Four years ago, the 5-4 Ravens traveled to AT&T Stadium to face the 8-1 Dallas Cowboys. At the time, the Cowboys had just recently moved on from their longtime starting quarterback in Tony Romo.
Dak Prescott, a rookie, was given the reigns to the starting QB job and led his team to a very hot start to their 2016 season. Ezekiel Elliott, who was the fourth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, dominated defenses on a weekly basis and led the NFL in rushing yards by year’s end. Dez Bryant still remained the franchise wide receiver for Dallas, providing a reliable target for the young Prescott.
Joe Flacco, Terrance West, and Steve Smith Sr. headlined Baltimore's core of offensive talent. Defensively, the likes of Terrell Suggs, Zach Orr, and Lardarius Webb consistently made plays at this juncture of their careers.
Both teams vied for playoff spots in their tightly contested divisional races. This matchup was especially critical for Baltimore to keep pace with the Steelers in the AFC North and for Dallas to keep a cushion against a very consistent Giants team.
Let’s see how the game went.
After exchanging multiple three-and-outs in the first quarter, the Ravens put together a really solid drive that started back at their 10 yard line. A 27-yard pass from Flacco to Mike Wallace and a couple of long runs from West and Kenneth Dixon set the Ravens up deep in Dallas territory. An 18-yard scamper from West gave Baltimore the early 7-0 lead.
Both teams’ offenses failed to gain anything momentum after the early touchdown and again exchanged consecutive three-and-outs.
It wasn’t until midway through the second quarter that Dallas began to turn the tides of the game towards their favor. Despite committing two penalties and having a 1st-&-30, Prescott and the Cowboys regained lost ground and found themselves at a 3rd-&-6.
Prescott took a deep shot and connected with Brice Butler for a 41-yard completion to set themselves up at the Baltimore seven yard-line. On 3rd-&-Goal, Prescott rolled out and found Cole Beasley at the front-right pylon as he snuck in for a touchdown. Dallas tied it up at 7-7.
On Baltimore’s ensuing drive, they started back at their 25 yard line and began to drive as the end of the second quarter neared. With 1:37 left, Flacco and the offense put the ball in Justin Tucker range and let him nail a 46-yard field goal.
On the proceeding drive, Prescott and the Cowboys ran a two-minute drill in hopes of giving Dan Bailey a chance to tie the game. Prescott didn't have too tough of a time moving the ball on the Ravens as he didn't face a third down during the drive. Dez Bryant made multiple crucial catches to quickly end up in Baltimore territory.
Bailey tied up the game at 10-10 as he nailed a 30-yard field goal to end the first half.
Looking to go ahead in the first drive of the second half, the Ravens were unable to do so and go three-and-out. In response, Dallas, starting at their own eight yard-line, orchestrated a 10-play, 92-yard drive.
Solid play from Elliott, in addition to a 33-yard pass interference penalty, set Dallas up in prime position to extend their lead even further. A four-yard pass from Prescott to Bryant resulted in Bryant’s first touchdown of the day, giving the Cowboys a 17-10 lead.
On Baltimore’s ensuing drive, the Flacco and the Ravens were unable to convert on third down — setting up another punt.
Dallas constructed another long drive that eventually found pay dirt. A 13-play, 88-yard drive led by Elliott and Jason Witten allowed for Prescott and the Cowboys to end up in striking distance. A 13-yard pass, again from Prescott to Bryant, gave Dallas a 24-10 lead.
With 11:30 left in the fourth quarter, Flacco and the Ravens needed to score in a hurry as Dallas’ previous drive ate up a large chunk of clock — and they did just that. In only seven plays, Flacco and the Ravens went 75 yards to trim the Dallas lead to only seven. Flacco heavily relied on the play of Steve Smith Sr. and found him for a touchdown in the red zone.
Dallas now lead 24-17 following the Ravens score.
Looking to manage the clock while adding points in the process, the Cowboys meticulously constructed a long and calculated 13-play drive. The play of Elliott was especially key at this juncture of the game for the Cowboys as he consistently stayed in bounds and fought for first downs.
Dallas marched down to Baltimore’s three yard line, setting Bailey up to nail a 21-yard field goal with less than two minutes remaining in the game. Despite Flacco’s best efforts on the next drive, the Ravens were unable to score any points as a last-second Hail Mary sailed out of bounds, effectively ending the game.
Cowboys win 27-17.
What can we expect this Tuesday?
This past Wednesday, the short-handed Ravens unified for a hard-fought and collaborative team effort against the undefeated Steelers. Plays were made on both sides of the ball for the Ravens as the game always seemed to be in reach.
Strong defensive play from depth players such as Tramon Williams and Davontae Harris consistently kept Baltimore in the game. These cornerbacks will have a tough matchup against Dallas as they will go up against the likes of CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup.
Baltimore’s front seven will need to set the tone early and continue such consistency throughout the game as they figure to receive a heavy dose of Elliott and the speedy Tony Pollard.
Overall, I personally feel that the Ravens matchup very well against the Cowboys; this game presents a great opportunity for Baltimore to re-enter the playoff conversation.
While Lamar Jackson’s status for Tuesday night’s game remains up in question, the Ravens definitely have very solid odds to come away with a win and snap their three-game losing streak.
Should Jackson be held out, Trace McSorley would be the assumed starter as Robert Griffin III figures to miss time due to the lower-body injury he sustained against Pittsburgh. Based on his limited playing time, McSorley could find himself playing very well against Dallas as he found success versus one of the NFL’s best defenses in the Steelers.
Dallas comes into Week 13 with the 25th ranked defense in the league, so there’s definitely potential for McSorely, assuming he starts, to do some damage on the offensive side of the ball.
Regardless of whether Jackson plays or not, I expect the Ravens to come out on top with a victory and improve their winning record to 7-5.