SEASON ENDS ON SOUR NOTE

The Dolphins knew moving the ball against the stout Baltimore defense, especially with Chris Chambers sidelined because of an ankle injury.<P>But they certainly didn't anticipate a mediocre Ravens running game churning up yardage almost at will.

The Dolphins came up short on both counts, and that's the reason they're now out of the playoffs after a 20-3 loss at Pro Player Stadium that may not have been as close as the final score indicated.

Put simply, it was an ugly, ugly game at Pro Player Stadium.

"We are obviously a much better team than the way we played tonight," said a frustrated Coach Dave Wannstedt.

To be truthful, the Dolphins looked more like the Carolina Panthers than the St. Louis Rams on this day.

Without Chambers, the Dolphins looked anemic, finishing with 151 total yards. It was the fifth straight year the Dolphins were held to seven points or less in a playoff loss.

The defense, minus Daryl Gardener and Derrick Rodgers, and with Zach Thomas playing at less than 100 percent, wasn't able to stop a very mediocre Baltimore offense.

The Ravens had a 90-yard touchdown drive in the first half and a crushing 99-yard drive in the second half.

That's how bad it was.

The 99-yard drive may have been the turning point in the game. Or was it the start of the game when Baltimore fumbled the opening kickoff, the Dolphins recovered at the Ravens 24-yard line and then had to settle for a field goal?

Let's start with the second major sequence. The Dolphins were trailing 7-3 in the third quarter when they moved from their 27 to the Baltimore 40 where they face a fourth-and-1.

After taking a timeout, the Dolphins lined up and were going for the first down. But Oronde Gadsden flinched at the line of scrimmage, resulting in a procedure penalty.

The Dolphins then punt, and Matt Turk dropped the ball at the Baltimore 1-yard line. So all was not lost.

But Terry Allen was able to gain 4 yards up the middle on first down, then tack on 5 yards on second down. On third-and-1, the Ravens got daring, and Elvis Grbac hit Travis Taylor with a 45-yard bomb to the Miami 45.

Eight plays later, Grbac threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Taylor to make it 14-3.

The game was basically over at that point. But it couldn't have started any better for the Dolphins, as Twan Russell's hit forced a Jermaine Lewis fumble on the opening kickoff and Tommy Hendricks recovered at the Baltimore 24-yard line.

But the Dolphins had to settle for a field goal after Fiedler was stopped 1 yard short of a first down on a scramble on third-and-8. The Dolphins had Fiedler rolling out a bootleg on first down and he appeared to have Jeff Ogden open in the middle of the field. But Fiedler hung on to the ball and was tackled for no gain.

It was a sign of things to come for the Dolphins offense.

As expected, the Dolphins had no success running the ball against Ray Lewis and Co. Miami finished with 46 yards on 15 carries, a total which included a 10-yard run by backup quarterback Ray Lucas on a third-and-1 in the first half.

The passing game didn't fare much better. Fiedler completed 15 of 28 passes, but almost all of his completions were short throws and he finished with only 122 yards.

Fiedler said after the game that the Baltimore defense took away the deep pass by playing a lot of deep zones.

The only time the Dolphins tried to throw deep, it resulted in disaster. With the Dolphins trailing 17-3 in the fourth quarter and desperately trying to mount a comeback, James McKnight got behind Ravens cornerback Duane Starks inside the Baltimore 5-yard line. But McKnight let the pass bounce off his facemask — bringing back nightmare of the Jets game — and it went right to Starks to basically clinch the victory.


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