For the first time this season, the Baltimore Ravens played a Sunday afternoon home game.
And for the second straight week the Baltimore Ravens’ mettle was tested as the Dallas Cowboys displayed a furious fourth quarter comeback that nearly took down the leaders of the AFC North. Those dreams were crushed when kicker Dan Bailey pushed a game-winning field goal wide left as time expired and the Ravens hung on for a 31-29 victory, the team’s 14th consecutive regular season victory at home.
Dallas outscored the Ravens 19-14 in the 2nd half and nearly won the football game after Dallas brought the Ravens lead to within two with a Dez Bryant touchdown. Then, in Dez Bryant fashion, let a two-point conversion slip right through his hands.
7% of onside kicks had been recovered by the team kicking them this season, and the percentage went slightly higher after Brendon Ayanbadejo uncharacteristically let the ball get through his legs, allowing Dallas one last shot to steal victory from the Ravens.
The Cowboys racked up 481 total yards and 227 of that came via the running backs. Yes, 227 yards rushing against the vaunted Ravens defense. The most yardage allowed since the team arrived in 1996.
The news for Baltimore was worse following the game. According to Jeff Darlington of the NFL Network, both Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb are feared to be lost with season-ending injuries. The Ravens however will wait to confirm the extent of those injuries with MRI’s tomorrow afternoon.
Joe had an economical day behind center. Rebounding after a tough performance in Kansas City last week, Flacco had a very efficient afternoon, throwing for 234 yards and a touchdown. He finished with a 106.9 quarterback rating, the third time he’s finished with a rating over 100 this season. His passing was crisp over the middle and timely on intermediate routes.
Running Backs: C
Ray Rice scored two touchdowns on the afternoon, rushing 16 times for 63 yards. They didn’t get too much going in the run game, especially in the 2nd half with the field position the Ravens found themselves in.
I liked Rice’s multiple efforts getting extra yards in this game. He came up big in short-yardage situations, as did Bernard Pierce.
Wide Receivers: C
Torrey Smith hauled in a nice score in the corner of the end zone. His physical skills and size lend well to those types of throws from Joe Flacco. Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta were solid in the middle of the field, Boldin had 98 yards receiving, Pitta with 33 yards.
Ed Dickson is still plagued with the “dropsies”, letting a sure touchdown go right through his hands.
Offensive Line: B+
Kudos to the Ravens offensive line in this one. Facing a formidable front line of the Cowboys, they did an outstanding job protecting Joe Flacco, allowing just one sack from DeMarcus Ware.
Last week, offensive tackles Michael Oher and Kelechi Osemele had trouble on the edges. This week, a much better effort from both, handling the edges very well. Bobbie Williams got the nod over Ramon Harewood and filled in nicely. An effort the Ravens can feel good about heading to Houston next week.
Defensive Line: F
As mentioned earlier, the defensive line and linebackers were thrashed by the Dallas run game. Haloti Ngata injured his knee and will also receive an MRI tomorrow to know the extent of the injury.
The Cowboys have an offensive line that mirrored the Ravens defensive line in terms of size, but the Cowboys were just too big and too physical for them. This group has to get it going somehow; Terrence Cody, Pernell McPhee and others are just too quiet.
Where the heck did the tackling go? This group was pathetic today in terms of tackling. Not being able to wrap up and physically tackle someone is frustrating and yet we continue to see arm tackles attempted. It doesn’t work.
Who will step up in passing situations with Ray Lewis out with an injury? Jameel McClain would most likely start in the interior but it remains to be seen what Albert McClellan and Dannell Ellerbe will do. They stepped up last season, they’ll have to do it again. Paul Kruger’s role will expand more as well. The effort this group gave in the game was scary. Not the good kind.
Losing your best corner in Lardarius Webb is huge. No two ways about it. But a positive is that for the 2nd week in a row, this unit played better. Jimmy Smith shook off an injury and played well against the more physical Cowboy receivers. Cary Williams covered well. They’ll need more from those two now.
More poor tackling from the safeties in this one. Ed Reed tried to throw a shoulder into Dez Bryant which he promptly shook off. These guys have had better days.
Special Teams: A
Jacoby Jones scored on a 108-yard return touchdown, tying an NFL record while averaging 53 yards per return. That’s why he was brought in. He’s been a very solid player so far for the Ravens.
Justin Tucker was good from 38 yards on his only field goal try and was a perfect 4-4 on PAT’s. The coverage was excellent in both punts and kickoff returns. Just an outstanding effort from this group.
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees tried many different approaches to stopping the runaway train that was the Dallas running game, but couldn’t. The offense was slowed at times, but got it going when they needed to. A much better performance than last week against the Chiefs.
The Baltimore Ravens are 5-1 but its a very uneasy 5-1. Losing Lewis, Webb and possibly not having a healthy Ngata are huge blows to a team that already has trouble stopping the run, tackling and pass coverage on 3rd downs.
Next Sunday they’ll travel to Houston to face the Texans who were steamrolled by the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football. The Texans can run the football and force turnovers on the defensive side with their front seven. How will the Ravens move forward without their best defensive players? You know that saying… Next Man Up.
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