Thanks for joining us! That was a dominant performance by the Ravens, and hopefully one that will get them back on track in the playoff race. Be sure to check back later, as this article will be turned into a takeaways piece that dives deeper into this primetime matchup.
The Baltimore Ravens needed this game to remain in the playoff picture, and they got it by pummeling the Dallas Cowboys in a 34-17 victory at M&T Bank Stadium. It was a game that carried a ton of headlines due to the fact it was postponed three times due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the Baltimore Ravens organization, and the novel coronavirus would have at least one more thing to say before this rare interconference matchup got underway. Dez Bryant, the Cowboys legend and current Ravens wide receiver, saw his chance at a revenge game disappear when he tested positive only minutes ahead of kickoff.
Even without Bryant, though, reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson gave the Cowboys defense all it can handle and more. Jackson himself returned from the reserve/COVID list, and it took him no time to find his groove, running for a 37-yard rushing touchdown on fourth-and-2, the longest rushing TD by a quarterback against the Cowboys in the franchise's history. Dallas would answer with a 67-yard kick return by Tony Pollard to set up a 13-yard touchdown by wideout Michael Gallup, but an interception by linebacker Patrick Queen led to a Jackson touchdown toss to Myles Boykin on the very next play to delete a missed field goal by Justin Tucker -- the errant kick matched by Greg Zuerlein delivering one of his own.
It was still a battle going into the second half, but a second Zuerlein miss set up Jackson to drive down the field and throw an absolute dime to Marquise "Hollywood" Brown to make it a two-touchdown lead, and the Ravens never looked back. In all, Zuerlein left nine points on the field with three missed field goals and the Ravens offense pounded the Cowboys to dust with 294 combined rushing yards, falling just six yards shy of having two 100-yard rushers on the evening. At one point, Jackson was seen laughing at the Dallas defense, which tells you all you need to know about how this supposed fight went.
The final score was much closer than the game itself truly was, as the Ravens got softer in coverage with a big lead before finally nailing the coffin closed. The complete post-game breakdown is on the way. For now, be sure to peruse the live blog below to catch all of the highlights from the Ravens beatdown of the spiraling Cowboys.
Why the Ravens won
Utter dominance in the trenches will increase the likelihood of a win -- always.
It was never set to be a major challenge for the Ravens entering this game. After all, they were getting a well-rested Jackson and Mark Ingram back from the reserve/COVID list and were up against a Cowboys defense that isn't only ravaged by injury, but also by poor play. That meant they truly could've aired it out and likely still landed a victory, but instead they chose to exploit the interior defensive line and linebacker corps, as most teams have done when Mike Nolan's bunch takes the field. From there, the Ravens owned time of possession and consistently extended drives with Jackson's mobility and basically anyone who could take a handoff from him.
The only true hurdle the Ravens offense had to overcome was the stellar play of nickel corner Jourdan Lewis in coverage, who also helped generate an interception by safety Darian Thompson early in the game. Thompson went on to play poorly thereafter, but Lewis continued to do his job, which turned out to be inconsequential because no one outside DeMarcus Lawrence consistently joined him in doing so. Jackson turned linebacker Leighton Vander Esch into a dreidel on multiple occasions, and was even seen laughing at (with) Jaylon Smith following a key first down conversion late in the game.
After dropping three straight, seeing their playoff destiny begin to slip between their fingers and beginning to hear talk of how they're not as good as they think they are, playing the Cowboys was apparently just what the doctor ordered for the Ravens.
Why the Cowboys lost
They got ran over like a possum taking a nap in the middle of an expressway, that's why.
Giving up 294 combined rushing yards will almost always result in a loss, and even more so when the opposing quarterback accounts for 94 of those yards. Jackson didn't need a big game with his arm to dismantle the discombobulated Cowboys, but he added two passing touchdowns on 12 of 17 passing anyway. And while Andy Dalton didn't have his worst game of the season for Dallas -- completing 31 of 48 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns -- he threw a key interception to linebacker Patrick Queen that led to a Myles Boykin touchdown catch-and-run on the very next play. He also could've had a second that would've preceded and deleted the touchdown toss to Amari Cooper in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, but it was ruled incomplete (but was it, though?).
And, as mentioned above, leaving nine points on the field by way of three missed field goals when your defense can't stop anyone and your offense is struggling to score only twists the knife that much more.
Essentially coming off of a bye week for the second time this season (yes, the Cowboys have basically had two now because of the aforementioned postponements of this game), Dallas has come out flat and unprepared to stop its opponent. Now sitting at 3-9 on the season, the Cowboys were hoping to match serve with the New York Giants and Washington Football Team, who both landed huge upsets on Sunday, but instead head home just that: upset.
Jackson couldn't be stopped on the ground and, for good measure, reminded the Cowboys he could also ruin their day in the air -- this dime to Brown stretching the lead to 14 points and putting far too much pressure on an inept Dallas offense to play catch up.
Play of the game
This play by Lamar Jackson set the tone for the entire game. On fourth-and-2, he tears off a 37-yard rushing touchdown and puts Vander Esch in a blender in the process. The Cowboys simply had no answer for the Ravens rushing attack.
A Twilight Zone moment
"Great team win!!" -- Dez Bryant to the Ravens, via Twitter
The Ravens will try to string wins together when they face the surging Cleveland Browns on Monday night in what could be the most exciting game of Week 14, while the Cowboys find themselves with only four days to prepare for the Cincinnati Bengals with the hopes of avoiding a 10th loss.
Catch all the highlights and action from you might've missed in the live blog below.