Ravens overcome Joe Flacco injury, dominate Dolphins

A swarming Baltimore Ravens defense returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns in a 40-0 rout of the Miami Dolphins to kick off the NFL's Week 8 slate. Here's what we learned from Thursday night's action:

  1. The Dolphins (4-3) might have entered the night with a better record, but it didn't take long to deduce that the Ravens (4-4) are the superior team in every phase of the game. In Miami's dysfunctional offense, Baltimore's beleaguered run defense found a welcome antidote to its recent woes. After breaking free for a 21-yard scamper on his first opportunity, Jay Ajayi finished the night with a paltry 23 yards on 13 carries. Behemoth nose tackle Brandon Williams led a ferocious Ravens front seven that utterly eviscerated Matt Moore's offense. Moore's 13 possessions resulted in eight punts, two pick-sixes, a pair of fourth-down failures and a missed field goal. Now that Williams is healthy, the Ravens will have to prove that they can dominate more capable opponents.
  1. Baltimore's victory was tainted by the loss of Joe Flacco, who was concussed on a brutal blow from linebacker Kiko Alonso. Flacco had given himself up by sliding at the end of a 9-yard scramble when Alonso lowered his shoulder and delivered a vicious shot that split the quarterback's helmet and bloodied his ear. Alonso should expect to hear from the league office regarding a possible suspension.
  1. From the "better late than never" department: Embattled Ravens coordinator Marty Morhinweg finally made big-play tailback Alex Collins the offensive focal point after the September waiver claim entered Week 8 as the NFL's leader in yards per carry (5.9). Facing a Dolphins defense that ranked third in Football Outsiders' run-defense metrics, an explosive Collins slashed and dashed his way to his first career 100-yard performance (18 carries, 113 yards). With passing-down specialist Danny Woodhead (hamstring) targeting a return after the Week 10 bye, Mornhinweg could find himself overseeing a dynamic one-two backfield punch for the season's final two months.
  1. Sidelined with multiple cracked ribs, Jay Cutler doesn't have to worry about losing his job. Although it was tough to discern the difference between Thursday night's ineptitude and the string of back-foot heaves and turf rockets unfurled by Cutler this season, it's abundantly evident that the issues with coach Adam Gase's offense run deeper than the quarterback position. The protection is spotty, Ajayi has precious little room to run and the receiving corps doesn't specialize in moving the chains or making splash plays downfield. Gase's attack is the first since the 2014 Buccaneers to be shut out four times in the first half of the season's first seven games.
  1. Justin Tucker is setting a new standard for kickers. For the second consecutive week, the 2016 All-Pro made a field goal of 55 or more yards look like a chip shot. Since Tucker entered the league in 2012, the Ravens are the only NFL team to score more often via field goals than touchdowns. Of course, that statistic tells us as much about the struggles of Flacco's post-Super Bowl XLVII offenses as Tucker's booming right leg.
  1. The injury-depleted Ravens can see the Week 10 bye on the horizon. They'll have the luxury of a few extra days of rest before traveling to Nashville for next week's clash with the Titans. Whether that game features Flacco and veteran wideout Mike Wallace -- recovering from a Week 7 concussion of his own -- remains to be seen. It's quite possible Baltimore will come out of the bye with a healthy Flacco, Wallace, Woodhead, Jeremy Maclin and Breshad Perriman for the first time since the season opener.
  1. Having lost their bye due to Hurricane Irma and the postponement of the Week 1 matchup with Tampa Bay, the Dolphins have no such relief in the future. When they travel to Carolina in two weeks, however, they will welcome safety T.J. McDonald back from suspension. A 53-game starter over four years with the Rams, McDonald might be in line for a major role after free safety Nate Allen went down with a calf injury Thursday night.
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