Flacco, Pitta connect again at expense of Dolphins in rout
Baltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta, center, scores a touchdown between Miami Dolphins free safety Bacarri Rambo, left, and strong safety Isa Abdul-Quddus in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
BALTIMORE (AP) The prolific scoring combination of Flacco to Pitta is back, just in time for the Baltimore Ravens' playoff push.
Joe Flacco connected with Dennis Pitta nine times for 90 yards and two touchdowns in the Ravens 38-6 rout of the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
The loss ended Miami's six-game winning streak and put the Dolphins in bounce-back mode headed into the final four weeks of the season.
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Pitta scored seven touchdowns on passes from Flacco in 2012 and added another in the Super Bowl. They teamed for another score late in 2013 after Pitta returned from hip surgery.
But Pitta fractured his hip for a second time early in the 2014 season, and although he entered Sunday's game as Baltimore's leading receiver, he hadn't reached the end zone.
A 13-yard strike over the middle from Flacco produced Pitta's first touchdown since Dec. 8, 2013. An 8-yarder just under 10 minutes later made it a two-touchdown delight for the seventh-year pro.
''I guess it was nice to get in the end zone today,'' Flacco said wryly, with his tight end standing just a few feet away.
It has been a long road back for Pitta, whose second hip injury left many wondering if he would retire.
''I don't know what he's been through,'' Flacco said. ''He's the only person that really, really knows what he's been through.''
Pitta, who leads the team with 61 catches, said, ''Yes, I had a couple touchdowns today, but I feel like I have been producing all year. I don't think after a game like this, I say, `Oh, I'm back.' I feel like I have been back since Week 1.''
What we learned from the Ravens' big win over the Dolphins:
LEARNING FROM LOSING: After having their winning streak snapped, the Dolphins (7-5) are determined not to start a run in the other direction.
''You never want to lose, obviously, but this could be a good thing for us in the long run,'' safety Michael Thomas said. ''They came out ready to play and really took is to us. You can't wait until halftime to decide to play harder. … We need to learn from this game and get better.''
Coach Adam Gase told his players they have to ''go back to work'' so that ''one loss can't become two.''
KEY TAKEAWAYS: The Ravens (7-5) had three interceptions for the second time this season. Safeties Lardarius Webb and Eric Weddle each snagged a pass deep in Ravens territory to prevent scores.
''It was huge,'' Weddle said of Webb's end-zone interception in the second quarter. ''It took points off the board and gives him some confidence.''
Cornerback Jerraud Powers also got in on the fun, intercepting Ryan Tannehill in the fourth quarter.
Aside from the play of the secondary, the Ravens' defensive front got after Tannehill, sacking him twice and forcing poor decisions.
THIRD-DOWN STOPS: Baltimore converted 5 of 11 third-down opportunities (45 percent), a scenario that not only kept their drives alive but took a toll on the Dolphins physically.
''We couldn't get off the field on third downs,'' Miami safety Bacarri Rambo. ''That's basically it. Once you do that, you're going to continue to keep us on the field. We have to come together as a defense and just do better this coming week.''
Thomas added, ''We have to find a way to get off the field. All season long we've been good on third-down situations, but today we struggled.''
HOLD THE LINE: Flacco was able to stay upright nearly the entire game, thanks to a noteworthy performance by the offensive line. The Dolphins failed to get a sack against the Ravens' front, which was all according to the plan.
''We knew going in we had to control the front, we had to control the ends. Our offensive line did that,'' Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. ''That's quite a statement. ''
It was a statement that Dolphins star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh echoed.
''Their offensive line did a great job against us,'' said Suh, who combined on two tackles.
AVOID SELF-DESTRUCTION: The Dolphins entered Ravens territory three times in the first half, but were unable to score.
''We did some things on offense that shot us in the foot,'' running back Jay Ajayi said. ''We had great field position in the first half. We had the ball in their territory and we didn't get any points. That's the name of the game: You've got to score.''
Tannehill's three interceptions crippled the Dolphins' chances of mounting a comeback.
''Overall I just have to take care of the ball better and keep us in position to score,'' he said. ''We moved the ball well. We just didn't take advantage of opportunities once we got down in the red zone.''
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