For two weeks, the Cowboys were repeatedly reminded of just how tough it is to win in Baltimore. To become the first NFC team to win on the Ravens' home field in four years, they would have to play a flawless game.
And they nearly did. Unfortunately, two huge mistakes were, in the end, the Cowboys undoing, as they were unable to complete the comeback, falling on a last second field goal to Baltimore, 31-29.
Coming off their by week, the Cowboys were enjoying the return of several banged up players, including All-Pro nose tackle Jay Ratliff and starting center Phil Costa. But as is often the case in football, when one comes back, another goes down, the team losing Sean Lissemore to an ankle sprain early in the game and then starting running back DeMarco Murray later with a foot issue.
Despite the loss of Murray, though, the Cowboys had their best running game of the season, grinding out 227 yards on the ground. Before he left the game, Murray totaled 93 rushing yards and was then followed by Felix Jones, who finished with 92 yards and a touchdown. Also helping out was Phillip Tanner, who got his first attempts of the season and finished with 31 yards.
The Cowboys were able to move the ball through the air as well, with Romo throwing for 261 yards on 25-of-36 passing with two touchdowns. Dez Bryant was the primary recipient, making 13 catches for 95 receiving yards and two scores with Jason Witten adding another 88 yards on six grabs.
With those kinds of numbers, it's easy to see that Dallas certainly had no trouble moving the ball. Every possession for the team in the first half reached Ravens territory. After Baltimore put three points on the board with a 38-yard field goal on the game's opening drive, Dallas responded with an eight-play, 80-yard series that saw Jones dive into the end zone and clip the pylon to give the Cowboys the lead.
That was followed on the Cowboys' next possession by another 56-yard drive that resulted in a 42-yard Dan Bailey field goal, giving Dallas a 10-3 advantage.
The seesaw went back and forth, though, as the Cowboys' defense wasn't having much more luck stopping the Ravens offense either, the killer a short pass to Ray Rice that broke for a 43-yard gain to the Dallas 22. Six plays later and Rice was in the end zone, the game now tied.
No matter. Back to work went the Cowboys as they moved from their own 20 down to the Ravens' 35. On third-and-10, however, is when the first critical mistake was made. Romo tried to find Kevin Ogletree, only to have the ball picked off by Cary Williams.
With just over two minutes left in the first half, Baltimore was then able to march back the other way, Flacco connecting with Torrey Smith for a 19-yard score to give the home team the lead at the break, 17-10.
As the third quarter got underway, the Cowboys got their offense rolling. Jones rushed for 20 yards and Romo found Witten for a big 35-yard gain, Dallas eventually having to settle for a 43-yard Bailey field goal to narrow the deficit to 17-13.
The killer blow, though, perhaps came on the ensuing kickoff when Jacoby Jones caught the ball from eight yards deep in the end zone and decided to bring it out. In doing so, he seemed to surprise the Cowboys coverage unit, broke free and went the distance, the Dallas mistake costing them another seven points, 24-13.
What made the special teams gaffe all the worse was at this point in the game, the Cowboys defense was simply dominating the Ravens while the offense was continuing to rack up yards.
Dallas bounced right back with another 80-yard drive, Romo throwing a perfect back-shoulder fade to Bryant, then added a 34-yard field goal with just over eight minutes left in the fourth quarter to pull to within one point, 24-23.
But the defense, which up until then had allowed only three yards in the second half, were finally unable to get the stop. Going back to their no-huddle, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and receiver Anquan Boldin were able to hook up on a 13-yard pass, then came right back and went for 31 yards when cornerback Brandon Carr fell down in coverage. That left running back Ray Rice to polish off the drive from one yard out, Baltimore's lead back up to 31-23.
The Cowboys gave it one more shot. Starting on their own 20 with 4:41 left in the game, the team was able to move into Baltimore territory, even overcoming a fourth-and-10 at the Ravens' 32-yard line, before Romo finally threw to Bryant on the left side, who screened out his man for the score.
That set up the two-point conversion with 32 seconds left, and Romo went right back to Bryant on the same route. This time, however, there was no joy to be had. Bryant had the ball bounce off his hands. The receiver had to dive to his right to get the low pass, but he had the opportunity and missed it.
So the Cowboys tried the onside kick, and lo and behold, coming up with the ball at the bottom of the pile was Andre Holmes – Dallas was back in business at their own 46-yard line.
Romo immediately went deep down the right sideline to Ogletree, the pass just out of his reach, but Baltimore's Chykie Brown was called for pass interference, the Cowboys moving to the Ravens 34-yard line. One more pass to Bryant gave them a yard, which brought Bailey out to attempt a 51-yarder with six seconds remaining.
He hooked it left.
With that the Cowboys fell to 2-3 on the season, and must now get ready to hit the road again, heading to Carolina next Sunday.