The late Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh used to say a fourth-quarter pass rush was the key to winning in the NFL. Come the fourth quarter Sunday, Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco had time.
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill had Dallas Thomas.
That’s perhaps an oversimplification. But the fourth quarter began with the Dolphins down 14-10 but 18 yards from re-taking the lead. It ended with Flacco kneeling out a 28-13 Ravens win.
While Flacco got bothered only on the fumble-not fumble that preceded the Ravens’ first fourth-quarter touchdown, Tannehill got sacked three times. Two came via defensive end Elvis Dumervil, a Miami Jackson High graduate who left right tackle Thomas playing patty cake with air.
Dumervil ended the day with 31/2 sacks, all of which he got working against Thomas, and the Ravens’ single-season sacks record of 16.
When the media entered the Dolphins locker room after the game, Thomas already had dressed, but he waited to answer the obvious questions.
“Me, personally, it’s bad, but as a team we each have got to look at the film and see where we went wrong,” he said. “I have to look at the film and see. It could be any number of things.”
Which brings up the question of why the Dolphins didn’t give Thomas more help consistently. Instead, they relied on a backup to hold his own against a Pro Bowl pass rusher nearing a sacks record of a franchise that has been defined by its defense.
Then again, the Ravens got their first sack when tight end Dion Sims, lined up outside Thomas, seemed to ignore Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs as Tannehill rolled out in that direction. That put Suggs in the Sun Pass Express Lane to Tannehill for an 8-yard loss.
“I thought Dallas played very well in the first half,” left guard Daryn Colledge said. “He protected well. Then we allowed them to get a sack on a stupid play on a naked [bootleg], which can’t happen. That was a miscommunication. We allowed them to get momentum, and you let someone like Suggs start getting charged up and he starts playing downhill. It becomes a different defense. He wants to start getting sacks. Then you have a guy on the other side [Dumervil] trying to get them. Then the guys inside are getting charged up.”
The Dolphins ran the ball only three times in the second half while dropping back to throw it 23 times. Colledge pointed out that the Dolphins’ mistakes handcuffed them strategically.
Take the first Dolphins drive of the second half.
“I had a penalty on the first play,” Colledge said. “We had a bad second play. We got a penalty on the third play, next thing you know we’re at second and 752 yards it felt like. You’re not going to run the ball in that series. By late in the game, we’re down two scores, we’re not going to run the ball then.
“We had only three good opportunities to do something in the second half, and we didn’t capitalize on that.”
Tannehill said: “They did a good job of getting around the edge. They were sinking underneath the deeper throws that would be first or second in my progression.”
Meanwhile, the Dolphins got one sack, an almost-safety by Olivier Vernon in the third quarter after the Ravens had taken a 14-10 lead and the Dolphins needed a Percoset play to stop the pain.
Baltimore ran the ball effectively enough to give the Dolphins’ pass rush pause.
“When you’re playing teams that play under center like this, the ball is definitely going to come out quickly on you,” defensive tackle Earl Mitchell said. “So it’s definitely hard to get pressure up the middle or pressure in general when they don’t have a five-step drop back. It’s a lot more three-step, a lot more quick-pass game, and we weren’t anticipating them throwing the ball more.”