Just about everything that has been wrong with the Dallas Cowboys since Bill Parcells left in 2007 was on display Sunday in Baltimore.
It was the perfect game for the Cowboys, once again maligned early in the season, to break out and reclaim their status as a contender in the NFC East (a division which is rapidly getting out of hand in terms of competitiveness). The team was coming off a bye week and was headed into a traditionally tough place to win, but this time against a team that was coming off of a troubling 9-6 win against a much-worse Kansas City Chiefs squad. The Ravens defense has been uncharacteristically mediocre this season and the Cowboys entered the game with the NFL’s 29th-ranked running attack. It was their only significant weakness heading into week 6, and they spent the time off during the bye week trying to fix it.
And fix it they did. The Cowboys unleashed a halfback hellstorm on the Ravens, dumping more yards (227) against them on the ground than any other team in the 16-year history of the franchise. But, it ended up being all for naught in the end… and I mean the very end. To be more accurate, just about everything that has been wrong with the Dallas Cowboys since Bill Parcells left in 2007 was on display in the last five minutes of Sunday’s contest.
The Cowboys had been playing well all game, holding the Ravens offense to an abysmal 3 total yards on offense in the first half. That’s absolutely ridiculous when considering that the Ravens offense was pretty much at full strength. Baltimore HB Ray Rice eventually broke the 100 yard barrier (he’s done it more often than anyone since 2008), and the Ravens managed to pull ahead by 8 points in the final minutes.
Dallas got the ball with 4:41 remaining in the 4th quarter and proceeded to march down the field and score a touchdown with 36 seconds left on the clock. It was a drive that was as brilliant as it was chock-full of mishaps. During the first series of downs Dallas lineman Jermey Parnell was called for a false start on 3rd and 1. Dallas QB Tony Romo connected with TE Jason Witten on the ensuing 3rd and 6 and converted. On the very next play Romo scrambled for another 12 yards, but lineman Tyron Smith was called for holding, putting Dallas at 1st and 20. Romo responds by completing successive passes to WR Dez Bryant and HB Felix Jones for the first down.
At this point it appears that Tony Romo is dead serious about making up for his 5 interceptions two weeks earlier against Chicago, but he ends up throwing three incomplete passes to set up another 4th down… which he converts by connecting to Jason Witten again for 11 yards. Two plays later, with the Cowboys looking at 2nd and 4, Ravens CB Jimmy Smith is called for defensive holding, giving the Cowboys an automatic first down.
The drive started on the Dallas 20 yard line, and now the Cowboys are at Baltimore’s 32 yard line.
Felix Jones runs for 3 yards and then Romo shotguns it out to WR Kevin Olgetree, who drops the ball. But, that doesn’t matter because Felix Jones is (incorrectly) called for a chop block, which penalizes Dallas for 15 yards. This puts Dallas at 2nd and 22 on Baltimore’s 44-yard line. After another incomplete pass to WR Miles Austin, Ogletree is called for another false start.
It’s now 3rd and 27.
Romo throws it short to Dez Bryant (who had a magnificent game himself with 2 touchdowns and 95 receiving yards). Bryant sheds two tackles and manages to gain 17 yards on the play, giving Dallas another 4th and 10 on Baltimore’s 32-yard line. Romo once again looks for and finds Jason Witten, this time for 16 yards. Dallas calls their first timeout with 51 seconds left on the clock.
Four plays later Romo finds Dez Bryant in the end zone, shrinking Baltimore’s lead to a mere 2 points. Dallas head coach Jason Garrett calls for the 2-point conversion and everything is going fine until Romo throws it back to Bryant and the ball miraculously flies right through Bryant’s open hands. It’s a drive that sees Dallas commit four crucial penalties, and sees Tony Romo single-handedly keep them in the game.
The Cowboys set up for an onside kick… and they actually succeed in recovering the ball on their own 46-yard line with 32 seconds left. On the ensuing first down Romo airs it out to Kevin Ogletree, who is somewhat manhandled by Baltimore CB Chykie Brown. Pass interference is called and results in a 20-yard penalty.
The next two plays are almost completely blown due to horrible communication on the offensive line’s part as well as an all-of-the-sudden inept Tony Romo having to rush the play calling in order to avoid a delay of game penalty. With about 15 seconds remaining Romo spends 9 more seconds trying to coordinate his team, and instead of pushing a little bit further they’re forced to call their final timeout on Baltimore’s 33-yard line with 6 seconds left.
This sets up kicker Dan Bailey for a 51-yard field goal that he inevitably misses and like that we have seen everything wrong with this team in a matter of minutes…
Tony Romo being forced to think faster than he’s probably capable of, which is brought on by an incompetent offensive line. Receivers are dropping passes they should be catching. And the penalties… oh those penalties…
The Cowboys planned it so well. They ran all over the Ravens defense and stayed in the game the entire time, despite that 108-yard kick return touchdown by Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones in the 3rd quarter. Romo threw an interception on the day, but he also threw for 2 touchdowns and completed 69% of his passes. Nevertheless, the Dallas Cowboys went home unhappy on Sunday. Every great play, every great statistical/physical performance was washed away by ineptitude and what is quickly becoming a staple of the modern Cowboys: the kicker missing the game-winning field goal that 80% of the league’s kickers would make.
It’s one of those rare times in which, yes… every single player (except maybe Jason Witten) is to blame. Even if Dan Bailey had nailed that field goal it still would have not made up for the fact that the Cowboys didn’t deserve to win. As hard as they fought to get back into it they couldn’t help but wrestle defeat from the jaws of victory.
Everything you ever wanted to know about the Dallas Cowboys you could have learned from the last five minutes of Sunday’s game. After climbing the peaks and traversing the valleys, they just couldn’t cross that last molehill. It’s such a shame, too… because they wanted it so bad… and they desperately needed to make up for getting eaten alive at home against the Bears in week 4.
Let’s see how they handle the Carolina Panthers on the road this Sunday. I’m sure Cam Newton—who is coming off a bye week and probably wants to reverse some of his own early season misfortunes—will be more than ready to give these Dallas Cowboys even more headaches.