A poor rushing defense against one of the best rushing offenses in the NFL? What could go possibly wrong?
As expected, the Dallas Cowboys could do little to slow down the Baltimore Ravens' ground game in losing 34-17. Even though they knew that would likely be the home team's game plan, the Cowboys still surrendered 294 rushing yards in this rare Tuesday night affair, a cringe-worthy average of 7.9 yards per carry.
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, in his first game back from being on the COVID Reserve list, sliced and diced the Dallas defense to the tune of 94 rushing yards and one touchdown, his 107 passing yards and two scoring throws almost an afterthought. He was joined by running backs Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins who added another 101 and 71 rushing yards, respectively.
On the other side of the ball, the banged-up Cowboys offensive line actually had some success against Baltimore's vaunted defense, helping Ezekiel Elliott to an average of 4.3 yards per carry for total of 77 rushing yards and for the most part giving quarterback Andy Dalton time in the pocket, allowing just one sack.
But unable to produce many big plays and hampered by three missed field goals, it wasn't nearly enough. Dalton threw for 285 yards on 31 of 48 passing, while the Cowboys overall finished with 388 total yards to Baltimore's 401.
The Cowboys jumped on the board first when, on Baltimore's first possession, Jackson's pass tipped off the hands of receiver Marquise Brown and into the waiting hands of safety Darian Thompson. Set up at the Ravens' 34-yard line, Dallas picked up another 21 yards before settling for a 31-yard field goal from Greg Zuerlein.
Unfortunately, the Ravens came right back and got on the board themselves. They went 75 yards in seven plays, working their way out of a second-and-18 with a 12-yard pass to the Dallas 37-yard line, which set up a fourth-and-2. Baltimore then turned to Jackson to pick up the first down, but the quarterback instead broke through the middle and ran untouched to the end zone, giving the home side a 7-3 lead after 15 minutes of play.
Just two snaps into second frame, the Cowboys were back in front after Dalton threw a dart to Michael Gallup in the end zone for a 13-yard scoring strike. The credit, however, should go to Tony Pollard, as Dallas' possession was set up when Pollard took the kickoff after the Ravens' score back 66 yards to the Baltimore 28-yard line.
And while the Cowboys seemingly caught a break when Justin Tucker later pushed a 36-yard field goal attempt wide left, Dalton's pass attempt on the second play of Dallas' next possession was batted up in the air at the line of scrimmage and hauled in by linebacker Patrick Queen at the Cowboys' 38-yard line. On the very next snap, Jackson found a wide open Miles Boykin for the touchdown, giving the Baltimore a lead they would never relinquish.
Dallas had a chance for a 35-yard field goal late in the quarter, but confusion prior to the snap led to a delay of game penalty. Moved back 5 yards, Zuerlein missed the 40-yarder and gave Baltimore the ball with just over two minutes remaining in the half. That was plenty of time to get in Tucker's range, his 35-yard field goal giving the Ravens a 17-10 advantage at the break.
A missed field goal at the end of the first half was followed by Zuerlein missing a 53-yard attempt on the Cowboys' first possession of the second half, the team needing to capitalize on those opportunities to stay within reach.
And things would only got worse, as on their next series the Ravens went to their bread and butter, running the ball on seven of nine plays. Two of those came on third-down scrambles by Jackson that wound up moving the chains, but it was Jackson's arm that capped the drive when the quarterback lofted a pass in the back left corner of the end zone to Brown for a 20-yard touchdown and a 24-10 lead.
Wash, rinse, repeat. On the first play of the fourth, facing a third-and-7, Dalton was sacked for an 8-yard loss. So out came Zuerlein for a 52-yard field goal, and once again he sailed his attempt wide right, the team missing out on a possible nine points.
Rubbing salt in the wounds, the Ravens were good on their next field goal try, a 22-yarder, but Dallas continued to fight and came right back with an impressive 12-play, 75-yard drive. Dalton connected on 7 of 9 pass attempts, the last of which was a strike to Amari Cooper in the back of the end zone to pull to within 10 points, 27-17.
That would be the last gasp for the Cowboys, though, as their ensuing onside kick was recovered by Baltimore. The Ravens then ran the ball six straight times to pay dirt, Dobbins getting the honors by crossing the goal line on a 5-yard run.
With that, the Cowboys fell to 3-9 on the season, their playoff hopes officially on life with four games left to play.