The Cowboys fell to 2-3 and could be standing at the bottom of the NFC East after a gut-wrenching loss to the Ravens on Sunday. During some points of the game, Dallas looked like they could play with the big boys of the NFL, but the same problems that they have been having for what seems like forever reared their heads again.
There isn't much joy when your team loses in the fashion the Cowboys did, but there are some moral victories to be had. Dallas appears to have solved some of their issues along the offensive line; this hasn't been a line capable of being physical and driving the defensive line back, but they did on Sunday. They carved the Ravens up to the tune of 227 yards, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. If the Cowboys can run the football like that against physical teams like the Ravens, they have an important tool going forward.
Dez Bryant had a fantastic game against the Ravens. He didn't make the mental errors and mistakes we saw him make against the Bears. I know he is going to get blasted for not converting the two-point conversion at the end of the game, but Bryant made plays the entire game. If not for him, the Cowboys would have not been in the position to win at all.
Putting all that aside, let's get into the four keys that caused Dallas to lose to Baltimore:
The Cowboys have been one of the most penalized teams in the NFL the past couple of years. This was an issue that dates back to when Wade Phillips was the head coach. Dallas was penalized 13 times for 82 yards against the Ravens.
It's not only the penalties that the Cowboys are committing; it's the type of penalties. Doug Free continues to have his issues with false starts. The holding penalties against Tyron Smith in my opinion were ticky-tacky, but you cannot continue to make these types of mistakes in NFL football games. Most of the time, you will lose if you are penalized more than the other team.
On the other side of this, some of the penalties called against the Cowboys today were terrible calls. Now usually I don't complain about penalties or officials publicly, but Dallas got hosed today on some of the calls.
The pass interference call on Morris Claiborne was one of the worst calls I have ever seen in the secondary this year. Claiborne went up for the pass intended for wide receiver Torrey Smith, but Claiborne was looking back for the football the entire time. Claiborne never interfered with Smith, but there was incidental contact. That should have either been a push off on Smith or a non-call.
Perhaps the worst call of the day (even Brian Billick said the call was terrible during the broadcast) was the illegal chop block called on Felix Jones. Felix engaged one defender and went low for the block. This is something that running backs do basically every time they block on a passing play.
The penalties are hurting the Cowboys, but so are the officials.
Tony Romo's Interception
I have been a big defender of Tony Romo, but my patience is beginning to wear thin. Romo played a very good game outside of one play. I do want to be clear here before I move on, Tony Romo is not the reason the Dallas Cowboys lost the game to the Ravens.
Romo was labeled a "gunslinger" early into his career, but we are beginning to see some of that come back into Romo's game. He hasn't been very careful with the football recently. Now there have been a lot of mistakes made by his offensive line and wide receivers, so some of his turnovers should be attributed to them, but Romo has also made some costly mistakes that were all on him.
It's a tie game and the Cowboys have a third and ten at the Baltimore 35. This is where Romo needs to be more careful with the football. Romo sails the ball past Kevin Ogletree and cornerback Cary Williams intercepts the football. The Ravens drove down the field and Joe Flacco connected with Torrey Smith to put the Ravens up 17-10. That interception swung the game and momentum back to the Ravens.
Jacoby Jones 108-Yard Kickoff Return
Special teams coach Joe DeCamillis should probably be let go after this season. Some people around the NFL claim that DeCamillis is head coach material, but I am not so sure about that. Over the years, the Cowboys have allowed way too many big plays in the special teams department. Think about every tough loss in the past three seasons. I guarantee you that you will remember one play on special teams that allowed the opposing team to take control of the game.
Clock Management/Game Management
This is all on Jason Garrett. For the most part, Garrett actually called a very good football game against the Ravens. He was able to get physical and run the football all game long. He also dialed up some nice plays in the passing game, but he didn't take enough shots down the field in my opinion.
After the Cowboys recovered the onside kick, Dallas had around 30 seconds left and one timeout. The deep play down the field to Ogletree led to a pass interference penalty that set the Cowboys up for a great opportunity to get a few more yards to make a game winning field goal opportunity easier.
Garrett had Dez Bryant run a shallow pattern that resulted in a gain of one yard. This was actually a good play call, but I believe that Romo should have led Bryant more in his route. Had he done that, Dez would have caught the ball in stride and may have been able to break some tackles.
Instead of getting one more play off, the Cowboys are forced to take their last timeout and have Dan Bailey kick a 51-yard field goal. Keep in mind that there were 19 seconds left, but the Cowboys couldn't get the play in for Romo to run. Inexcusable in my opinion, you need to get up there and get another play off.
This is where clock and game management come into play. I place all of the blame on Jason Garrett here because he is the head coach and calls the plays for the offense.
Had Garrett called up a better play designed to pickup more yards, the Cowboys could have been a shorter field goal attempt for kicker Dan Bailey. The Cowboys have had issues with this dating back to last year. You have to wonder if Garrett has learned anything about these type of issues as a head coach and play caller.