MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — By now, the Baltimore Ravens’ grit should be unquestioned. Their ability to play hard and battle through injuries, blown calls and mistakes cannot be doubted.
Those things, coupled by the occasional good drive, defensive stand and game-altering special teams play, will be enough to win you a few games here and there. But that combination simply cannot be relied on every week. It’s tough enough to consistently win in the NFL. It’s nearly impossible if you have to overcome both the opposition and yourself week after week.
The Ravens outgained the Miami Dolphins by 156 yards. They ran 29 more offensive plays and held the ball for more than 16 minutes longer than their opponent. However, they were done in by a series of miscues in one 30-second span late in the second quarter, most notably another interception thrown by Matt Schaub and returned for a touchdown.
Their 15-13 loss to the Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium in front of an announced 64,519 — a good many wearing purple — fit in perfectly with the rest of the Ravens’ season. There were key injuries, several costly mistakes, a couple of curious calls by the officials, and more late-game drama.
But after Kendrick Lewis stripped the ball from running back Lamar Miller to give the Ravens possession in Miami territory, Justin Tucker’s 55-yard field goal attempt with less than three minutes to go sailed wide right and the visitors’ best chance to win went with it. The Ravens got the ball back with 20 seconds left and no timeouts but did not come close to getting Tucker another opportunity.
“I actually felt like I hit it perfectly,” Tucker said of his seventh miss this year. “It just didn’t go through. It’s frustrating, but the only thing you can do is move on and hope you get another opportunity real quick. Unfortunately, we didn’t. It just happens sometimes.”
The loss ends the Ravens’ two-game winning streak, drops them to 4-8, and means that to avoid their first losing campaign in Coach John Harbaugh’s eight-season tenure, they’ll have to win their final four games. All of them are against opponents who have a .500 record or better.
It also extended the Ravens’ NFL record-streak of having their first 12 games decided by eight points or fewer. However, while the outcome of this game was hanging in the balance until the final couple of minutes, it was a less than one-minute stretch late in the second quarter that ultimately was decisive.
With the game scoreless at the two-minute warning before halftime, Schaub’s first-down pass was deflected by Jason Phillips and wound up in the arms of Dolphins safety Reshad Jones for the interception. On the next play, quarterback Ryan Tannehill, on really his only big play of the game, sold the play-action fake and hit DeVante Parker for a 38-yard touchdown pass.
Three plays from scrimmage later, Schaub had another pass deflected, this one by Derrick Shelby, and the big defensive end caught it and outraced the quarterback to the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown. Following two offside penalties called on the Ravens, the Dolphins went for the two-point conversion and got it to take the 15-0 lead.
“That was the difference in the game,” said Schaub who completed 32 of 46 passes for 308 yards and a touchdown.
As they always seem to, the Ravens rallied. A field goal by Tucker cut the deficit to 12 points heading into intermission. A 41-yard touchdown catch-and-run by running back Buck Allen, who accounted for 170 of the Ravens’ 375 yards of total offense, on the their first drive of the second half cut the deficit to 15-10.
Tucker then made a 31-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to make it a 15-13 game. That was as close as the Ravens got. Their eight losses this season have come by a total of 34 points.