Miami Dolphins

Breaking down the game: Dolphins vs. Ravens

 
 
Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller (26) rushes under pressure from New Orleans Saints defensive back Rafael Bush (25) in the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Monday, Sept. 30, 2013.
Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller (26) rushes under pressure from New Orleans Saints defensive back Rafael Bush (25) in the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Monday, Sept. 30, 2013.
Bill Feig / AP

asalguero@miamiherald.com

When the Dolphins pass the ball

The Dolphins have won four consecutive home games and it’s no coincidence Ryan Tannehill likes the venue, because in his past three home games, the quarterback has completed 67 percent of his throws and has six TD passes against only one interception. All three Miami receivers — Brian Hartline, Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson — have enjoyed past success against the Ravens. The Baltimore secondary no longer has Ed Reed, but the Ravens haven’t suffered in their third-down efficiency, ranking sixth in the NFL on that key passing down. The Dolphins are tied for worst in the NFL at protecting their quarterback, yielding 18 sacks. Terrell Suggs is on a tear, with four sacks and 10 quarterback hits. Oh boy. ADVANTAGE: Even.

When the Dolphins run the ball

Lamar Miller is averaging 5.8 yards per carry the past three games and has a touchdown in two of the past three. The Dolphins’ running game has enjoyed slow but steady improvement since the season opener. But the Dolphins simply don’t run that often. The Dolphins are rushing the football 33 percent of the time (not factoring the scramble runs by Tannehill). The Ravens’ rush defense is statistically mediocre — 16th in the NFL. With nose tackle Haloti Ngata, defensive end Chris Canty and linebacker Daryl Smith all playing well, the Ravens should be better against the run. Obviously, they’re not maximizing in this department. ADVANTAGE: Dolphins.

When the Ravens run the ball

The Ravens’ offensive line is not playing as well as it did during last season’s Super Bowl run despite remaining mostly intact. Perhaps the team really misses center Matt Birk. There’s no doubt left tackle Bryant McKinnie, overweight and getting older, is not playing well and is getting replaced by recently acquired Eugene Monroe. Running back Ray Rice, a three-time Pro Bowl player and the second-leading rusher in club history, is suddenly ineffective. Rice is averaging only 3.0 yards per carry and getting fewer touches than Bernard Pierce. The Ravens have promised to get Rice more involved and as his abilities somewhat resemble those of Darren Sproles, who gashed the Dolphins last week, that is not good news for Miami. ADVANTAGE: Even.

When the Ravens pass the ball

Joe Flacco had a terrible day last week against Buffalo, throwing five interceptions against a secondary missing three of four starters. That has not been Flacco’s history against the Dolphins, however, because in two previous meetings, he has thrown three TD passes without an interception and posted a 125.3 quarterback rating. If he has a similar game this time, history says the Dolphins lose because the Ravens are 28-3 when Flacco’s rating is over 100. The Miami secondary is still smarting from last week’s toasting at the hands of Drew Brees, and help is not on the way because starting cornerback Dimitri Patterson is going to miss his fourth consecutive game. Watch out for the Rice-vs.-Phillip Wheeler matchup. ADVANTAGE: Ravens.

Special teams

The Ravens were outstanding on special teams last season, and if you don’t think so, recall that kickoff-return touchdown by Jacoby Jones in the Super Bowl. Jones has been injured much of this season and the special teams play was a nightmare in the season-opener, but the Ravens are still pretty good. Tandon Doss had a 3 punt-return TD in Week 3. These two teams also cover pretty well, with the Ravens holding a slight edge on punts and the Dolphins holding a slight edge on kickoffs. In a game that could come down to a field goal, Caleb Sturgis has so far been more accurate on long-range kicks than Justin Tucker. ADVANTAGE: Even.

Coaching

This is a study of different approaches. Last week, both teams suffered painful losses. Baltimore coach Jim Harbaugh publicly challenged his offensive line, vowed to make changes concerning the use of his running back and basically sent the message that things were not right and needed fixing. Miami coach Joe Philbin kept calm, isn’t making any big lineup changes and certainly has not challenged anyone publicly, not even an offensive line that has allowed 18 sacks. No idea which approach is better. We’ll see. ADVANTAGE: Even.

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