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What’s Next For Dolphins After Ravens Deliver 'gut Check?' | TheSportsDay What’s Next For Dolphins After Ravens Deliver 'gut Check?' | TheSportsDay

What’s next for Dolphins after Ravens deliver 'gut check?'


When the 56-19 loss settled, the Miami Dolphins needed more than one glance into their proverbial mirrors.

Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa wished he had shifted his glance a little more quickly to see the defender in his receiver’s path on his first interception, and he wished he hadn’t tried to force a ball to Tyreek Hill over the linebacker who snatched the second.

Hill wished he hadn’t bobbled and then dropped a wide-open touchdown pass from Tagovailoa, one of six targets on which the duo failed to connect in the blowout loss.

Dolphins defenders wish they had tackled better in space, limiting or at least complicating the Baltimore Ravens’ display of run-in touchdowns.

And head coach Mike McDaniel wished he had pulled edge rusher Bradley Chubb earlier from an out-of-reach contest. Instead, with the Dolphins trailing by 30 points and less than 4 minutes to play in regulation, Chubb suffered a non-contact knee injury that required carting off.

“I would like a time machine, for sure, in that situation,” McDaniel said. “In hindsight, I would absolutely not have wanted him out there if I would have known he was going to get hurt.

“There’s times in football games where it’s not about winning or losing or ‘Can we come back?’ It’s about finishing the football game and having a taste of what our expectations were going into it.”

The Dolphins were knocked around by the Ravens on Sunday. (AP Photo/Terrance Williams)The Dolphins were knocked around by the Ravens on Sunday. (AP Photo/Terrance Williams)

The Dolphins were knocked around by the Ravens on Sunday. (AP Photo/Terrance Williams)

The Dolphins’ expectations entering their visit to Baltimore and their reality traveling home at 11-5 veered far apart. Their playoff expectations now risk the same trajectory.

“Situations like this where you go into a game with full belief in each other and the eventual outcome … ends up monumentally in another direction, it’s a gut check for a football team,” McDaniel said. “We need to recalibrate, get back together and press forward together.

“Run from nothing. Own it.”

How the Dolphins unraveled vs. stifling Ravens

The Dolphins started off the game strong.

Tagovailoa connected with Hill, running back De’Von Achane and fullback Alec Ingold each for double-digit gains on the first drive alone. Facing third-and-goal from Baltimore’s 8, Tagovailoa pump-faked his first throw before nailing receiver Cedrick Wilson on a high-low concept that forced the Ravens’ defense to wonder whether Hill or Wilson was its intended receiver.

The Dolphins had found the end zone first. But Baltimore answered.

Despite Rashod Bateman failing to survive the ground on a 42-yard pass that was reversed and offensive pass interference nullifying a 26-yard completion to Justice Hill, Jackson distributed the ball a la Tagovailoa with chunk plays to three different targets on the way to the red zone. With 6:39 to play in the first, Jackson dropped back and let a ball rip amid pressure, finding Hill between two defenders on the right sideline for a 20-yard touchdown.

The Dolphins stayed alive with a Tyreek Hill 25-yard catch on fourth-and-5 their next drive but ultimately settled for a field goal.

Against the fourth-ranked scoring offense in the league, that’s not a winning formula.

Nor is turning the ball over.

Miami stayed competitive early, forcing a punt and scoring a pair of field goals. But after a seeming busted coverage allowed a 75-yard touchdown – cornerback Xavien Howard, injured on the first Ravens snap of the day, was missed – the game began veering off course for Miami.

Tagovailoa hurried to fit a play in before halftime and instead threw the first interception.

Miami’s special teams allowed a 78-yard punt return to start the second half, one of several factors in McDaniel’s postgame remark: “I’m confident saying before watching the film: We’re not going to be happy with the way we tackled in open space.”

And even when the Dolphins defense punched a ball loose from Ravens RB Gus Edwards, the optimism was short-lived.

Tagovailoa’s second interception was the next play.

The Dolphins could expect nothing different from the NFL’s most takeaway-happy group.

“With circumstances within the game, there was a play or two where maybe we were forcing something,” McDaniel said. “Defensively, they’ve been very opportunistic. We knew that, and ultimately, we played right into their hands.”

A day Tyreek Hill described as “one of the worst games of my career” became the Dolphins’ worst loss of the season, and a day on which Miami was shorthanded due to injuries merited less sympathy when considering the Ravens’ bill of health.

Baltimore was missing its starting right guard, star tight end, two running backs and a cornerback.

Ravens linebacker Roquan Smith, who intercepted and returned a pass 30 yards in addition to seven tackles and another deflection, said Baltimore couldn’t dwell on that or their short week after a Monday night game across the country.

“It’s just adversity,” Smith said. “Look adversity in the face, and like I always tell the guys – chin up, chest out. We don’t bow down for anything. Do all you can do. People make excuses with adversity and we just produce.

“Life is not about excuses. It’s about what you do and play the cards that you’re dealt.”

The Dolphins best heed that advice.

After Ravens crush Miami, are Dolphins’ playoff hopes at stake?

Tagovailoa, despite taking a hit to his throwing shoulder on a fourth-quarter scramble, was healthy enough to address reporters after the game and seems on schedule to complete his fully available season.

Based on the cart, non-contact nature of injury and shellshock in Dolphins players’ voices, Chubb seems unlikely to play next week or in the postseason.

So sure, in a regular-season finale with the AFC East title on the line, Miami won’t be at full saddle. Neither will Buffalo nor any team the Dolphins face in the postseason.

What the franchise needs to do is better adjust to its personnel shifts and better scheme for its available players. Miami did that well in the run game Sunday, when Achane took the lead role in place of the injured Raheem Mostert, Achane contributing a game-high 137 yards and one touchdown.

But Miami’s passing attack was far too inconsistent, as Tagovailoa completed 57.9% of his passes compared to his league-leading 70.5% mark across the season. (For context, 51 quarterbacks who have attempted at least 50 passes have attempted more than 57.9%.)

Baltimore gashed the Dolphins defense for 491 total yards, a season-worst allowance along with the 56-point output.

Sure, as fairly said after the Ravens dismantled the 49ers, most teams cannot attack and maintain pressure at the rate which Baltimore can.

But the Dolphins have dabbled in Super Bowl-contender conversations, and it’s unlikely they’ll be able to reach that goal without besting Baltimore. It’s unlikely they’ll be able to win any remaining regular or postseason game with the suppressed performance all three phases produced Sunday.

“Everything’s still in front of us,” Tagovailoa said, but achieving it will require much more than Miami showed with the chance to clinch the division on the line.

Tagovailoa preached the importance of consistency after the Dolphins played well enough through one quarter to win but not through four.

Then, he tapped into the glass-half-full perspective as he moved forward.

“If you have the perspective of things could be worse – we could not have clinched the playoff berth, we could not have been playing in a game like this that mattered for positioning with the seeding,” Tagovailoa said. “So if you think of it like that, we’re right where we need to be as a team, regardless of the outcome today.

“We’ll be better for it and hopefully get to see these guys again.”

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