By Dwain Price
This past Tuesday was the first time in the Dallas Cowboys’ illustrious 60-year history that they ventured out and played a game on a Tuesday. And judging by the results, they probably wish they’ll never have to play another game on a Tuesday.
The Baltimore Ravens bludgeoned the Cowboys’ run defense for a whopping 294 yards rushing en route to running past Dallas, 34-17, in a game played at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. The loss dropped the Cowboys to 3-9 and two games behind both the New York Giants and the Washington Football Team with just four games remaining in the regular season.
Ravens running back Gus Edwards rushed for 101 yards on just seven carries, and quarterback Lamar Jackson added 94 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries as Baltimore had its way in flying by the Cowboys with a gritty ground game. In all, the Ravens averaged a robust 7.9 yards per running play – a number that demoralized the Cowboys’ defense.
“Almost 300 yards rushing (by Baltimore) is obviously a big factor in the outcome of the game,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said. “Their big play production, particularly with Lamar, I thought was a huge factor in the outcome of the game.
“Just when you feel like you’re taking some steps as a team, the keys to the game was stopping the run and we definitely didn’t get that done.”
One play in particular that bothered the Cowboys occurred after Michael Gallup hauled in a 13-yard touchdown to put Dallas ahead, 10-7, less than a minute into the second quarter. Shortly thereafter, Jackson bolted through the line untouched and scampered 37 yards for a TD to give the Ravens a 14-10 lead.
It was the longest touchdown run ever by a quarterback against the Cowboys, and linebacker Leighton Vander Esch totally took the blame.
“That was on me,” he said. “I read the play right off the bat, and I should have just fit my assignment.
“I read it perfectly until I second-guessed myself and thought (Jackson) handed it to the running back, but that wasn’t my job. So, I need to do my job.”
Vander Esch didn’t believe the Cowboys were disciplined enough on defense to win this game.
“I don’t think we played very good team defense as a whole,” he said. “Obviously it was not a very good night at all and I think we just got to stick together, we got to lean on each other and trust each other and have confidence going in the game that we’re going to go out there and everybody is going to do their job, including myself.
“I just don’t think we were there in a lot of areas.”
That includes the field goal unit as Greg Zuerlein kicked a 31-yard field goal, but also missed three other make-able field goals from 40, 52 and 53 yards.
“We’ve got a lot to clean up,” said running back Ezekiel Elliott, who rushed 18 times for 77 yards. “We’ve got to play clean football.”
Speaking of clean, Ravens wide receiver Dez Bryant took a coronavirus test before the game, and when the results came back positive, he was asked to leave the field less than an hour before kickoff. Bryant had an inconclusive coronavirus test returned earlier Tuesday, and that was why a second test was administered.
Bryant, who played for the Cowboys from 2010-’17 and was really looking forward to playing against his former team for the first time, was on the field doing warmups when he was asked to leave. Needless to say, he didn’t take the news lightly.
Before, during and after the game, Bryant sent out a series of tweets on his Twitter account, one saying: “Yea I’m going to go ahead and call it a quit for the rest of the
season. I can’t deal with this.” Another tweet said: “I’m about to drink some wine and cope.”
Then, after settling down and admitting that he indeed will continue to play this season, Bryant tweeted: “If you guys are with me tonight, post your glass of wine.”
McCarty said he didn’t know the details of why Bryant wasn’t able to play.
“I was informed as I was walking on the field before the kickoff,” McCarthy said. “Obviously if it is the case (of Bryant testing positive for COVID-19), you feel bad that he has the virus.”
Meanwhile, Cowboys quarterback Andy Dalton completed 31-of-48 passes for 285 yards and a pair of touchdowns. However, the Cowboys’ offense stalled too many times inside or near the red zone.
“We made it tougher on the kicks,” said Dalton, who also threw an interception that directly led to a Baltimore touchdown. “We’ve got to find a way to convert first downs in those situations, keep drives alive and get down there and score touchdowns.
“I thought (the offensive line) communicated really well, I thought the guys played really well and gave me time back there.”
Time, unfortunately, is not what the Cowboys have plenty of if they plan on winning the NFC East. The Giants and the Washington Football Team are tied for first place in the division with 5-7 records, and Washington also owns the tie-breaker over Dallas by virtue of its 2-0 sweep of the Cowboys this season.
None of that, McCarthy said, is something he shared with his team.
“I think it’s known,” McCarthy said. “Frankly, we need to play better, we need to perform better.”
The next time the Cowboys will get to perform will be on a short week as they battle the Bengals in Cincinnati on Sunday at noon.
“We know the situation that we’re in,” Dalton said. “All we have to worry about is us. Just control what we can control and see how this whole thing shakes out.”
Elliott agreed, saying: “A short turnaround is always tough, but it is what it is. That’s kind of how this year has went. Just kind of have to do things on the fly.
“We’ve got a short turnaround, but we just got to make the most of it. We’ve got to make sure we’re prepared mentally. Physically, we’ve got to get our bodies right and we’ve got to get ready for a quick turnaround and get ready to go play Cincinnati.”
And most of all, as Dalton said, don’t complain about things out of their control.
“We’ve got a short week,” McCarthy said. “We need to go beat Cincinnati. The fourth quarter of the season is upon us and our goal is to finish strong, but it definitely starts with a win in Cincinnati.”