2021 NFL season, Week 10: What we learned from Dolphins’ win over Ravens on Thursday night

  1. Ravens QB Lamar Jackson never found a rhythm. Baltimore’s signal-caller struggled with timing and accuracy, leaving the upset door open all night long for a Dolphins team ready to step through. Early in the game, Jackson had an open Sammy Watkins deep down the middle of the field, but was a beat late on a throw that Watkins appeared to peel off on as he was running into the path of the goalpost. It was emblematic of Jackson’s night. He took four sacks, threw too many passes off balance, and never looked comfortable in completing just three of 12 passes of 10-plus air yards. The Ravens can overcome that at times when the tracks are greased for their rushing attack, but on this night, that wasn’t going to carry the day, either.
  2. Quarterback change was the right button to push. Dolphins coach Brian Flores had seen enough of Jacoby Brissett when the quarterback came out of the game with knee pain following a third-quarter sack, and switching to Tua Tagovailoa ultimately paid off. Brissett got the start due to a finger injury on Tagovailoa’s throwing hand, but with the Miami offense stagnant, Flores figured nine good fingers were enough to make the move. Tagovailoa didn’t look sharp initially, and it surely didn’t help that his already-injured throwing hand collided with Ravens LB Patrick Queen’s hand on a third-quarter follow-through. But he found enough of a groove to get Miami’s offense into a higher gear on a night when Brissett never looked settled or confident.
  3. I’ve got him … you take him. Two inexplicable busts in the Ravens secondary accounted for a massive chunk of the Dolphins’ offense, and were as big a factor in the outcome as anything. On the first, Dolphins WR Isaiah Ford got loose deep down the right sideline for a 52-yard catch that set up a field goal before halftime. On the second, Tagovailoa found Albert Wilson down the left sideline – even more wide open than Ford was – for a 64-yard gain late in the fourth quarter. The Ravens had just cut the lead to 15-10 and were poised to potentially steal the game with a defensive stop, but Wilson’s play set up a short touchdown to put the game out of reach. Those two plays accounted for nearly a third of Miami’s offense (116 of 374 yards).
  4. Rookies shine at home for Miami. Two members of the Dolphins’ 2021 draft class, Jaelan Phillips and Jevon Holland, looked outstanding Thursday night and were integral in shutting down the Ravens. Phillips helped to contain Jackson with an assisted sack and a QB hurry, showing not only pass-rush ability, but a knack for quickly disengaging to chase the ball to the sideline. Holland broke up two passes and came up with a second-half sack on a blitz off the edge to force a punt. He’s an instinctive and speedy roamer in the secondary who can eat up a ton of turf with the ball in the air. On this night, they played like two of the club’s first three draft picks should have.
  5. Offenses downright offensive. Those who enjoy great defensive football and don’t need back-and-forth scoring to hold their attention can appreciate a low-scoring game. This wasn’t that. Scoring was certainly suppressed, but it was offensive ineptitude that reigned for most of the game, not so much defensive prowess. Punts soared back and forth, passes were dropped, and scoring chances were missed. Even on the Ravens’ lone touchdown drive, they had to be nudged along by three Dolphins penalties, including two roughing the passer calls. The late offensive awakening aside, the two offenses floundered for three quarters combined for a brutal 5 of 27 on third-down conversions. In a word, it was ugly.

Next Gen stat of the night: Holland blitzed on 21 snaps, the highest total for a defensive back in the Next Gen Stats era (2016).

NFL Research: Jacoby Brissett’s 52-yard completion to Isaiah Ford near the end of the first half was the Dolphins’ longest offensive play of the season. It then became the second-longest, when Tua Tagovailoa found Albert Wilson for 64 yards.

Xavien Howard forced a fumble and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown, Tagovailoa came off the bench and capped his night with a 1-yard sneak for a score with 2:19 left and the Dolphins stunned the Baltimore Ravens 22-10 on Thursday night.

“Any win is good,” Tagovailoa said. “No rumors, no external factors of noise had anything to do with what we did tonight.”

