They had their chances. Even when you thought the Dallas Cowboys were out of it, they would find a way back, clawing, scratching, and for most of this game, there was a thought that maybe the Cowboys could pull off the unthinkable, upsetting the heavily favored Ravens in their own building.
But alas, it wasn’t mean to be.
The Cowboys still played valiantly though, losing to the Ravens 31-29 after scoring a TD with 32 seconds left, missing the conversion, getting the onside kick, and missing the field goal in the closing seconds. This could have been the greatest comeback in the Garrett era, and one that could have given the Cowboys a ton of confidence. Instead, the loss drops the Cowboys to 2-3, and while they can be confident about the way they played, getting the win is always the much better option.
Tony Romo went 25-36 for 261 yds, with 2 TDs and 1 INT. No TD pass was more important than the one on the potential game-tying drive that the Cowboys put together. Felix Jones led the rushing attack with 18 carries for 92 yards and a score. It would be the first TD Dallas would get in this game, and Jones’s first since September 2011.
Baltimore would answer twice though in the first half, with a TD run from Ray Rice, and a TD catch from Torrey Smith to give the Ravens a 17-10 halftime lead. But in the second half, the Cowboys refused to go away, and despite giving up a special teams TD on a 108 yard kickoff return, the Cowboys clawed back on a TD pass to Bryant, and then a Dan Bailey FG to make the score 24-23 with 7:37 left.
Baltimore would drive down the field using their no-huddle offense, and Rice would cap the drive with a 3 yard TD to make it 31-23. Things looked bleak for the Cowboys at that point, especially with the time remaining and the fact that Romo is usually susceptible to throwing an INT when trying to make a game-tying or game-winning drive.
But Romo would be pleasantly surprising, driving the Cowboys down the field, and helping them overcome three silly penalties that gave the Cowboys a 3rd and 27 from midfield. The drive would end in a 4 yard TD strike to Dez Bryant, but Bryant would drop the conversion.
However, all was not lost. Dallas would recover the onside kick, and then take advantage of a pass interference call to get the ball on the fringe of field goal territory. A Romo completion to Dez Bryant would set up Dan Bailey for a 51 yard try, which would have matched the longest of his career. Bailey missed, and as I sat on my couch, I was hoping Harbaugh tried icing him so that he’d get another chance, but that didn’t happen.
This loss is hard to swallow, as it was a game Dallas let get away. It was a game no one expected Dallas to win but they could have won if a few bounces went their way. Dez could be blamed for dropping the conversion, but it was a tough play. The playcalling at the end of the game (in relation to how the Cowboys set up the field goal) could be blamed for this loss, but really there is no one to blame. The Cowboys played their most complete game of the season and just were faced with too great a team and too great of an obstacle to overcome. Just the fact that they stayed close int his won and gave themselves a chance to win should be enough to silence the critics, for now.
The Cwoboys can build on this performance going forward, because their schedule doesn’t get easier. Next week, they go to Carolina to face Cam Newton and the Panthers, who will be coming off of a bye week. Then they host the Giants, and then go to Atlanta and Philly for tough road contests.
But Dallas got dinged up again, and had a very scary moment in the 2nd quarter when rookie Morris Claiborne went down. The top 10 pick hurt his knee in the loss, but did return in the 4th quarter. DeMarco Murray also sprained his left foot, and he did not return, leaving him questionable for next week at best. His status will be monitored closely throughout the week to see if he will indeed make the trip to Carolina.
The loss will keep the Cowboys in last place for at least one week longer. But the division is still within reach, because of how the NFC East is currently set up. Philly lost, dropping to 3-3, and the Redskins and Giants both won. But the Redskins are 3-3 and the Giants are 4-2, with both losses in the division. So the Cowboys are very much still in it, having beat the Giants once already, and still having to face the Redskins and Eagles twice.
But the key will be continuing to play like they did in this game. They never abandoned the run, and that paid dividends. If the Cowboys play like this all the time on offense, and can combine it with great defensive play, they will be tough to beat going forward.