The Dallas Cowboys returned to action after the bye week and took on a tough Baltimore Ravens squad at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. Despite gaining over 200 yards on the ground, Dallas came up short, losing 31-23 for their second loss in a row and going under .500 for the first time this year.
The Ravens started with the ball and used a combination of running back Ray Rice and short throws by quarterback Joe Flacco to drive down the field in lengthy fashion, Dallas stuffed Baltimore on a third down from inside the Cowboy 20 and held the Ravens to a field goal on the first drive of the game. The defensive line looked stout on the drive, keeping Ray Rice from getting into the open and having the opportunity to break tackles.
Dallas responded quickly, imitating Baltimore’s hurry-up offense and using running backs DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones to methodically drive down the field. The drive culminated in a 22-yard touchdown scamper by Jones for Dallas’ second rushing touchdown of the season. Dallas cracked down on defense on the next drive, making the Ravens go three and out. Murray had 72 yards rushing in the quarter.
Dallas 7, Baltimore 3.
Dallas started off the second quarter in Baltimore territory and looked primed to score again, but two consecutive illegal shift penalties stalled the Cowboys and they had to settle for a 42-yard field goal by kicker Dan Bailey to give the Cowboys a touchdown advantage. The Ravens struck quickly on the next drive thanks to a 43-yard dump off to Ray Rice on third down that put Baltimore in the red zone. Dallas had held the Ravens on the goal line until an illegal hands to the face on Kenyon Coleman nullified a third down stop. Rice ran it in on the next play to tie the game.
The Cowboys kept the tempo up and drove inside Baltimore territory again, but Romo forced the ball on a third and ten trying to hit receiver Kevin Ogletree, but missed him and it was intercepted by Ravens cornerback Cary Williams. The interception made it six consecutive games that Romo has thrown one. The Ravens made Dallas pay, with Flacco connecting to Anquan Boldin multiple times on the drive before finding Torrey Smith for a 19-yard touchdown and their first lead of the game. First round draft pick Morris Claiborne went down on the play while covering smith and looked to be favoring his knee as he limped to the sidelines. Dallas just ate the rest of the clock on the next drive and went into the half down by seven.
Dallas 10, Baltimore 17
The Cowboys started the second half with the ball. Jones continued his strong day on the drive, streaking up the middle for a quick first down right out of the gate. Romo hit tight end Jason Witten on a crossing route for 35 yards, but Dallas could get no further and were forced again to settle for a field goal, which would come back to bite them on the following kickoff. Ravens returner Jacoby Jones took the Dan Bailey kick and sprinted through the Cowboys coverage en route to an 108 yard touchdown return which tied an NFL record and gave Baltimore an 11-point lead. Dallas took the ball and responded again thanks to a power run game. Jones padded his stats on the drive, gaining 30 more rushing yards and Romo worked the field, patiently waiting out his receivers and working the middle of the field and driving inside the Baltimore 10- yard line. Tony hit Dez Bryant on a beautiful back shoulder throw in the end zone and gave the receiver his first touchdown of the season and cut the deficit to four points going into the final 15 minutes
Dallas 20, Baltimore 24
The Dallas defense began the fourth quarter holding Baltimore to another three and out from inside their own 10 yard line. The Cowboys got the ball at the Baltimore 37 after a punt and continued to pound it on the ground against the Ravens. Murray hurt his foot and Jones was cramping up so Dallas turned to third running back Phillip Tanner and he responded with 25 yards rushing on the drive.
Dallas got into a goal-to-go situation with a nice run by undrafted rookie Lance Dunbar out of the University of North Texas, but the Cowboys couldn’t punch it in for the lead and kicked another field goal to bring them within one point. Baltimore returned to their hurry-up offense on the next drive, looking to pad the lead and put the pressure on the Cowboys with the clock winding down in the game. Flacco found Boldin on a double move to put the Ravens inside the red zone. Rice then ran it in from one yard to put Baltimore up eight points.
Dallas began their final drive of the game with five minutes to go and needing a touchdown and a two-point conversion to tie it. Romo led the Cowboys down the field and despite a multitude of penalties that had plagued Dallas all day, led them inside the red zone, converting two fourth and long-yardage to keep the drive and the Cowboys chances alive . Romo hit Dez Bryant for his second touchdown of the day to bring Dallas within two points, but dropped the ensuing two-point conversion. However, the Cowboys recovered the onside kick and a pass interference penalty on first down put them in field goal range. But inexplicable lack of clock management forced them to attempt the game winning field goal from 51 yards even though they had time to run another play to get a closer attempt. Bailey hooked the kick wide left and Baltimore prevailed in a tight game.
Final Score: Dallas 29 Baltimore 31
Despite the loss, Dallas fought tooth and nail all game long and never gave up. Dez Bryant recovered from an up-and-down game against Chicago to catch some huge passes for the Cowboys and the running game looked spectacular. Penalties hurt the Cowboys again, but the clock management at the end of the game is what people will be talking about and what Jason Garrett will have to answer to.
Dallas travels to Carolina next week to take on Cam Newton and the Panthers.