BALTIMORE (AP) — The Miami Dolphins were playing out the final minutes of a particularly distasteful defeat Sunday when things went from bad to worse.
The first-string defense had already been humbled and beaten by the Baltimore Ravens when star linebacker Bradley Chubb dropped to the ground, flat on his back and unable to move because of a knee injury. A while later, the team’s sack leader was lifted onto a cart and driven into the tunnel.
Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel lamented his decision to keep Chubb on the field in the waning minutes of what became a 56-19 loss.
“In hindsight, I would have absolutely not wanted him out there if I knew he was going to get hurt, for sure,” McDaniel said. “That’s a known part of the job that I understand fully. It doesn’t look very smart at all.”
While it appears unlikely that the sixth-year pro will return to play this season, McDaniel grimaced and held out hope for a favorable diagnosis.
“We don’t have the information to find out what it is yet. We’ll be able to find out (Monday),” McDaniel said.
All in all, it was a horrible day for a team intent on upsetting the Ravens and earning the top seed in the AFC.
“We came into this game with high hopes of playing to the standard we wanted to play,” quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said. “When those standards aren’t met, it’s very disappointing.”
The Dolphins fell behind by 22 points early in the third quarter, and a harried Tagovailoa couldn’t make up the deficit in a lopsided setback that prevented Miami (11-5) from clinching the AFC East.
In a matchup between the teams with the two best records in the conference, Baltimore (13-3) dominated the Dolphins to earn a first-round bye and the opportunity to play every game at home in the postseason leading up to the Super Bowl.
If Miami can’t beat visiting Buffalo next week, the Bills would win the AFC East title and the Dolphins would start the playoffs on the road.
Miami led 10-7 before the Ravens went on a 28-3 run bridging the second and third quarters. Last year, Tagovailoa rallied Miami from a 35-14 hole to a 42-38 victory.
But this Baltimore team would have none of that. Not only did the Ravens pick off two passes and finish with three sacks, but Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson ripped apart the Miami defense for 321 yards passing and five touchdowns.
Miami could still end up with the No. 2 seed in the AFC if it beats Buffalo. The Dolphins haven’t finished atop the division since 2008 and have gone more than three decades without securing a top-two seed.
But they’ll likely have to do it without Chubb, who has 11 sacks to go with 74 tackles, including six on Sunday before the injury.
“I want to say a big shout-out to Bradley Chubb,” Tagovailoa said. “We’re thinking of you, brother, and we’re praying for you as well. It’s tough seeing one of our guys go down like that. It’s unfortunate.”
Miami’s top-ranked offense was without standout wide receiver Jaylen Waddle and workhorse running back Raheem Mostert, both of whom were inactive with injuries. Waddle ranks second on the team with 72 catches and 1,014 yards receiving, and last year he had 11 receptions for 171 yards and two TDs in Miami’s win at Baltimore.
Tyreek Hill had six catches for 76 yards, but he also dropped a certain touchdown in the back of the end zone.
“I played probably one of the worst games of my career,” Hill said. “As a leader of this team, just got to erase it and move forward.”
In last year’s game between these teams, the Ravens took a 35-14 lead into the fourth quarter. In this one, it was 35-13 before a touchdown pass from Tagovailoa to rookie running back De’Von Achane with 13:57 left gave Miami hope of mounting another rally.
But Baltimore subsequently rumbled 75 yards in seven plays to make it 42-19 with 9:38 remaining.
Tagovailoa was removed with just over four minutes remaining with a sore shoulder that he insisted was not an issue. At that point, it was pretty much time for the Dolphins to turn their attention toward the finale against Buffalo, a rematch of a game the Bills won 48-20 at home in October.
Except the defense remained on the field, and Chubb paid the price for playing during garbage time.
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