The Dolphins (3-7) got three field goals from Jason Sanders in what became their second win in five days. Tagovailoa — who couldn’t start because of a fractured finger on his left, or throwing, hand — threw for 158 yards in relief of Jacoby Brissett, who passed for 156 yards before needing to depart in the third quarter with an injured right knee.

“I think it’s tough coming into a game, second half,” Tagovailoa said. “You’ve got to warm up, you’ve got to get your head back into the mindset of going in and playing, but that’s the NFL. You’ve got to be ready at any time.”

Baltimore’s streak of 51 regular-season games with at least 14 points — the second-longest such streak in NFL history behind a 63-game run by New England from 2009 through 2013 — came to an end.

An emphatic end, at that.

“We just played poorly and it’s because of our coaching,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “It starts with me. I didn’t do a good job getting these guys ready.”

Miami’s defense carried an offense that had one quarterback get hurt, have an injured one take his place, and saw its only trip to the end zone in the first 57 minutes come from an offensive lineman who reached just far enough on a back flip to get the ball over the goal line — only to have it not count because he wasn’t an eligible receiver.

Didn’t matter. The offense did enough, and the defense did more than enough.

“The defense played great,” Tagovailoa said.

Lamar Jackson completed 26 of 43 passes for 238 yards and a touchdown for Baltimore (6-3). Mark Andrews had the scoring grab for the Ravens, who had dominated Miami in the teams’ most recent three meetings going into Thursday — winning by a combined 137-16 score.

Not this time. Not even close.

“We’ve got to go to work,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve got to be a lot better.”

Brissett had a 52-yard completion to Isaiah Ford late in the half on what appeared to be a busted play that turned into Miami’s longest gain of the season — to that point, anyway. Sanders connected on a chip shot, the Dolphins took a 6-3 lead into the break and, somehow, had the lead for good.

Andrews’ scoring catch got Baltimore ton 15-10, just close enough for it to seem that Miami was on the ropes. Tagovailoa found Albert Wilson for a 64-yard gain — Miami’s longest play of the season and the longest pass of Tagovailoa’s NFL career — with about three minutes left, and then the QB muscled in from the 1 to seal the win.

“We just didn’t play a good football game,” Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell said. “At the end of the day, they played better football than us today.”

The closest either offense came to the end zone for the game’s first 55 minutes was a play midway through the third quarter, when Tagovailoa completed a pass to right guard Robert Hunt. The lineman rumbled toward the goal line, got flipped over and appeared to reach the ball over the plane.

It wouldn’t have counted anyway. Hunt wasn’t an eligible receiver, the Dolphins settled for a field goal and a 9-3 lead.

And soon afterward, finally, a TD happened. Howard stripped the ball from Ravens receiver Sammy Watkins after a catch on the ensuing Baltimore possession, picked up the fumble and scored to put Miami up 15-3.

“A great play,” Dolphins coach Brian Flores said. “X, he’s done a great job for us and he showed up again, made a big play in a big moment. We needed it. Got it out, scooped and scored. Big play in the game.”

INJURIES

Ravens: CB Tavon Young, who had been dealing with a knee issue, suffered a foot injury in the second half.

Dolphins: Brissett appeared to want back into the game not long after hurting his knee, but Tagovailoa finished the game for Miami. “We just decided to stay with Tua,” Flores said.

CROSSOVER APPEAL

A rarity: The Orlando Magic got cheers in Miami. Magic rookie guard Jalen Suggs made the trip south for the game, and the Dolphins presented him with a custom jersey bearing his No. 4. Suggs is the second cousin of former Baltimore defensive standout Terrell Suggs.

VETERAN’S DAY TRIBUTES

In addition to having the U.S. flag displayed for the national anthem, the Dolphins also had flags from the branches of the military and a POW-MIA flag unfurled as well. The anthem was performed by retired Navy Petty Officer First Class Generald Wilson.

And at halftime, the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon performed a rifle precision drill.

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