Flacco carves up Dolphins D in lopsided Ravens victory

Joe Flacco passed for a season-high 381 yards and four touchdowns, leading the (7-5) Baltimore Ravens to a lopsided 38-6 victory over the (7-5) Miami Dolphins in Week 13. Here's what we learned:

  1. Baltimore entered Week 13 with an imbalanced team, stout on defense but near the bottom of the league in several offensive metrics. In the Dolphins' coverage-deficient linebackers, the Ravens found the perfect antidote for their pass-happy, refuse-to-run offensive attack. Snapping the NFL's third-longest streak of games with a passer rating under 100, Flacco carved up the soft underbelly of Miami's zone coverage, putting the ball on his receivers' hands with impeccable ball placement all afternoon. Had coach John Harbaugh not pulled him with a 31-6 lead early in the fourth quarter, Flacco would have cruised past his single-game career-high of 389 passing yards. This was easily the offense's best performance of the season, but can it be repeated against stingy pass defenses intent on testing play-caller Marty Mornhinweg's willingness to establish a viable ground attack?
  1. As generous as the matchup was for Flacco, Ryan Tannehill was bedeviled by a top-five defense which shuts down the run and feasts on opposing quarterbacks in Baltimore. The Ravens took away Tannehill's first read, forced three interceptions and allowed DeVante Parker's toe-dragging touchdown only after Dennis Pitta's fumble placed the Dolphins' offense eight yards from the end zone. Tannehill's progress over the previous three weeks was undone by 11 possessions that resulted in six punts, three turnovers, a missed field goal and the one score on a lay-up. Now that their six-game winning streak has been snapped, the Dolphins face an uphill battle in a stacked wild-card field. Their remaining games are versus the Cardinals, at the Jets, at the Bills and versus the Patriots.
  1. In a season of increased scrutiny for kickers, it's easy to see why Baltimore's booming metronome has inspired MVP examination. With the clock ticking down from 15 seconds late in the second quarter, Flacco took his sweet time, secure in the knowledge that he didn't need to run another play from the 38-yard line. The Ravens approach 55-yard field goals with more nonchalance than other teams treat point-after-touchdown attempts.
  1. The Ravens' ongoing dereliction of the running game is truly baffling. Marc Trestman was fired in early October due in large part to his lack of interest in the ground attack. Even though Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon are averaging a respectable 4.1 yards per carry -- including a gaudy 6.6 on Sunday -- Mornhinweg has shown no more inclination to establish a balanced offense. Up 24-0 late in the third quarter versus Miami, Mornhinweg had called just six tailback runs versus more than 40 Flacco passes. Until Sunday, neither coordinator had been able to unlock this offense's potential. If Mornhinweg doesn't start trusting his backfield duo in December, it's going to haunt him in January -- provided his team keeps playing well enough to reach the postseason.
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