ronnie Brown's 12 rushing attempts were stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage. Brown played very hard and appeared on the verge of breaking tackles at times, but Baltimore did a very good job of swarming him with multiple defenders, which limited his ability to gain significant yardage. He did however, score on a pass play in the fourth quarter by making an excellent diving catch where he stopped the ball with one hand and pulled it toward the other hand to secure it for the touchdown. Ricky Williams relieved Brown, but only had four rushing attempts.
Chad Pennington did not play well. Although he moved the ball by throwing quick, short passes, his four interceptions undid him and his team. All of his interceptions came when he attempted intermediate or long passes. Pennington was under pressure throughout the game by a relentless pass rush, which contributed to several of his incompletions, including the interceptions. Most of Pennington's passing yards came in the fourth quarter when the team went to a no huddle offense in an effort to close a 20 to 9 deficit. The passes he completed were of the short variety, and at times his receivers were able to gain some yards after the catch, which helped their and Pennington's numbers. Pennington threw eight of his 11 first half passes to running backs, and looked to his wide receivers more in the second half, targeting them 17 times, mostly on short passes, with Ted Ginn being targeted eight times in that half.
The Dolphins ran seven plays on three red zone possessions, and came away with one field goal, a touchdown where the extra point was blocked, and an interception. Pennington threw six times, all but one to his running backs, with Brown catching one for a score. Brown had the only red zone rushing attempt, but did not gain any yards.
What you ought to know
|QB Joe Flacco, Pass: 9 - 23 - 135 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 5 - 8 - 1|
Flacco did not lose his poise even after missing receivers on deep pass plays. He continued to go for big pass plays, and got the ball out deep easily, but tended to overthrow his receivers even when they broke open. Eleven of his passes were difficult to catch as a result of being thrown a little too high or wide. Although he did not miss by much, he nevertheless was not very accurate. Flacco and Mason connected early, but Flacco only threw one pass his way in the second half. The coaches displayed confidence in Flacco's running ability by calling for him to run up the middle from the five yard line, which he did for a touchdown.
|QB Troy Smith, Rush: 1 - 2 - 0|
Smith came in for one series on a third down play, but came up short on a designed running play.
|RB LeRon McClain, Rush: 19 - 75 - 1 (1 targets)|
McClain ran with great power, not trying to be elusive, and usually gaining extra yards after initial contact. He kept his legs driving and was rarely pushed backwards. His touchdown run came through several Dolphins defenders from eight yards out, and he was the target on a goal line pass, however the pass was thrown out of his reach. McClain was instrumental in helping the Ravens turn in a solid effort running the ball.
|RB Willis McGahee, Rush: 7 - 62 - 0, Rec: 1 - 9 - 0 (1 targets)|
McGahee was utilized up the middle, and had limited success until he broke free after a very effective stiff arm, and ran for 48 yards until he was tackled at Miami's three yard line.
|RB Lorenzo Neal, Rush: 1 - 4 - 0, Rec: 1 - 8 - 0 (1 targets)|
Neal was utilized mostly for his fine blocking, but gained first downs the two times he touched the ball, showing good power in running through two defenders on his pass reception and run.
|WR Derrick Mason, Rec: 4 - 71 - 0 (7 targets)|
Mason showed very good quickness in running his routes and excellent hands when the ball was thrown within his reach. Apart from one deep pattern, he was utilized mostly on intermediate routes, and may have had bigger numbers had he not been overthrown twice after getting open.
|WR Mark Clayton, Rec: 2 - 16 - 0 (9 targets)|
Clayton was targeted the most, but Flacco missed him several times, including two deep passes that were just out of Clayton's reach. Clayton ran six intermediate or deep routes when he was targeted, getting open on most of them, but none of the passes were within his reach.
|TE Todd Heap, Rec: 1 - 31 - 0 (4 targets)|
Heap showed excellent running ability by taking a short pass for a 31 yard gain to the Dophins' four yard line. He had another opportunity to score, as he was targeted at the goal line, but the ball was stripped from him before he could secure it. Heap was not targeted in the second half.
|PK Matt Stover 2 - 2 FG, 3 - 3 XP, 9 points|
Stover made all three of his point after attempts and made both of the field goals he attempted, which were from 23 and 31 yards.
|BAL Rush Defense|
Baltimore's rush defense was dominant. They stopped Miami's running backs at or behind the line of scrimmage on almost 30 percent of their carries by gaining penetration routinely. The linemen and linebackers prevented Brown and Williams from getting into the secondary by swarming to the ball and gang tacking them. They also forced and recovered a fumble that led to a touchdown in the third quarter. The Ravens were so dominant the Dolphins all but abandoned their running game even when the game was still close.
