BALTIMORE - Five instant observations after the Ravens’ most impressive win of the season, 38-6, over the Dolphins (7-5). The win kept the Ravens (7-5) in first place in the AFC North, in control of their playoff destiny with four games left to play:
1. The Ravens’ offense was finally potent.
The Ravens had five offensive possessions in the first half, and scored on four of them. In the first half alone, the Ravens had 303 yards total offense, and Joe Flacco had three touchdown passes, completing throws to 10 different targets. This was the breakout offensive game the Ravens had been seeking. That should give them confidence heading into Monday Night Football next week, when they visit the Patriots.
2. Flacco could be gearing up for a big December.
This was Flacco’s best game of the season, setting a franchise record for completions with 36. His numbers were gaudy – 36 for 47, 381 yards, four touchdowns, one interception, 119.2 passer rating. Flacco’s history of playing his best football late in the season bodes well for the Ravens, especially since Flacco now looks comfortable running offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg’s offense.
If Flacco gets hot in December, he’s good enough to carry the Ravens to the playoffs, whether you think he’s elite or not.
3.The play of tight end Dennis Pitta is a tribute to his perseverance.
Many people urged Pitta to retire after his second major hip surgery. However, Pitta (nine catches, 90 yards) was an offensive force in this game. Consider that Pitta had not scored a touchdown since 2013. When asked about Pitta not scoring a touchdown this season on Wednesday, Flacco said, “He is playing really well. You cannot try to make those things happen; they just start happening.” Pitta made things happen in this game. Retiring is the last thing on Pitta’s mind.
4. The Ravens’ defense is among the NFL’s best, and it’s locked in.
The Dolphins came into this game riding a six-game winning streak. But they were dominated. If not for a fumble by Pitta that set up the Dolphins’ only touchdown, they might have been shutout. Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi (12 carries, 61 yards) was contained by the Ravens’ No. 1-ranked run defense. With cornerback Jimmy Smith back in action after a two-game absence, and linebacker Elvis Dumervil finally healthy, the Ravens’ defense isn’t going away.
5. Only one of these teams looked like a legit playoff contender.
If the Ravens have had trouble getting respect this season, what did this game say about the Dolphins? New coach Adam Gase has the Dolphins headed in the right direction. But they were thoroughly outplayed in this one.