In week 6 of the 2012 NFL Season, the Dallas Cowboys travel to Maryland to play the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens are 4-1 and quite possibly one of the best teams in the NFL. Their only loss comes at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles, but even then they were on only a one point deficit. The Ravens pose a huge threat to the Cowboys playoff chances, but this is an opportunity. If Dallas can play the way they did in Week 1 against the Giants, the Cowboys may walk out with a surprising 3-2 record. Just as easily, they could play the way they have been the past 3 games and go home 2-3, which is predicted. Read on to see what will matter in this game and how I see each team performing.
This is the game where I see both teams firing all cylinders. The Ravens offense has been doing the work, while the defense which has a reputation as lights out, is barely hanging on. For the Cowboys, it has been the opposite. The defense has been incredible, while the offense which was supposed to be red hot this year, has been crippled by a weak offensive line and frustrating dropped passes. This week, I see the Cowboys offense finally clicking, and the Baltimore defense playing with some more attitude.
DeMarcus Ware vs Micheal Oher
Micheal Oher has always had a tough time dealing with guys who are fast. Speed rushers just aren't his thing. Unfortunately for him. DeMarcus is exactly that: a speed demon pass rusher. I expect Ware to give Oher fits all day as the Ravens are forced to double and triple team him all day. But Ware is a signature pass rusher and still manages to get his hands on Flacco a couple times.
Ed Reed has been on and off this season. He is a monster safety, and has quickly moved up the stat board for interceptions collected. He is the epitome of a ballhawk; but he isn't flashing like normal this year. I expect that to change, as he puts another INT into the stat sheets. Ladarius Webb also helps him out. Webb is a good corner that can take a man out of the play half the time, and make it tough the complete the rest of the time. I see Webb getting a few one-on-one jump balls between him and Austin or Bryant. I also see him coming down with the ball on one of those occasions. Romo may have a decent night, as I see him throwing plenty of yards and finding the endzone as well, but throwing two INT's into this duo is what I call the QB losing this matchup.
Cowboys Game Plan: There are just three things now that are leeching Dallas from more wins: Proper Coaching, Offensive Line play, and dropping passes. The dropped passes seem to have diminished now, as Witten seems to be back, but if Bryant puts up a stinker like last time (3 drops, no TD's) then Romo will be in for a long day. The coaching seems to keep the Cowboys in a mentally weak shape. In week 1, the Cowboys played with heart and swagger that they haven't shown since. The offensive line was bad last year, and is not really better this year. The line is doing more than opposing defenders are to keep DeMarco Murray from getting any decent yards. If these three things can improve, the Cowboys could be an offensive juggernaut. In this game, Dallas has to be focusing on playing good up front on the offensive side. They need to be able to put up points, and if the line can block properly, that means more time for Romo and Co. with the ball.
Ravens Game Plan: The Ravens have the defense to play very good football and make plenty of big plays. They need to utilize the big play ability of Ed Reed to force turnovers. They know how important turnovers can be in a game (see Cowboys vs Bears Week 5) to winning. If they are able to generate turnovers and keep the offense on the field, the Ravens will win for sure.
Quarter by Quarter:
Q1 Both offenses start slow. Romo takes a sack to kill the Cowboys first drive, and the Ravens try the pass game too aggressively but can't get anything done against a lights-out Cowboys Pass Defense. The quarter ends scoreless with fans already on the edge of their seats.
Q2 The Cowboys struggle on offense again, but so do the Ravens. Romo throws his first pick of the game, and the momentum swing is huge. The stadium explodes and Flacco rides the emotional wave on his way to a TD. Ravens get up 7-0 early in the second quarter. Dallas tries to counter but is crippled as Romo takes another sack on third down. The Ravens attempt to score again, but the Dallas Defense is ready this time and gives the ball back to Romo with one more scoring chance before the half ends. Romo easily gets the ball into the Red Zone but sputters inside the 20 and Dallas only comes away with three. The Ravens take the game into halftime, leading 7-3.
Q3 Cowboys are in need of a score to get back on track. But playing from behind, Romo takes too many risky shots downfield and gets picked off again. The crowd re-explodes and the Ravens take it back to the house again and put the Boys in a bad spot, down by 11. The Cowboys are getting frustrated, down by 2 scores in the third and seem to start a drive that looks to counter the previous Baltimore score. But they only come away with three again.14-6. Now playing with some over confidence, Joe Flacco enters gunslinger mode. He goes deep a couple times and the Dallas D quickly forces a punt. Right before the third ends, Romo is able to find a TD. The Cowboys play aggressive and try to go for 2, but Romo is sacked and the Cowboys go into the fourth, down 14-12.
Q4 The Ravens overcome a mini heart attack from the Dallas TD by driving successfully past the 50. The Dallas D buckles down when it matters and forces a field goal. 17-12. Romo understands the position his team is in and drives down again. This time, again, he is prevented from a TD and has to be satisfied with a field goal. 17-15. The game is very close and Joe Flacco and his offensive squad take some more risks to increase the lead. But they turn the ball over and Dallas jumps on it. Romo rides the short stick he has and Murray finds the endzone to take a 22-17 lead with time winding down. The Ravens are not ready to lose after leading for so longs, and Joe Flacco throws another TD with just 2 minutes left. The Ravens take a lead and attempt the two point conversion to take a 25-22 lead. Dallas has the ball back and drives for a field goal. With 30 seconds left, they are set up for a field goal. They run the ball to make an easier field goal. Murray is able to break free and get into the five with 10 seconds left. The Cowboys see an opportunity and hand the ball to Murray who finds the endzone for a game winning TD. The Cowboys take a 29-25 lead, with just enough time for a kickoff. The Ravens are unable to take it for a TD and Dallas pulls off an upset win.
Final Score: Cowboys 29, Ravens 25
Romo: 26/45 320 Yards 1 TD 2 INT
Murray: 17 rush, 120 yards 2 TD
Bryant: 4 rec, 70 yards
Austin: 8 rec, 140 yards, 1 TD
Witten: 11 rec, 110 yards
Ware: 6 tackles, 2 sacks
Lee: 9 tackles
Claiborne: 2 tackles, INT
Flacco: 29/40 290 yards, 3 TD 1 INT
Rice: 15 rush, 80 yards
Smith: 7 rec, 110 yards 2TD
Boldin: 3 rec, 60 yards 1TD
Pitta: 5 rec, 40 yards
Lewis: 4 tackles
Reed: 4 tackles, 1 INT
Webb: 5 tackles, 1INT