Dolphins' defense takes a step back

Posted Nov. 08, 2010 @ 2:24 p.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

Dolphins ILB Channing Crowder may be accusing Ravens FB Le'Ron McClain of spitting on him, but really, the entire Ravens team metaphorically spit on the Dolphins in a 26-10 win on Sunday.

QB Chad Henne continued his inconsistent play, tossing three interceptions. The Dolphins' coaching staff continued its inconsistent play-calling — after RB Ronnie Brown ran for 45 yards and a TD on six rushes on the Dolphins' first drive, he proceeded to get only three more carries for 14 yards.

The one bright spot was the Dolphins' pass rush, anchored by OLB Cameron Wake. Wake recorded two sacks was Miami totaled four sacks and 11 QB hits.

But the stellar pass rush wasn't enough to keep the Ravens from killing the Dolphins on screen passes and underneath routes to their backs. Baltimore scored on its opening drive, thanks to a 32-yard screen pass to RB Willis McGahee that went for a score. For the game, Ray Rice led the Ravens with seven catches for 97 yards, an average of 13.9.

The PFW Spin

Crowder was incensed after the game, and if McClain really did spit on him, that's understandable, but Crowder gets part of the blame for the Dolphins' inability to stop the Ravens' underneath passing game.

Over and over again, Miami pressured Ravens QB Joe Flacco, only to watch Flacco find Rice wide open in the flat, and then Rice did the rest, scampering across, through and around the Dolphins' defense. While the defense stood tall in the red zone at times, holding the Ravens to a touchdown, four field goals and a missed field goal in seven trips inside Miami's red zone, Rice's receiving kept drives alive time and time again.

On the Ravens' first drive of the third quarter, with the Dolphins trailing 13-10, Flacco hit Rice with three passes for 61 yards. Flacco finished the drive by finding Derrick Mason in the endzone for a 12-yard TD strike. Flacco's accuracy in the game was at a 74 percent clip (20-of-27).

Crowder's return to the field following a groin injury that sidelined him for the first four games this season was supposed to bolster the defense by allowing Karlos Dansby to play in coverage. Crowder is much better against the run, but his weakness against the pass, along with the rest of the Dolphins' linebackers and safeties, was magnified on Sunday.

The Dolphins are 4-4 with losses to four of the best teams in the league (Jets, Patriots, Steelers and Ravens). But to be the best, you have to beat the best, and beating yourself is not the way to do it. The loss to the Ravens was a step backward for a defense that has been formidable this season.

And with a sputtering offense, it's the defense that will need to win games for Miami this season.