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Ravens Insider: Instant analysis from Ravens’ 56-19 win over Miami Dolphins


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Here’s what The Baltimore Sun sports staff had to say immediately after the Ravens’ 56-19 win over the visiting Miami Dolphins in Sunday’s Week 17 game at M&T Bank Stadium.

Brian Wacker: There wasn’t going to be a historic comeback this time, not the way the Ravens bullied the Dolphins on both sides of the ball. First, there was Lamar Jackson delivering another Most Valuable Player performance against another stellar defense, completing 18 of 21 passes for 321 yards and five touchdowns for a perfect passer rating.

Baltimore clearly had little respect for Miami’s secondary, dialing up several long passing plays and most notably going for it on fourth-and-7 from Miami’s 35-yard line in the first half instead of trying a field goal.

The result was emblematic of the day: Jackson hit Isaiah Likely on a crossing route and the tight end snagged the pass with one hand, Odell Beckham Jr. style, before rumbling 35 yards for the touchdown. That gave Baltimore a 28-13 halftime lead they tacked onto with a 7-yard strike from Jackson to Likely to start the third quarter after a 78-yard kick return by Justice Hill set up the short field.

Jackson’s performance all but locked up a second NFL MVP Award and deservedly so after he guided the Ravens through the gantlet to the NFL’s best record and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs as the AFC’s top seed.

The Ravens have been a tremendous front-runner for all but a few games and that played out again, thanks to Jackson but also the defense, which clamped down on quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and running back De’Von Achane in the second half. That they also did so without safety Kyle Hamilton and cornerback Brandon Stephens, both of whom were inactive with injuries, and cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who left the game late in the first quarter and didn’t return, speaks volumes about the next-man up mantra they so often tout. To that point, cornerbacks Arthur Maulet and Ronald Darby stepped in beautifully. Then, once the Ravens had a hefty lead, their pass rush teed off on Tagovailoa and buried Miami.

Childs Walker: Sometimes, a team just goes on a heater. What else could you say after the Ravens packed a one-handed interception, a one-handed touchdown catch and an 78-yard kickoff return into less than five minutes of game time?

In broad strokes, this game felt eerily similar to the Dolphins’ last visit to M&T Bank Stadium, with the Ravens holding a 35-13 lead, one off their 35-14 advantage last year, going into the fourth quarter. But the Ravens are a deeper, more adaptable team in 2023, with a fully realized Lamar Jackson leading them. They earned the AFC’s No. 1 seed by firing back harder every time the Dolphins hit them.

The Ravens’ defense, playing without Kyle Hamilton or Brandon Stephens, looked helpless against the Dolphins’ speed in the first quarter. It was on the offense to pick up the early slack, and Jackson answered the call, finding open receivers all over the field and conducting an efficient running attack. Their hand grew so hot that John Harbaugh rather stunningly went for a fourth-and-7 late in the second quarter, and it resulted in a one-handed 35-yard touchdown catch by Isaiah Likely. Jackson finished the half an absurd 12 for 14 for 255 yards and three touchdowns, burnishing his MVP case.

Home-field advantage throughout the playoffs is great, but the Ravens earned something more important: a three-week break for their many key players who are nursing injuries.

Mike Preston: The Ravens are starting to make this run to the playoffs look easy, and that’s what good teams do at this point of the season. They dominate opponents, gain momentum and prove they are the team to beat.

Miami came into Baltimore with visions of beating the Ravens and trying to secure the No. 1 seed in the AFC, the first-round bye and home-field advantage in the playoffs. Instead, the Ravens pounded them in a game Miami won’t forget anytime soon.

The message is clear: The Ravens have the most complete and balanced team in the NFL and its going to take a superior effort to beat them. They still struggled defensively at times, but they have a quarterback in Lamar Jackson who has developed touch on the deep ball, and that could come in handy in the postseason when quarterbacks take control of the game, especially if the Ravens fall behind early.

Jacob Calvin Meyer: The start of the game didn’t go as planned. Kyle Hamilton, Brandon Stephens and Kevin Zeitler were all inactive. The Dolphins easily drove the ball down the field and went up 7-0. And two of the Ravens’ first three plays on offense should’ve been big gains but weren’t.

Then Lamar Jackson took over.

He played a perfect game — according to his 158.3 passer rating — with five touchdown passes. It was his best game of the season, and it solidified his case to win his second NFL MVP award.

The defense, meanwhile, held up against one of the league’s best offenses. Running back Justice Hill stepped up for his best game of the season with contributions on the ground, through the air and on special teams. Isaiah Likely continued to show he’s a suitable replacement for Mark Andrews as the starting tight end recovers from an ankle injury.

The Week 18 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers posed a tough test for the Ravens against a team that has given Baltimore and Jackson trouble.

Now it won’t matter.

C.J. Doon: If there were any lingering doubts about who deserves the NFL MVP Award, Lamar Jackson put them to rest.

After the Dolphins made easy work of the Ravens’ defense on their opening possession, Jackson responded with a clinical drive of his own to tie the game and only got better from there. His only two incompletions of the first half were a drop on a diving attempt by Rashod Bateman and another pass to Bateman that could have been called pass interference on Dolphins cornerback Eli Apple. With Justice Hill and Isaiah Likely (combined three touchdowns) stepping up in the absence of playmakers Keaton Mitchell and Mark Andrews, rookie Zay Flowers continuing to excel and receivers Rashod Bateman and Odell Beckham Jr. showing flashes, this Ravens offense looks well equipped to make a deep postseason run.

