The Cowboys vanquished the Ravens 27-17 Sunday at AT&T Stadium in a ground-and-pound style that took a while to get going but kicked in when it counted and then went airborne at just the right time.
"We’ve got a great team that believes in ourselves,'' said Dallas rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, an engineer of a franchise regular-season record ninth straight win. "We’re not going to flinch, we’re not going to blink.”
With 8:16 left in the game after the Ravens narrowed the Cowboys' lead to 24-17 thanks to a 5-yard touchdown catch by Steve Smith from Joe Flacco, Dallas needed to grind up yards to melt the clock and give Baltimore a ghost of a chance to win the game. The Cowboys drove 72 yards in 13 plays and went 1-for-2 on third downs and forced the Ravens to call all three of their timeouts. Dan Bailey's 21-yard field goal with 1:50 left in the game gave Dallas a 10-point lead, which was insurmountable with that dearth of game time remaining.
"We stayed at it and the offensive line and [Ezekiel Elliott] and receivers,'' Prescott, who finished the game going 27-for-36 for 301 yards and three touchdowns, told CBS Sports postgame. "It was a great win."
Prescott had help from his friends in the passing game. Receiver Dez Bryant caught six passes for 80 yards and two touchdowns. Wideout Cole Beasley caught five passes for 59 yards and a touchdown, and tight end Jason Witten caught five passes for 37 yards.
So in the end, everybody eats.
"Witt,'' said Ezekiel Elliott, bouncing around a playful Cowboys post-win locker room, "has been playing football longer than I've been alive!"
But it wasn't all fun and games. The running attack wasn't as spectacular against the No. 1-ranked rush defense in the NFL as it'd been previously. Rookie running back Elliott was only able to gain 97 yards on 25 carries as the team amassed 118 yards on 30 carries total.
"It's a good defense," head coach Jason Garrett said of the Ravens. "So, we knew what the challenges were going to be. It was not going to be easy to run the football in this game. We had to be persistent with that. I think over the course of the game we continued to wear them down and made some bigger runs as the game wore on."
Flacco finished the game 23-for-35 for 269 yards and a touchdown. Smith led all Ravens receivers with 99 yards and a touchdown on eight catches while receiver Mike Wallace caught five passes for 62 yards.
The Ravens did find their groove in the first quarter and went with a strategy uncommon for the fifth-worst rushing offense in the NFL by involving running backs Kenneth Dixon and Terrance West. Four of their plays on the six-play scoring drive were runs, and three of them went for 20 yards, 16 yards, and 18 yards.
Dallas got its best field position of the first half at their own 48-yard line thanks to a holding call on the Ravens' punt. But the Cowboys went backwards with Travis Frederick blocking above the waist and Tyron Smith getting pegged for a holding call when the defender clearly fell down. Staring a first-and-30 in the face from their own 28-yard line, Prescott scrambled for 12 yards, and then he hit Bryant for another 12 yards on a second-and-18. On third-and-6, Prescott hit Brice Butler for a 41-yard pass to get inside the red zone.
Said Garrett about facing a first-and-30: "We all tell ourselves, 'Hey, let's get some of this back. Let's just chip away at this. Let's just give ourselves the best chance.' And often times in those situations they play a little softer on defense, you get an opportunity to chip away at it. And made two big plays and then got to a third-and-manageable. Again, I thought the decision making and execution by Dak was outstanding and guys made plays around him."
The Cowboys weren't able to score quickly off a 4-yard Prescott rush and an incomplete pass to Witten in the back of the end zone. On third-and-goal from the 3-yard line, Prescott scrambled right and found Beasley toe-tapping in the front corner of the end zone to put the Cowboys on the board and tie the game 7-7.
After the Ravens drove 47 yards in nine plays to take a 10-7 lead on a 46-yard Justin Tucker field goal, they left Dallas with 1:37 and a timeout to either tie the game or take the lead. The Cowboys drove 10 plays and allowed Dan Bailey to kick a 30-yard field goal to send the game into halftime knotted up at 10-10.
Dallas forced the Ravens into a three-and-out to start the second half and then took the ball 92 yards in 10 plays for a 4-yard touchdown catch by Bryant with 7:37 to go in the third quarter.
After another Ravens punt, the Cowboys started their drive at their own 12-yard line with 4:24 left in the third quarter. Like before, Dallas capped off the 88-yard drive in 13 plays with another touchdown toss to Bryant to give the Cowboys a 24-10 lead with 11:37 left in the game.
Now, the Cowboys have to turn around quickly as they have a range war on Thanksgiving with Washington coming to AT&T Stadium.
"Every team in the National Football League plays on a Thursday," Garrett said about the quick turnaround. "It's not unique to us. As a coaching staff, you have to do a good job. We've done preparation on them. We've played them this year. We spent some time during the bye week. So, we'll get all of that together here in the next few hours and have a good practice with our team."
5:35 1st Quarter -- Terrance West rushes for an 18-yard touchdown. 7-0 Ravens
6:01 2nd Quarter -- Cole Beasley catches a 3-yard touchdown pass from Dak Prescott. 7-7
1:42 2nd Quarter -- Justin Tucker kicks a 46-yard field goal. 10-7 Ravens
0:08 2nd Quarter -- Dan Bailey kicks a 30-yard field goal. 10-10
7:37 3rd Quarter -- Dez Bryant catches a 4-yard touchdown pass from Dak Prescott. 17-10 Cowboys
11:37 4th Quarter -- Dez Bryant catches a 13-yard touchdown pass from Dak Prescott. 24-10 Cowboys
8:21 4th Quarter -- Steve Smith catches a 5-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco. 24-17 Cowboys
1:54 4th Quarter -- Dan Bailey kicks a 21-yard field goal. 27-17 Cowboys
* This is the fourth time in Cowboys history the club has started 9-1. None of the previous three teams won the Super Bowl.
* Dan Bailey surpassed Rafael Septien for the most Cowboys field goals made with 163.
* This is the first time since Dec. 28, 2014 Dez Bryant has had a multi-TD game.
* Jason Witten is at 1,069 catches for his career -- you know, since for some reason we had to emphasize career catches in today's game.
* Dak Prescott now has as many 300-yard games as Tony Romo did from 2014-15 with two.
* With 97 rushing yards Sunday, Ezekiel Elliott ties DeMarco Murray and Emmitt Smith for the most consecutive games with at least 90 yards rushing with eight.
* Elliott is also the new Cowboys rookie rushing record holder with 1,102 yards.
THE FINAL WORD
"The big thing is for us to process this game quickly and move forward ... We've got to get our eyes onto preparation quickly.'' -- Jason Garrett.null