On Sunday, the sixth-best offensive scoring team this season will visit South Beach in what should be a high-scoring showdown. Led by franchise quarterback Joe Flacco, the Baltimore offense has been prolific through the first 12 weeks of the NFL season. The team is averaging 27.3 points and over 2,800 yards per contest.
In a showdown between two 7-5 teams fighting for the playoffs, the challenge for the home team will be slowing down the Ravens passing attack. Flacco has racked up 20 touchdowns, thrown just eight interceptions and registered the seventh-most yards in the AFC this season (2,989). He’s found 14 different receivers, including top-notch weapons Torrey Smith (38 rec., 609 yards, 8 TDs) and Steve Smith Sr. (54 rec., 819 yards, 5 TDs). That leaves the Dolphins utilizing a variety of techniques to try to slow them down.
“There’s a lot that goes on, especially our system,” admitted Head Coach Joe Philbin. “We’re not just press man to man every single play. We do a lot of different things back there. You’d certainly love to have a stock full of guys that are trained in your system and know your calls and your adjustments inside and out. But sometimes you just don’t have that luxury.”
The Phins have suffered through countless injuries on the backend, including the recent departure of Cortland Finnegan, who will not be ready in time for Sunday’s game. The result leaves 2013 Pro Bowl corner Brent Grimes and newly-signed R. J. Stanford matched up against the Smith duo.
“Just like any other decision, we play the guys we feel like gave us the best chance to win the game,” continued Philbin. “The type of game that we were in, that’s what we did (against the Jets last week). (It) was really nothing more than that.”
While fellow corner Jimmy Wilson officially took the game’s first snap on Monday Night Football, Stanford replaced him quickly and played opposite Grimes for most of the game. The Dolphins were short-handed, with both Cortland Finnegan and Jamar Taylor inactive with injuries. Stanford was with the Dolphins previously, so he knew what he was doing.
The Dolphins will rely on Grimes and Stanford again this week to slow down two of the best receivers in the game. Philbin admits each game takes on its own personality.
“It’s a little bit of everything, the scheme and the matchups and the coverages based on what kind of coverages we might be utilizing,” concluded Philbin. “All those decisions are game plan related, personnel related, both their personnel, our personnel, what coverages we’re using and what formations we’re seeing. So there’s a lot of variables. It’s not just one thing I would say.”
This story was written by Steven Wilson. Follow him on Twitter: stevenjwilson11