The same can be said of the defense, which tightened up after being gashed early. The Dolphins didn’t have their full complement of playmakers with Jaylen Waddle and Raheem Mostert out, but containing speedsters De’Von Achane and Tyreek Hill is no easy feat. They did their fair share of damage, but not enough to overwhelm a shorthanded secondary missing Kyle Hamilton, Brandon Stephens and Marlon Humphrey, who suffered a calf injury in the first quarter and did not return. That’s a credit to coordinator Mike Macdonald and the players for embodying the “next man up” mentality.

With the No. 1 seed locked up, the Ravens face the old rest vs. rust debate heading into a Week 18 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who could be fighting for a playoff berth. Logic dictates the Ravens will sit Jackson and most of their starters, but maybe that divisional round loss to the Titans four years ago will influence the team’s thinking.

Tim Schwartz: The best team in the NFL resides in Baltimore. There wasn’t much doubt about that after Monday’s beatdown of the 49ers, but Sunday’s dismantling of the Dolphins put an exclamation point on the Ravens’ 2023 regular season.

Yes, they still need to play the Steelers next week, but they have earned the option of resting players in what will be a meaningless game for Baltimore. Lamar Jackson is also your 2023 NFL Most Valuable Player, putting together his signature performance of the year by throwing five touchdown passes for the fourth time in his career with only three incompletions and a perfect 158.3 passer rating.

The running game is humming. Isaiah Likely is starring in Mark Andrews’ place. Jackson has several reliable options to throw to. Run defense is probably their only weakness right now, but the Ravens make up for it by creating turnovers and with exceptional special teams play.

Now coach John Harbaugh needs to decide how much rest is too much while considering the health of several players — a bunch got banged up on Sunday. That’s a luxury only they have in the AFC.

  • Baltimore Ravens Isaiah Likely dives into the end zone dragging...

    Baltimore Ravens Isaiah Likely dives into the end zone dragging Miami Dolphins DeShon Elliott for a touchdown in the second quarter at M&T Bank Stadium. (Kenneth K. Lam/Staff photo)

  • The Baltimore Ravensxe2x80x99 Lamar Jackson throws a touchdown pass in...

    The Baltimore Ravensxe2x80x99 Lamar Jackson throws a touchdown pass in the first quarter against the Miami Dolphins at M&T Bank Stadium. (Kenneth K. Lam/Staff photo)

  • The Baltimore Ravens wide receiver ..Rashod Bateman dives for a...

    The Baltimore Ravens wide receiver ..Rashod Bateman dives for a pass but was unable to make a catch in the first quarter against the Miami Dolphins at M&T Bank Stadium. (Kenneth K. Lam/Staff photo)

  • The Baltimore Ravensxe2x80x99 Justice Hill catches a touchdown pass in...

    The Baltimore Ravensxe2x80x99 Justice Hill catches a touchdown pass in the first quarter against the Miami Dolphins at M&T Bank Stadium. (Kenneth K. Lam/Staff photo)

  • Ravens running back Justice Hill catches a touchdown pass in...

    Ravens running back Justice Hill catches a touchdown pass in the first quarter Sunday against the Dolphins at M&T Bank Stadium (Kenneth K. Lam/Staff)

  • Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Patrick Queen, #6, watches inside linebacker...

    Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Patrick Queen, #6, watches inside linebacker Roquan Smith haul in an interception of a Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa pass during the second quarter of an AFC matchup of NFL football in Baltimore Sunday Dec. 31, 2023. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff)

  • Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., #3, hauls down...

    Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., #3, hauls down a pass just yards from the end zone as Miami Dolphins cornerback Kader Kohou defends during the second quarter of an AFC matchup of NFL football in Baltimore Sunday Dec. 31, 2023. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff)

  • Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Roquan Smith returns an interception past...

    Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Roquan Smith returns an interception past Miami Dolphins running back Jeff Wilson Jr., #23, and wide receiver Braxton Berrios during the second quarter of an AFC matchup of NFL football in Baltimore Sunday Dec. 31, 2023. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff)

  • Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Zay Flowers, #4, cuts behind a...

    Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Zay Flowers, #4, cuts behind a stumbling Miami Dolphins cornerback Eli Apple to score a touchdown during the second quarter of an AFC matchup of NFL football in Baltimore Sunday Dec. 31, 2023. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff)

  • Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Zay Flowers reacts after a touchdown...

    Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Zay Flowers reacts after a touchdown reception against the Miami Dolphins during the second quarter of an AFC matchup of NFL football in Baltimore Sunday Dec. 31, 2023. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff)

  • Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, #8, scrambles for yardage as...

    Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, #8, scrambles for yardage as Miami Dolphins linebacker Duke Riley (45) pursues during the second quarter of an AFC matchup of NFL football in Baltimore Sunday Dec. 31, 2023. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff)

  • Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., #3, hauls down...

    Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., #3, hauls down a pass just yards from the end zone as Miami Dolphins cornerback Kader Kohou defends during the second quarter of an AFC matchup of NFL football in Baltimore Sunday Dec. 31, 2023. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff)

  • Baltimore Ravens tight end Isaiah Likely, #80, dives to the...

    Baltimore Ravens tight end Isaiah Likely, #80, dives to the pylon, scoring a touchdown in front of Miami Dolphins safety DeShon Elliott (21) during the second quarter of an AFC matchup of NFL football in Baltimore Sunday Dec. 31, 2023. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff)

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