In 2007, the Miami Dolphins, led by Head Coach Cam Cameron, were a historically bad 0-13 on the midst of being the only franchise to achieve a perfect season and a winless season. The outlook on Dolphin football was bleak as the 4-9 Baltimore Ravens came into town, the reality of Miami owning an 0-16 team setting in.
But then, the Football Gods smiled upon the Dolphins (or punished the Ravens). After the Dolphins were able to force the game into overtime, Ravens longtime ace of a kicker, Matt Stover, missed a 44-yard field goal.
After seeming dead in the water, the Dolphins were given new life. On 3rd and 8, Dolphins quarterback Cleo Lemon hit receiver Greg Camarillo in the middle of the field in stride. Camarillio was able to outrun the Ravens secondary to the endzone and the celebration ensued.
Why did I reminisce on this little chunk of history? Because while the image of Camarillio sprinting to endzone and the ensuing celebration is a joyous memory for Dolphin fans, it's a painful and demeaning memory for everyone involved with the Ravens.
Since that game, the Ravens and Dolphins have played three times. All three of those games were played in Miami, and the Ravens won all three.
The Ravens have played Miami with a vengeance since they lost that game in 2007. Baltimore doesn't have many players left from that team seven years ago, but they do still have arguably their best defensive player, Terrell Suggs. And he will undoubtedly translate exactly how the loss felt to his fellow lineman. The Dolphins offensive line will be facing a mean group Sunday.
However, that's not the point of this article. The point is that while the Dolphins haven't beat the Ravens since that Sunday back in 2007, this is new year for the Dolphins. This is a new team with a new feel to it. And this is another chance for Miami to prove it's not a part of the mediocre middle of the pack in the NFL. Will the team take advantage as they failed to do in 2013?
The Dolphins were not blown out in 2013 in the Ravens as they had been when the two teams met twice in 2008. In fact, the game came down to a missed 57-yard field goal attempt by Caleb Sturgis.
However, the Dolphins were physically dominated for the third straight meeting. The Dolphin defense allowed 133 yards rushing. Miami's offense line paved the way for only 22 rushing yards and allowed six sacks (half of those to the aforementioned Suggs).
The Dolphins were forced to attempt the 57-yard field goal because of a sack on second down that forced a long third a down and an eventual incompletion. Had the sack not happened Sturgis would've had a more manageable 52-yard field goal.
But like I said before, this is a new team. This is a year of breaking streaks. And Sunday is another opportunity to do so. Sunday is an opportunity to break the streak of not only losing to the Ravens, but break the streak of being dominated physically in the trenches by the Ravens.
The Dolphins will be facing a stout defense Sunday. The Ravens allow only 3.6 yards per carry, fifth best in the NFL. The Ravens have sacked opposing quarterbacks 31 times, ranked ninth in the league. However, the Dolphins caught a break with the four-game suspension of Ravens star defensive lineman Haloti Ngata which was announced on Thursday.
Even with Ngata in the lineup, this matchup would've been much different than it was last year. The Dolphins offensive line, despite a season-ending injury to it's best player and seemingly constant shuffling at the left guard position, is much more stable than it's 2013 counterpart. (Credit general manager Dennis Hickey for the job he did rebuilding the line in the offseason and credit offensive line coach John Benton for his outstanding coaching.)
This Dolphins squad doesn't have trouble running the football like they did in 2013. In fact, their tied for the fifth highest yards-per-carry average in the league (with the Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs). Not only that, but the Dolphins have already eclipsed their 2013 rushing total by four yards.
The Dolphins lowest four rushing totals in 2014 so far have been 50, 74, 80 and 97. The Dolphins four lowest rushing total in 2013? 2, 14, 20 and 22. That tells you all you need to know about the night-and-day difference in the consistency of running game.
This Dolphins squad can protect the quarterback (decently). Ryan Tannehill has been sacked 28 times so far this season. Tannehill was sacked 45 times at this point last year. Tannehill's pocket presence has gotten noticeably better, but so has pass protection on the edges.
The Dolphins defense has an opportunity to break two streaks Sunday, and whether they do or not will be a huge factor on the final outcome of the game. The Dolphins have a chance to break the streak of 100-yard rushing games allowed to the Ravens. But they have to break the streak of allowing 200-yard rushing games in 2014, which is now at two.
The Dolphins might be able to pull out a victory if they allow over 100 yards rushing.
The Dolphins will not win the game if they allow over 200 yards rushing.
Who will end up victorious? The team who hold up in the trenches.
The Dolphins aren't facing a team as offensively limited as the Jets. Miami's defense will be exposed on deep throws if they lose in the trenches and are forced to stack the box.
On the other side of the ball, the Dolphins are facing a fierce front seven and need to be play as technically sound, physically and cohesive as possible. To achieve this, I would recommend not rotating left guards and starting Shelley Smith. Smith is arguably the best run blocker on the team and would not be as much of liability in pass protection at left guard as he would have help from the center most of the time.
The Dolphins are faced with streaks to break and need to do so to keep their playoff hopes alive, just as they did when they won last Monday's game at MetLife Stadium. The Dolphins won a road game when trailing in the fourth quarter for just their second time in their last 50 attempts.
It will be a bloodbath in the trenches Sunday. Two determined teams, fueled by postseason dreams, will face off in a physical matchup to determine who will advance in the playoff to land the wildcard berth in the AFC playoffs.
Win this game and the Dolphins' ugliest streak, their six-year playoff drought, will be one step closer to being broken.