For most of the first half, it looked like this game against the Baltimore Ravens could be the one where those two rookies for the Dallas Cowboys finally ran into something they couldn’t handle. But after a slow start for both Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, they got things going. After staking the Ravens to a couple of first half leads, Dallas just bore down, scoring on five consecutive drives on both sides of halftime in a game that did not seem easy, but about midway through the third quarter, started to feel inevitable. There would be a late rally by the Ravens, but it was not enough as Dallas prevailed 27-17 to have a nine-game winning streak for the first time in franchise history.
The defining time of the game started late in the third quarter and extended for 7:54, until the 11:30 mark of the fourth. The Cowboys took the ball on their own 12 yard line following what seemed like just one in an endless series of deep punts by the Ravens, with their first lead of the game, and then reeled off 13 plays, just grinding on Baltimore before a 13 yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant.
It was a strong drive to give the Cowboys a 14 point lead, but the Ravens answered after they almost were stopped on third down, only to have a facemask penalty on Tyrone Crawford keep things alive to allow them to pull within seven. But the Cowboys would answer, with Prescott cool and calm as he led the team down the field and ate up clock. He would have his second 300 yard passing game of his young career while leading Dallas to yet another 400 yard game in total offense, converting third downs at an impressive rate (seven of twelve). Prescott was banged around in the first half, but protection improved and so did his accuracy after a very rough start. The final drive by the Cowboys only resulted in a field goal, but it put Dallas up 10 with less than two minutes left, and that was more than enough.
The first half was about as even a contest as possible, knotted up 10-10 at intermission, the Ravens having a one yard advantage on offense (199 to 198, per ESPN’s stats), and the Cowboys holding a slight time of possession edge 15:30 to 14:30. The big difference was that the Ravens limited Ezekiel Elliot to just 26 yards on the ground, and the Cowboys had a very real lapse on the second drive of the game for Baltimore, yielding a 90 yard touchdown drive that took only six plays and saw the Ravens the ones carving up the defense on the ground. Dallas had a real problem getting going offensively. They had their first drive go three and out, the only time that has happened to the Cowboys to open a game. But they would start to get some rhythm as the half closed, getting a touchdown on a drive where they had to overcome a first and 30 to start things before they ended with a touchdown to Cole Beasley. And then Dak Prescott led them into field goal range just before half, using the clock effectively as they started with 1:40 to go but only one time out. The most important thing was that Dez Bryant started to get involved on the drive.
And after halftime, Zeke started to get going as well, and Bryant stayed hot. The Dallas defense stopped the Ravens at midfield, and Prescott would lead the Cowboys 92 yards, ending with a four yard touchdown pass to 88, while 21 had 31 total yards both on the ground and through the air. The drive also got a big boost from a penalty on a throw that would have been a touchdown to Terrance Williams if it was on time, but it was pretty clearly pass interference.
Most importantly, it was the third consecutive scoring drive for the Cowboys as they began to sort out the Baltimore defense. It also gave Dallas its first lead of the game. And the Cowboys would go the entire second half without punting the ball. It was that offensive efficiency that was the real difference in the game.
One area of the game where the Cowboys did much better than the Ravens was in discipline. By the end of the game, Baltimore had been flagged 12 times for 136 yards, while Dallas had only been docked 45 yards on five infractions.
Another huge stat was turnovers - which were zero for both teams. The main thing was that the Cowboys’ rookie QB and RB protected the ball, never giving the Ravens a short field to take advantage of.
In the end, the Cowboys offense wore down the vaunted Ravens defense, and there was nothing they could do. It was a very methodical, grind-it-out win. Baltimore would hold Elliott under 100 yards rushing - barely, at 97 - but he would add 30 yards receiving to make the day a win for him. Once more, Dallas took the best shot another team could deliver, and came out on top.