Eventually, it came down to Dez Bryant not making a catch, dropping yet another pass. For once, most of the blame won’t go to Tony Romo, who along with all of the Dallas Cowboys, should be feeling good about themselves despite the 31-29 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
When it comes down to it, you can use the magnifying glass and take a closer look at three issues that lost the Cowboys the game. Dropped passes, with Dez Bryant reaching 7 on the season, 3 on the day, allowing Jacoby Jones to return a kickoff 108 yards (tying an NFL record) and terrible clock management from Jason Garrett, Tony Romo and the offensive line.
For once, it was actually a good game for the guys protecting Romo. A lot of two tight end looks allowed for the Cowboys to establish a running game early, as DeMarco Murray, later leaving the field with another injury, ran for 93 yards. Felix Jones had 92 and a touchdown. The Ravnes allowed a franchise-record 227 yards. Dallas have over 40 minutes of possession, somehow finding ways not to win the game.
There were the penalties – 15 of them, 6 in the fourth quarter alone. Dallas entered the day having committed 4 penalties per game in the 4th quarter this season, most in the NFL. Some of them were bad officiating, which was extremely poor throughout the game, mostly against Dallas, but the Cowboys got that touchdown on the penultimate drive, and eventually fell to a dropped pass on the two point conversion.
That left them with the onside kick to save the day, and they somehow managed to get it, despite the terrible odds against the onside kick move this season in the NFL. The Baltimore Ravens made the mistake of having the first line of returners forget about blocking and trying to retrieve the ball. The second line needs to retrieve, the first to block.
But the Cowboys’ final drive was a mess. The same issue of barely getting the play off on time wasted the Cowboys a last opportunity to try and give Dan Bailey decent field position for a field goal. Instead, they wasted it on arguing, not deciding if to take a timeout or spike the ball or try a quick no huddle. Instead they wasted the time on the clock and called a timeout with 6 second left, giving Dan Bailey a chance to win it from 51 yards. His kick swerved slightly to the left, and the Cowboys lost a game they should have won.
There was plenty of good things to take from this game – An offensive line that’s not disciplined, but finally able to produce some solid protection for its quarterback and create a running game on the outside, mostly thanks to Tyron Smith, adjusting to his new role as left tackle.
In the very shaky NFC East, it looks like the Giants are just a tad ahead of the rest. The Cowboys have the talent and tools to be a force in the division and make the playoffs despite the 2-3 start. They just need to get Romo, Garrett and the offensive line to stay on the same page for an entire game.