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Ravens vs. Dolphins: Takeaways from Baltimore's 26-23 Win over Miami

Shehan PeirisCorrespondent IIIOctober 6, 2013

Ravens vs. Dolphins: Takeaways from Baltimore's 26-23 Win over Miami

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    It was all smiles for Ray Rice as he scored two touchdowns in a Baltimore victory.
    It was all smiles for Ray Rice as he scored two touchdowns in a Baltimore victory.Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    The Baltimore Ravens rediscovered their identity, as they won a close game over the Miami Dolphins. The coaching staff has a number of things to be happy about, but there are also some areas in which improvement is necessary.

    The defense was excellent, and Baltimore gave their running backs a steady diet of carries which finally gave the offense some balance.

    It was their first road victory of the year, and the first game in which the Ravens gained over a 100 yards on the ground.

    The offense showed some continuity in the second half, sustaining drives, despite being short-handed at wide receiver. In a game that the Ravens needed to win, Baltimore stepped up and left Miami with an important victory over another playoff-hopeful.

    Here are the most important takeaways from their 26-23 win.

     

There's the Running Game!

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    The running game finally delivered against the Miami Dolphins.
    The running game finally delivered against the Miami Dolphins.Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    One week after Baltimore completely abandoned the ground game against the Buffalo Bills, the Ravens pounded the ball with 38 carries.

    The early results weren't great, but they eventually wore down the Miami Dolphins defense and got over 100 yards on the ground for the first time this season.

    There is still work to be done as the 3.1 yards per carry average isn't spectacular, but the offensive balance did wonders for a Ravens offense that came alive in the second halfwhich coincided with when the rushing attack started to get going.

    The field opened up for Joe Flacco, and play-action fakes were actually effective. The offense was also better in the red zone, and Ray Rice scored two short-yardage touchdowns.

    Moving forward, this is a performance that Baltimore can build on, and there is finally light at the end of the tunnel for the offense.

Eugene Monroe Will Be the Starting Left Tackle for the Rest of the Year

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    Eugene Monroe wasn't able to suit up for his new team on Sunday, but the starting job will be his next week.
    Eugene Monroe wasn't able to suit up for his new team on Sunday, but the starting job will be his next week.Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Eugene Monroe's contract expires at the end of the season, so it remains to be seen whether he'll be a Baltimore Raven past that point. One thing seems clear: He is the starting left tackle for the rest of the season.

    No declaration was made at the time of the trade as to whether Bryant McKinnie would automatically lose his starting spot. Monroe wasn't ready to take the field in Week 5, and so, McKinnie got the chance to prove that he should retain his starting job.

    He didn't make the most of it.

    He consistently gave up pressure and was responsible for Joe Flacco's pick-six by allowing Dion Jordan to get his hands on the ball.

    McKinnie didn't play like a man fighting to keep his job, and he's given the Ravens no reason to keep him atop the depth chart.

    Monroe was probably going to be the starter anyway, but McKinnie made the decision that much easier for the coaching staff with his play against the Dolphins.

Red-Zone Defense Holds Up

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    Ryan Tannehill has led the best red-zone offense in the league, but the Ravens defense earned their paycheck by forcing field goals.
    Ryan Tannehill has led the best red-zone offense in the league, but the Ravens defense earned their paycheck by forcing field goals.Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

    The Miami Dolphins were the best team in the league at converting red-zone trips into touchdowns, according to TeamRankings.com.

    Baltimore's defense did a tremendous job, giving up only one touchdown in three red-zone trips. Forcing the opposition into field goals has been a strength, and Week 5 was a tough test for them.

    They passed that test and came away with a big win. This isn't the first time they've done that, and they will continue to be a bend-but-don't-break defense that keeps the team in close ballgames.

More Ray Rice Is a Great Thing

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    Rice was more involved, and the offense finally showed signs of life.
    Rice was more involved, and the offense finally showed signs of life.Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

    Head coach John Harbaugh told Garrett Downing of BaltimoreRavens.com that Ray Rice needs to be more involved in the offense. The message got through.

    Rice had 27 carries and six receptions, by far the most touches he has gotten all year. He also scored two touchdowns. It was good to see him making plays again.

    He will continue to get a lot of touches as the season progresses, and that can only be a good thing for the offense.

Terrell Suggs Is Definitely Back

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    Suggs sacked Ryan Tannehill three times and was a menace on defense.
    Suggs sacked Ryan Tannehill three times and was a menace on defense.Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    A lot had been made of Terrell Suggs' leaner physique this offseason. Coming back from an injury-plagued 2012, he looked ready to return to his 2011 Defensive Player of the Year form.

    He's made quite the comeback so far.

    Suggs has recorded a sack in every game, including three against the Dolphins. He has been a dominant pass-rusher, and he will definitely be in the DPOY conversation if he keeps up this high level of play.

'Joe Cool' Is Never Rattled

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    Flacco bounced back nicely from a poor Week 4.
    Flacco bounced back nicely from a poor Week 4.Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    Regardless of what Joe Flacco does on the field, he's going to be criticized. That criticism was deserved last week, but he bounced back nicely against Miami.

    His stats don't show it, but Flacco played a really good game. He was under a lot of pressure, but he repeatedly stood tall in the pocket and made throws—many of which came while he was getting hit.

    He only had three active wide receivers, but he hit his stride in the second half and led the offense to two touchdown-scoring drives and the game-winning field goal.

    Furthermore, he wasn't at all rattled by the pick-six that he threw—which wasn't his fault—and came through when the Ravens needed him.

    With Jacoby Jones and Marlon Brown likely to play next week, he could have some playmakers to throw to, and the offense might take off.

    Regardless, this Baltimore team is in good hands with a leader who is always looking ahead to the next play.

Next Man Up

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    With a short-handed receiving corps, Tandon Doss stepped up and made some big plays.
    With a short-handed receiving corps, Tandon Doss stepped up and made some big plays.Marc Serota/Getty Images

    Marlon Brown? Out. Jacoby Jones? Out. Brandon Stokley? Released.

    The Ravens only had three receivers suited up for their Week 5 game. Luckily, players stepped up and made big plays when they needed to.

    Ed Dickson made a good catch (although any catch is a good catch for him) on a crossing route and turned upfield for a 43-yard gain.

    Tandon Doss readjusted quickly to a badly thrown ball from Flacco (he got hit as he threw) and made an excellent over-the-shoulder catch that showed off his hands.

    It sounds stupid, but sometimes, the game comes down to who makes plays. The Ravens made plays against the Dolphinssomething they haven't done a lot of this season.

The Defense Was Excellent

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    The defense sacked Ryan Tannehill six times.
    The defense sacked Ryan Tannehill six times.Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

    One week after a disappointing outing in Week 4, the Ravens defense rebounded in Miami.

    It all started with shutting down the run. They held the Dolphins to 22 yards on 11 carries. Miami abandoned their running gamejust like Baltimore did last weekwhich freed up the Ravens pass rush.

    They got to Ryan Tannehill six times, including three from Terrell Suggs—all of which came in the fourth quarter.

    The Ravens repeatedly forced the Dolphins into 3rd-and-long situations where they could pin their ears back and go after Tannehill. As a result, Tannehill was frequently under pressure, and Miami only converted three of 16 third downs.

    In addition, the Ravens showed some discipline by committing only one defensive penalty for the whole game.

    This defense needs to be more consistent, but they've shown the ability to be one of the best defenses in the league. If the offense can build off their solid performance in Week 5, this Ravens team could be dangerous.

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