(Let me start by saying that Edgar Allen Poe is one of my favorite authors, but I have always hated "The Raven. The Cowboys history with its namesake team has done nothing to change that.)
Besides the Dallas Cowboys there are 31 teams in the National Football League. Of these teams only one holds the distinction of never having suffered defeat at the hands of America's Team and that team is the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens, our next opponent, hold 3-0 record against Dallas and along the way, the have outscored the Cowboys by a combined score of 90-34. Of the three contests, only the last meeting bears any resemblance to a competitive game. It is this last game I am going to focus most closely on today due to many of the same players being on the respective teams and due to the fact that it accurately sums up the struggles the Cowboys have always faces against this opponent.
The 2008 game was also the last one ever played in Texas Stadium. Early on the Cowboys started strong when they recovered a fumble caused by Demarcus Ware sacking Joe Flacco. Shortly after that Tashard Choice scored on a two yard run to put Dallas up 7-0. Unfortunately, the Cowboys failed to generate any momentum off of the play as QB Tony Romo had trouble getting any rhythm going over the first three quarters. Although he was dealing with a back injury Romo's problems were more because of the outstanding play of the Raven defense, primarily Ed Reed who intercepted Romo twice during the first half. Soon the Ravens took the lead mostly on the foot of kicker Matt Stover. In an ironic twist Stover has sold programs outside Texas Stadium as a kid. Finally in the final period Romo got in sync and twice lead the Cowboys back to within 2 points of the Ravens. His first touchdown pass went to Terrell Owens. but was answered by a 77 yard touchdown run by Willis McGahee. Getting the ball back Romo struck again this time to tight end Jason Witten. This time Le'ron McClain answered with an even longer run of 82 yards. Despite two impressive drives led by Romo in the final four minutes of the game, the Dallas defensive doomed them to defeat 33-24.
Sadly enough, as stated earlier, this was the highlight of the Cowboys series against Baltimore. It also serves to highlight the issues the team has always struggled with when facing the Ravens. As should be expected when facing a team that is as defensive minded as the Ravens are, quarterback play has been negatively effected. Tony Romos 24 for 45 and 235 yard showing is the closest any Dallas QB has came to solving the Raven riddle. His QBR for the game was 66.3. The 2004 contest in Baltimore featured Vinny Testeverde who went 23 for 35 and 128 yards and two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, as he struggled to a QBR of 18.9. Even Hall of Fame and Ring of Honor member Troy Aikman had a pathetic game against the Ravens during the 2000 NFL season. Troy went 19 of 33 for only 139 yards. He was picked off three times on his way to a quarterback rating of only 29.6.
In addition to poor output from the QB slot, Dallas has struggled with a history of allowing the Ravens to come up with critical big plays. Besides giving up the two longest ever runs by an opponent in Texas Stadium history to offset Tony's valiant comback effort in 2008, the Cowboys have allowed themselves to being victimized during each meeting between the teams. During the 2004 contest Kyle Boller and Kevin Johnson hooked up for a long touchdown strike. Add in Chad Williams taking a Testeverde pass back 44 yards for a pick six and the Cowboys backs were broken early. That game resulted in a 30-10 massacre. As bad as that beatdown was, it pales in comparison to the 2000 matchup. Aikman's Cowboys failed to score as Baltimore rolled 27-0. The big plays of that game were a Trent Dilfer to Qadry Ismail 40 yard pass and a 59 yarder from Dilfer to Shannon Sharpe.
This season, if history holds true, the Cowboys are going to need an outstanding performance from Tony Romo and a defense that eliminates the big play if they want to break the "Curse of the Raven". Both Tony and the Rob Ryan defense have shown, at times, that they are capable of doing what is needed. The question is will they do it this time? Only time will tell. Sadly with how the team has performed this season I'm not holding my breath.