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Armando Salguero: Add Baltimore Ravens To List of Contenders With A Really Rough Loss

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MIAMI GARDENS — This is what a wasted opportunity looks like.

It’s Lamar Jackson prowling the Baltimore Ravens sideline after another failed series against an aggressive Miami Dolphins defense, berating his wide receivers or just about anyone within shouting distance because nothing is going right.

“I was hot,” Jackson admitted. “Like, we wasn’t scoring no points. We were putting our defense out there … We just wasn’t getting it done on offense. So that’s why I was mad. Because if you was on offense, you would be mad, too, like, you know?”

It’s coach John Harbaugh, who’s won a Super Bowl, and a coach of the year award, and more road playoff games than anyone, blaming himself for his team’s 22-10 loss on a night it was a prohibitive favorite against a 2-7 opponent.

“Bottom line is this falls squarely on me as a head coach,” Harbaugh announced before taking even one question from reporters. “We were not prepared the way we needed to be prepared. Our schemes weren’t up to snuff, and we weren’t prepared to execute the way we needed to.

“That’s it. It’s not on one player. Our players played their hearts out. They worked hard all week. They did everything they could to be prepared, and we just weren’t ready. That’s on me.”

This wasted opportunity was also visible in two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey not really knowing why the Ravens defense can be so good one series, or one quarter, or one half and then seem so broken on the next.

“We play good, good, good and then a slip up here, a slip up there, a slip up during a bad quarter,” Humphrey said.

The Ravens were one of the NFL’s hottest teams when Thursday dawned. They’d won six of seven games.

And facing a struggling Dolphins team that didn’t plan on using quarterback Tua Tagovailoa because he’s got a fractured middle finger on his throwing (left) hand and didn’t get any first-team practice work leading to the game, this should have been a time to make a statement.

Well, the Ravens made a statement alright.

The statement is they’re not ready to be considered a super team. And that seems fitting because in the AFC this season, no one can be considered a super team.

To understand this, just consider the evidence:

The Tennessee Titans lost to the New York Jets.

The Buffalo Bills lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Las Vegas Raiders lost to the Chicago Bears.

And the Ravens got their comeuppance against the Dolphins.

None of these losses happen to a super team. None.

But all happened this year to the conference’s “finest” teams.

That means what we have in the AFC, as Week 10 of 18 has kicked off, are some contenders that aren’t so well tuned they cannot stumble. It also means the teams at the bottom of the standings can all cause trouble.

And that’s exactly what the Dolphins did Thursday night in collecting their third win of the season. They made trouble for Jackson by bringing cover zero blitzes multiple times and on practically every third down passing situation.

Cover zero is when the defense blitzes so many men, every receiver on the pattern is single-covered and there are more rushers than blockers. So the quarterback has to throw the ball before the unblocked guy and his angry teammates get to him.

Jackson, dynamic and dangerous, wasn’t up to the task against Miami. He completed 26 of 43 passes for 238 yards — most during desperation time late in the fourth-quarter — with 1 touchdown and 1 interception.

But against the zero blitzes and other pressures, Jackson wilted, completing only 3 of 9 passes for 21 yards with both the touchdown and interception. And Jackson often didn’t find the open receiver, assuming there was one.

So he was sacked four times.

“They had the guy off the edge coming in hot,” Jackson said. “So I tried to get the ball out to the receivers, make a play. You know, sometimes it was tipped passes, you know, the ball was getting batted down. They played a great game.”

The Dolphins played a great game on defense. The Ravens played a poor game on offense and defense.

Offensively, receivers failed to beat defenders man-to-man and one time when it did happen, the result was a fumble — which Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard caused, then scooped up and ran for a touchdown.

And defensively, the Ravens had multiple coverage busts that led to huge plays because literally no one was covering the receivers. Isaiah Ford had a 52-yard reception and Albert Wilson had a 64-yard reception. The pass to Wilson was Tagovailoa’s longest career pass and the longest for the Dolphins this season.

Not super team stuff, folks.

Not even good team stuff.

So where does that leave the AFC North leaders now?

“You know, I think when you watch us, you know, in practice and different things, I think we’re
practicing right, we’re doing the things right,” Humphrey said. “It seems like we’re getting to the game and there’s kind of a disconnect, at times. At times. You know, I’m not going to say, you know, we haven’t done good things in the past, offense and defense.

“But there seems like there’s certain series or plays that’s kind of getting us and the certain mistakes that I think can be fixed.”

Jackson was more convincing.

“We going to get right,” Jackson said. “Got to. Trust.”

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

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