"We have four games left," quarterback Ryan Tannehill (pictured) said. "Everything we want is still right in front of us. We just have to reset and correct our mistakes. We'll be ready to go next week." File Photo by Matthew Healey/UPI | License Photo
DAVIE, Fla. - The Miami Dolphins were beaten and exposed by Baltimore 38-6, and now the Dolphins, who had their six-game winning streak snapped, must deal with the aftermath of a loss for the first time in nearly two months. And Miami (7-5) must deal with a serious blow to its playoff hopes.
"We have four games left," quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. "Everything we want is still right in front of us. We just have to reset and correct our mistakes. We'll be ready to go next week."
The Dolphins' defense was the element of the team most exposed. The pass defense allowed Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco a franchise-record 36 completions on 50 attempts for 386 yards, four touchdowns and one interceptions. He had a 119.2 passer rating.
"We knew that they were a passing team," said linebacker Kiko Alonso, who is questionable for this week's Arizona game after having surgery Monday to repair a broken right thumb. "It was just a bad effort by the defense."
The Dolphins' pass rush, the most reliable aspect of the defense, didn't register a sack as Flacco peppered them with quick-hitting passes on the soft underbelly of the defense. Tight end Dennis Pitta had nine receptions for 90 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensive end Cam Wake (8.5 sacks this season) and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (5.0 sacks) had one quarterback hit each, but the defense didn't register a sack against Flacco.
Miami's run defense was its old self, allowing the Ravens 110 rushing yards on 20 attempts, and average of 5.5 yards per carry.
The defense didn't show any of the resiliency or resolve it showed during the six-game winning streak, although it did produce an interception by cornerback Byron Maxwell.
Miami entered the game No. 1 in the NFL in third-down defense (31.5 percent) and allowed Baltimore to go 5 of 11 (45 percent), including 4 of 5 on an 18-play drive in which the Ravens converted a fourth-and-2 and scored on a third-and-7.
The Dolphins probably could still make the playoffs if they win their final four games and finish 11-5. But the Dolphins' introduction to December football was a rude greeting.
Coach Adam Gase said his team would bounce back.
"That's this game, that's this profession," he said. "That's not the first time we got smacked around. It's been awhile, though."
--Running back Jay Ajayi was held to 61 yards on 12 carries against Baltimore, the NFL's No. 1 rushing defense, and that was a big problem. Ajayi has 262 yards rushing in his last four games with no 100-yard rushing performance after amassing 592 yards in the previous three games with a pair of 200-yard performances and a 100-yard performance.
The lack of an effective ground game wiped out much of the threat of the play action. It also meant the Dolphins' defense had to stay on the field for 70 plays.
Ajayi has maintained his yards-per-carry total, however. He is averaging 5.2 yards per carry, third in the NFL. And he has 908 yards rushing, seventh in the NFL.
The problem against the Ravens was Ajayi's lack of carries, because Miami fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter and 24-0 at halftime. As a team the Dolphins only had 16 carries.
The ground game, whether it's just chewing up carries and providing balance, or grinding out 100-yard performances, is Miami's ticket to offensive success. If the Dolphins can't run the ball effectively the offense could be solely reliant on big plays in the final four games.
--Miami, in search of its first playoff berth since 2008, has a relatively treacherous path on its last four games -- hosting Arizona on Sunday, then going to the New York Jets for an 8:25 p.m. Saturday game, then going to Buffalo for another Saturday game before finishing at home against New England on Jan. 1.
Basically, Miami needs to win its last four games and hope Denver goes 2-1-1 or worse.