|BAL Pass Defense|
The Ravens were aggressive and blitzed Pennington throughout the game. They sacked him three times, but applied pressure constantly, which contributed to them intercepting him four times, and taking one of them all the way for a touchdown. Baltimore blitzed linebackers and secondary players, and Miami's line could not account for them. Although they gave up some passing yards, most of them came in the fourth quarter when Pennington threw a lot of short passes that his receivers turned into longer gains. The Ravens pass defense dominated the Dolphins.
|QB Chad Pennington, Pass: 25 - 38 - 252 - 1 TD / 4 INT, Rush: 1 - 0 - 0|
Pennington was under duress throughout the game. Although he was fairly efficient when making quick, short throws, he got into trouble when he attempted longer passes, which accounted for all four of his interceptions. While the pass rush and excellent play by the defensive backs was largely responsible for causing the interceptions, Pennington was somewhat culpable on a couple of them, as he threw into double coverage deep without getting much on the ball due to the pass rush. He was most effective when he went to a no huddle offense and relied on short passes, but overall he had a forgettable game.
|RB Ronnie Brown, Rush: 12 - 19 - 0, Rec: 6 - 43 - 1 (6 targets)|
Brown played hard but despite his effort, could not get going on the ground against Baltimore's outstanding defense. When Miami went to the short passing game in the second half, Brown was targeted six times, and gained most of his yards after the catch with some hard running, showing good power to gain some yards after initial contact. His great effort was exemplified on his touchdown catch where he made a great catch on a pass that was lobbed over his defender, forcing him to dive for the ball and concentrate at the same time to reel the ball in.
|RB Ricky Williams, Rush: 4 - 17 - 0, Rec: 1 - 8 - 0 (3 targets)|
Williams had limited opportunities, but did show good acceleration at times, only to be stopped by the Ravens' defense before he could get going. Williams came close to scoring when he took a short pass and ran through traffic before being tackled one yard from the end zone.
|RB Patrick Cobbs, Rush: 1 - 1 - 0, Rec: 4 - 55 - 0 (4 targets)|
Cobbs contributed most in the passing game, by turning some short passes into good gains after catching the ball. However he had a costly fumble that was recovered by the Ravens that led to a Baltimore touchdown.
|RB Lousaka Polite, Rush: 3 - 15 - 0|
Polite took advantage of his three rushing attempts by gaining first downs on all three.
|WR Ted Ginn, Rec: 5 - 38 - 0 (10 targets)|
Ginn was targeted twice in the first half, and both passes were intercepted. He was Pennington's featured receiver in the second half and was asked to run short routes and try to gain yards after the catch. He caught most of those passes but was unable to break away from Baltimore's defenders for any big gains.
|WR Brandon London, Rec: 4 - 38 - 0 (5 targets)|
London was not targeted until the second half when the Dolphins tried to catch up by throwing short passes. He ran short routes and caught most of the passes thrown to him, but did not break free for any big gains.
|WR Davone Bess, Rec: 2 - 54 - 0 (5 targets)|
Bess showed good quickness on several plays, and was able to get open several times. He was involved in a variety of ways, being targeted on a pass that was intercepted, getting hurt while making a tackle after a different interception, returning to the game in the second half and turning a short pass into a long run where he showed good speed and change of direction quickness before being tackled at the four yard line. He did drop a pass that was well within his grasp.
|TE David Martin, Rec: 3 - 16 - 0 (4 targets)|
Martin was utilized on short routes, and all of his targets came in the second half.
|TE Anthony Fasano|
Fasano played a lot but was used as a blocker.
|PK Dan Carpenter 1 - 1 FG, 0 - 1 XP, 3 points|
Carpenter missed his only point after attempt, and made his only field goal attempt, which was from 19 yards.
|MIA Rush Defense|
Miami's rush defense was solid at first, forcing and recovering a fumble that led to their first score of the game. However they seemed to wear down as the game went on, and the physical Ravens' running attack got to them. They allowed a second half touchdown run from the eight yard line when McClain ran through several of their defenders, and gave up a 48 yard run to McGahee late in the game.
|MIA Pass Defense|
The Dolphins' pass defense was aggressive, and although they did not sack Flacco, caused him to rush some of his passes. However, their secondary was beaten several times, and they would have given up more passing yards had Flacco not missed his receivers at times. They did not record a sack or interception, instead coming close to making big plays and at other times coming close to allowing big plays in the passing game.