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Sunday, October 19, 2008
Dolphins take step back in loss to Ravens


Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

MIAMI -- Sunday was a serious step back for the Miami Dolphins.

No, they didn't revert to last year's hapless ways.

 
 Steve Mitchell/US Presswire
 Chad Pennington and the Dolphins could only generate 13 points in Sunday's loss.

They did, however, fail to progress in establishing their new identity. The underdog Baltimore Ravens defeated them, 27-13, in Dolphin Stadium.

The Dolphins lost consecutive games for the second time this season and are 2-4. They've squandered all of the momentum they generated from beating the New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers back-to-back.

"We're trying to develop an attitude of winning here," Miami running back Ricky Williams said, "and I think losing, especially a game like this ... it's one of those games where it wasn't like they came out and they beat us up like Arizona did [a 31-10 loss in Week 2].

"I don't think that we brought enough intensity and energy to get it done."

Said Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano: "From a fundamentals standpoint we didn't tackle very well. We didn't finish blocks very well on the offensive side of the ball. If you don't do those things, you don't stand a chance."

Here are the subplots from Sunday's game.

Chad Pennington's worst game as a Dolphin: Sure, the numbers looked fine. Pennington completed 24 of 35 passes for 295 yards and a touchdown for a 92.0 passer rating.

But for the first time, Pennington made a mistake that might have cost Miami the game. Pennington, trying to avoid a sack early in the second quarter, dumped the ball toward Patrick Cobbs in the left flat. Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs intercepted and cruised 44 yards into the end zone for a 10-3 lead.

"I shouldn't have made that decision, bottom line," Pennington said. "I did see Suggs. I felt like Cobbs got past him, but I just didn't have the right angle. I shouldn't have made the throw. I should've just ate it."

Pennington also misfired with tight end Anthony Fasano on what should have been a 3-yard touchdown pass on the first drive. Instead, the Dolphins settled for a field goal.

Ravens defense trumps Ronnie Brown, Wildcat: For the first time since the Dolphins unveiled it four games ago, somebody stopped the Wildcat in its tracks.

The Dolphins called six Wildcat plays. One was negated by a false start. The other five gained a total of four yards. In the previous three games (two wins and a last-second loss), the Wildcat accounted for 252 yards and six touchdowns on 25 plays.

"They had more success than we thought we would give them," Suggs said. "We are the best defense against the run, hands down. We knew what we can do."

Ronnie Brown failed to score a touchdown for the first time in five games. He ran 13 times for 27 yards and had one reception for 1 yard.

"They just do a great job of rallying to the football as a whole, from the linebacker to the defensive line to the secondary," Brown said. "They do a great job of being around the football. Whether the ball is on the outside or wherever, you're going to see those guys running around and trying to make plays."

Miami scores field goals instead of touchdowns: Miami had second-and-goal from the Baltimore 4-yard line on its opening drive and a first down on the Baltimore 11-yard line in the second quarter but settled for Dan Carpenter field goals instead.

"It was promising at times because look at the way we moved the ball," Dolphins left guard Justin Smiley said. "It felt really good out there. We were making plays down the field. That's exciting as an offensive lineman, but when you get down there, you've got to be able to punch it in, and that hurt."

The Ravens have the NFL's top defense in every major statistical category.

Still, the Dolphins gained 359 yards, their highest total in a loss since October 2007.

"We shot ourselves in the foot," Smiley said. "We knew coming into this game this was an unbelievable defense. This is the best defense in the NFL in all the statistical categories.

"We moved the ball really well. We got down there. That's the thing that hurt us. We got down there twice and we didn't punch it in. When you do that against a team like this, you're not going to get too many chances like that."

Ravens trample Dolphins defense: This drive pretty much summed up how the Ravens wanted to control the game. On their first possession of the second half, they made runs of 9, 14, 14 and 8 yards.

Willis McGahee ran 19 times for 105 yards, the highest output by an opposing rusher, and one touchdown. The Ravens ran for 140 yards, the most against the Dolphins since December 2007.

"Just not tackling," Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter said. "You have to give them credit. We knew they were going to run the ball. They didn't have their quarterback throwing a lot, and we knew it was going to happen. They wanted to run the ball, and they ran the ball."

Dolphins are getting tired of talking about the Wildcat: Smiley sounded as though he would be a happy man if he never had to answer another question about the Wildcat.

"It's just another play to us," Smiley said. "I think it's been blown out of proportion for me. It's just another play.

"I don't think about the Wildcat anymore. I don't care if they line us up in the Wildcat or base [offense] or whatever. We just got to block it. It doesn't matter what the formation is."

Dolphins poor on third down: The Ravens converted 46.2 percent of their third downs. In the Dolphins' four losses this year they have failed to stop their opponents on third down 44.4 percent of the time. The percentage drops to 25.9 in their victories.

The Dolphins gave up a critical conversion early in the fourth quarter. The Ravens were winning 20-13 and had third-and-10 from the Dolphins' 45-yard line. Rookie quarterback Joe Fla
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completed a 23-yard pass. Three plays later, McGahee scored.

Offensively, the Dolphins converted 38 percent of their third downs. The two most costly failures forced them to send their field-goal unit inside the 10-yard line.

Jake Long wows Suggs: The interception for a touchdown aside, Suggs said Dolphins rookie left tackle Jake Long gave him fits. Long, the No. 1 overall draft choice out of Michigan, is 6-foot-7, 310 pounds.

"Jake Long is very impressive," Suggs said. "By far one of the best tackles in the game right now.

"He did a really good job. I've never struggled against anybody like I struggled against him today. He definitely impressed us. He's going to be a nice professional in this league."

Porter continues to stand out: Porter recorded two sacks, giving him 8.5 on the season. It's the fifth time in his career he has notched at least eight sacks and the first since he had 10.5 three years ago.