Make no mistakes about it. The Dallas Cowboys played their best game of this short season against the Ravens. The team clicked on more cylinders than they have in the past three games combined, yet were not able to complete the rousing comeback vs. a strong Baltimore Ravens team. The Dallas Cowboys have some mental mistakes to thank for falling below .500 for the first time this season.
After an opening drive field goal by the Ravens, the Cowboys offense took the field with vigor. For the first time this season, they managed to score points on the opening drive. Murray ran left, right, up the middle, and pretty much anywhere he wanted to go. The drive was capped off by an electrifying 22 yard scamper by the much-maligned Felix Jones, reminding us all why he's still on this team.
After penalties stalled a promising Cowboys drive into a field goal, the rest of the half was dominated by the Ravens. A short throw by Joe Flacco to Ray Rice on 3rd and 8 turned into 43 yards and setup Baltimore's first touchdown. The following Cowboys drive again ended in disappointment, with Romo throwing a crucial pick in the red zone. It was a bit of a forced throw as Romo was looking for Ogletree down the middle, but missed badly. That interception took points off the board for Dallas, and the Ravens capitalized. They scored another touchdown as the half came to an end, and Dallas fell behind 17-10 at halftime.
The 2nd half opened well enough for the Cowboys, as the team was able to drive down the field and score a Dan Bailey field goal. Too many times the Dallas Cowboys found themselves in manageable situations only to put themselves out of business with bad penalties. After the field goal, things got bleak for the Dallas Cowboys. Jacoby Jones tied an NFL record with a 108 yard kickoff return for a touchdown, and the Cowboys were down by eleven with 11 minutes left in the second half.
In the face of adversity, the Cowboys stood up well. They drove down the field with a punishing ground attack, led mainly by Phillp Tanner due to injuries suffered by Felix Jones and Demarco Murray. Jones was able to return and finish the game, but Murray was sidelined by an apparent foot injury. Cowboys rookie Morris Claiborne was also injured (knee), but was able to finish the game as well.
With the Cowboys only down four, the defense forced a 3 and out by the Ravens offense and got the ball back for the offense. The Cowboys finished with another field goal, and found themselves down only one point with 8:22 remaining.
The following drive was a major disappointment. The Dallas defense that had allowed a grand total of 3 yards in the second half was not nearly as stout, and allowed the Ravens to drive the entire field. Ray Rice made them pay with his second one yard touchdown run of the game, and the Ravens were back up by 8. And then things got interesting.
Romo orchestrated a beautiful drive, leading the team efficiently and effectively down the field. When Dallas needed a big play, they found it in the corner of the end zone on the hands of Dez Bryant. Dez made a gorgeous back-shoulder play on the ball and the Dallas Cowboys were down by 2 with the two-point conversion pending. This time, when the Cowboys needed a big play, Dez Bryant was not so accommodating. The conversion pass was placed perfectly by Romo into the hands of Bryant, but Dez was unable to make the catch.
With desperation their only chance, the Cowboys found lightning in a bottle. Dan Bailey executed a perfect middle onside kick and Andre Holmes came up with the ball. The following play resulted in a pass interference on a Romo pass towards Ogletree and the Cowboys were in business. Poor clock management led to only one play being run by the Cowboys before Bailey was sent on to win the game. The 51 yard attempt, which would've tied Bailey's career long, drifted a few feet to the left and the game was over.
Overall, it was a great effort that ended in a demoralizing loss. If the Cowboys show up to play like this every Sunday, they still have a great shot at making the postseason. If they continue their inconsistent ways we'll probably see another top-10 draft pick. The Cowboys are at a cross-roads, and now face a must win game in Carolina next Sunday. Let's hope they can get over this loss and focus on what lies ahead.
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