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The Cowboys did everything they could throughout the game to make a win difficult. Then they one-upped themselves in the waning minutes, just to let their fans know they care.
Welp, the Cowboys game-winning field goal kicks could probably benefit from having better travel agents. Multiple people seemed to play a part in Dallas not getting anything better than a 51-yard field goal attempt when it appeared they could have cut down on the distance with a little bit better planning. Disorganization ruled the day for the Cowboys, on that play and throughout the contest.
31-29, Cowboys lose to the Ravens. Cowboys commit an inordinate amount of penalties; some bad calls, most of them justified. Cowboys almost come back, but don't. Cowboys get new life, waste it. Cowboys dominate time of posession 40 minutes to 20. Dallas now sits at 2-3 on the young season. Them, those are the facts.
Sometimes a game wrap-up article writes itself; this isn't one of those times. After an entire afternoon of witnessing both the best and the worst that the Dallas Cowboys had to offer; the scales of justice weighed in and found this team to be wanting. After recovering an improbable onside kick that went straight through a Ravens' legs, Dallas was facing the perfect opportunity to steal a game from Baltimore.
The Cowboys were staring at the surreal with 31 seconds remaining when the Ravens were called for defensive pass interference down the right sideline on Kevin Ogletree, placing Dallas in long field goal range. 26 seconds remained. A first down short pass to Dez Bryant earned a horrible spot by the refs, and while he argued for position the rest of the club seemed completely lost in the element. 20 seconds remained, along with a timeout, but the Cowboys had nothing.
They could have spiked the ball with 15 seconds left and tried to get closer. A riskier option, but still better than doing nothing, they could have called the timeout and thrown to the sidelines. Anything would have been a better option then simply running the clock down to six seconds and calling a timeout for a 51-yard attempt.
But that's what they did, and of course, it didn't work. Dan "Split'Em" Bailey missed his first 50-yard plus attempt of the season, hooking it left.
Jason Garrett had an explanation ready in the post-game presser. He stated that Romo:
...very easily could've clocked it or could have called another play there, the biggest thing is we couldn't get guys to the line of scrimmage.
One of the most frustrating things about the loss had to be that the Cowboys were playing the roles of Jekyl and Hyde throughout the game, including their last couple drives. Dallas had closed to within 24-23 on a Dan Bailey 34-yard field goal with just over eight minutes remaining in the game.
Suddenly, Brandon Carr's coverage skills went missing and the team allowed Anquan Boldin to drive downfield, catch after catch. On 1st and goal from the 9, an apparent stop for a loss was negated by an offsides call, and two plays later Ray Rice would waltz into the end zone for his second touchdown of the game and stretch the lead to 8.
Dallas got the ball back at their 20 with under five minutes remaining. They proceeded to run one of the most maddening, exhilarating drives in recent Cowboys history. Third and one, run for first down negated by a false start on Jermey Parnell to make it third and six. 11-yard clutch completion to Jason Witten for the first is followed by holding to push them back to first and 20. Two completions overcome that, followed by three incompletions to bring up fourth down. Completion to Jason Witten brings a new set of downs.
A few plays later, Romo finds Ogletree for the apparent touchdown, except he drops the ball. To confound matters, the refs call an inexplicable personal foul-chop block on Felix Jones. Jones clearly engaged the defender low before Tyron Smith came over high to help (as in, legal play) but this still pushed Dallas back to 2nd and 22. Incompletion, then a false start on Kevin Ogletree, who has already used up every ounce of goodwill earned in the season opening Giants victory put Dallas at 3rd and 27.
No worries. Dez Bryant, who up until his next-to-last target was playing his best game ever (13 catches, 95 yards, 2 TDs), shook off a couple tackles on a short pass and made it a manageable fourth and 10. Jason Witten caught his second fourth down pass of the drive (third conversion on 3rd or 4th) and the drive was still alive.
A couple more plays and timeouts brought Dallas to 1st and 4 with 36 seconds left, when Romo found Dez for their second connection of the afternoon, a beautiful fade to the front pylon. This brought Dallas within two, waiting for the conversion attempt. They went to the well again, and Dez let the ball bounce off his chest to apparently seal the deal.
This led to the onside, missed field goal sequence from above. A game within a game; but to say "it came down to this" would be missing the point of a frustrating afternoon. An afternoon filled with individual greatness and foolishness.
- Dallas had taken a 10-3 lead early in the second quarter when they allowed the Ravens to march down the field and tie the score after a miscommunication between Sean Lee and Bruce Carter allowed Ray Rice to catch a pass and jaunt 43 yards down field. Driving to re-establish dominance, Romo threw a pick in his sixth straight game. The Ravens would race downfield and score another TD before the half to go up by seven. Momentum kicked in the 'nads.
- The Cowboys broke the huddle an amazing 23 times on their missed-2pt-conversion drive. 23. That's the kind of work you have to put in to overcome all of those penalties. They were able to do this on two touchdown drives, but couldn't overcome penalties on their three field goal makes.
- Jason Witten is all the way back. Anyone that questioned his worth to this franchise because of the start of the season should be ashamed of themselves. Especially that not-so-bright person I had to block on Twitter because he actually said that Witten was a "progress-stopper" to Martellus Bennett. After 6 for 88, now has 19 catches for 200 yards and a TD in last two games; including those three drive-alives
- The running game finally got untracked, including the de-pantsing of Ray Lewis on several occasions. I tweeted that his big shot on Tanner would allow everyone to forget this fact, but we've seen it; he is no longer that Ray Lewis. Dallas ran around, an injured Haloti Ngata and everyone else to the tune of 227 rush yards; a Ravens opponent record.
- The injury bug was everywhere, but things could have been worse. Morris Claiborne appeared to suffer a serious knee injury right before the half. On a deep pass, his back pushed Torrey Smith's hands and caused him to step akwardly. Silly Claiborne, thinking that would be pass interference on the receiver but not only did the touchdown stand, the ref called it PI on Mo'. It was the type of play you see ACLs tear on, but Claiborne bounced back and returned to the game in the second half.
- DeMarco Murray sprained his foot, but x-rays were negative. Dez Bryant left the game due to dehydration but obviously returned. Sean Lissemore went down with a right ankle injury and may be out for some time. Felix Jones also left the game for cramping. Mike Jenkins injured his shoulder but apparently was able to play on known passing downs. Look for injury updates as soon as we can give them.
- The penalty bug was everywhere, and things couldn't have been worse. The Cowboys were called for false starts, holds, and three illegal shift penalties. Three of them. What team in the moden era of passing can get called for three illegal shifts in the same game?
- If you're going to skewer Joe DeCamillis for the Cowboys allowing a kickoff return (which was disgusting, no doubt) of an NFL-record 108 yards in length, Joe D has to get equal credit for the onside kick conversion, right?
- The Cowboys weren't able to muster much of an outside pass rush. Sean Lee was by far the most effective rusher, laying a helmet on Flacco three times. DeMarcus Ware got a crucial sack on a third down late in the game, but that was it. The Cowboys clearly miss Anthony Spencer.
- Ray Rice had two scores, but Dallas did a great job containing him in the run game, even though he leaked out in the pass game. 3.9 yards a carry is a good defensive effort.
- I know we all share in the heartbreak of this loss; but this was an especially painful weekend for me. My Nationals lost in unbelievable gut-punch fashion on Friday night. I had an incredible, lucrative six-team CFB parlay go out the window when Spurrier's South Carolina Gamecocks decided to go for, and get, a fourth down TD instead of kicking the FG when down 9, and then this Cowboys game. Sometimes, being a sports nut isn't worth it.