By Nick Shook
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Miami had spent the last month and a half among the league’s hottest, but suddenly came back to earth on Sunday in a loss to Baltimore.
Ryan Tannehill completed 29 of 40 passes but threw three interceptions, and completed his lone touchdown pass only after taking possession at Baltimore’s 8-yard line. Miami drives frequently stalled, and if they didn’t stall, they ended in interceptions.
Ranked seventh in the league against the pass, Baltimore lived up to its billing, and will be more than happy to take the credit in the aftermath.
“We just played fundamental defense,” said cornerback Jimmy Smith, via The Baltimore Sun. “We really didn’t know what kind of game plan they would come in with because they change their game concepts every week. We just studied the quarterback, their tendencies on what they like to run and, yes, they came out with a new game plan today. But we were in the right place at the right time.”
Smith was correct in a sense — Miami has shifted from being a pass-first team to a run-first squad, and back again — but the change wasn’t as drastic as one would believe. After Jay Ajayi‘s back-to-back 200-yard games keyed the start of a six-game win streak for Miami, the Dolphins have returned to relying on Tannehill. The quarterback threw 30 passes in Week 12 against San Francisco, and had 40 attempts Sunday. Baltimore isn’t a team you want to try to beat through the air.
Now knotted with rival Pittsburgh atop the AFC North with identical 7-5 records, Baltimore currently owns the tiebreaker with a 4-0 division record and the head-to-head advantage with a rematch yet to be played. With the playoff race heating up, Smith saw the contest with Miami as a game in which he must participate. His presence was welcomed in a secondary that came away with three takeaways.
“I was playing, no matter what, this week,” said Smith, who was back after missing the last two games due to a back injury. “I was playing. I’ve got to get back in to get into the swing of things, and then we’ve got the Patriots next week. I wanted to be ready to go for that game.”
Baltimore clearly has its eyes on the weeks ahead with a battle for the division shaping up to be determined in the final weeks, starting with New England in Week 14. Miami happens to be staring up at that same Patriots team, and might look back on their Week 13 loss with regret when the regular season comes to a close.