Arguably no game meant more to the AFC playoff race in Week 13 than the one between the Baltimore Ravens and the Miami Dolphins. The 7-4 Dolphins traveled to Baltimore to take on the 6-5 Ravens in a battle of two teams trying to stay alive in the playoff race. The Ravens have started to look like a team capable of making a run, while the Dolphins have salvaged their season with a six-game winning streak. Miami came in with the sixth ranked rushing offense facing the number one ranked Ravens rushing defense. Something had to give in this battle of AFC playoff hopefuls.
What came next very few people likely saw coming. The absolute beatdown put on by the Ravens was shocking, though pleasant, even to Ravens fans. Following a convincing 38-6 victory, the Baltimore Ravens now hang on to a share of the AFC North division lead for another week. Baltimore has now won four of five games since the bye and have done so in impressive fashion. Here are the Baltimore Ravens week 13 takeaways.
Baltimore Ravens Week 13 Takeaways
Dennis Pitta Resurgence Key To Victory
Who saw this outburst coming? After starting the season on fire, tight end Dennis Pitta had been relatively quiet over the past two months. Sure, he actually came into the game leading the Ravens in receptions with 52. But, Pitta had not scored a touchdown since 2013, and has primarily been a check down option with only 439 receiving yards.
Then came Sunday against Miami. Pitta finished the game with nine catches on 11 targets for 90 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Joe Flacco played great all game and his favorite target on the day was undoubtedly Pitta. Two things in particular stood out about Pitta’s breakthrough. First has to be the touchdowns. Pitta has been a reliable target all year between the 20s for the Ravens but has not been featured much in the red zone. Things changed on Sunday with two red zone touchdowns. Second was the big plays. Pitta made a living this year as a security blanket but on this day he made some explosive plays down the field and after the catch. The resurgence of Pitta could be huge for Baltimore going forward.
Defense Lights Out Again
Only so much can be said about this defense. Week in and week out the Baltimore defense just continues to dominate its opponents. The Miami offense came in red-hot on the back of breakout running back Jay Ajayi. Yet, on this day, they were stifled. Ajayi actually performed admirably averaging 5.1 yards per carry on his 12 carries. The rest of the offense however was stagnant at best. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill could never get comfortable and ended up throwing three interceptions. Even the aforementioned Ajayi and the rest of the Dolphins rushing game could only muster 62 yards on 16 carries. Add in two sacks and only six points allowed and it is easy to see the driving force behind this dominant victory.
Lastly, it would be unfair to skip over the game rookie cornerback Tavon Young had. Young was targeted just three times, giving up only two receptions for four yards. All year the former Temple Owl has been getting overlooked as the forgotten man on this defense. But he has been absolutely lights out carrying an 82.1 grade by Pro Football Focus on the season. It is early in this young kids’ career, but he looks like the real deal.
Turnovers and Penalties Still Hurting Team
At first glance this game looks like a near perfect display by the hometown Ravens. However, Baltimore continues to fall victim to poor play in two aspects of the game. The Ravens came into the game ranked middle of the pack in turnovers and they reared their ugly head again. Flacco threw yet another interception, his only truly bad mistake of the day. Under pressure, Flacco made great use of his legs and avoided the rush only to make a bad decision on a throw deep down the sideline to wide receiver Mike Wallace. Cornerback Byron Maxwell just sat on the route and made the easy interception. A few drives later came the other big miscue, a fumble by Pitta. Pitta was just trying to fight for some extra yards when he fumbled so at least he showed great effort. He has to hang on to the football though.
Penalties however, are hardly ever excusable. The Ravens entered the game second in the NFL in total penalties averaging 8.36 penalties a game. Against the Dolphins the Ravens actually committed less than that. Committing seven penalties however is still not where a first-place team wants to be.
The Ravens are now 7-5 and still in first place holding the tiebreaker over the rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Heading into next week’s huge Monday Night Football prime-time game against the New England Patriots, the Ravens finally seem to be hitting their stride. A win next week would truly be the final step at reminding the NFL what these Ravens can do. With arguably the best defense in the league, healthy players coming back, and a quarterback who seemingly loves this time of the year, the rest of the league better start taking notice.
The Ravens are coming.