By Jay Betsill
Following one of the ugliest losses in recent Cowboys memory — the 34-18, five interception debacle against the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football at Cowboys Stadium — Dallas had its bye week to go over everything that went wrong and see if there were any answers on this roster to their laundry list of problems as they hit the quarter-season mark. After a convincing win over the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants to kick off the season, the Cowboys were unable to overcome early special teams gaffes and managed only one touchdown in a 27-7 meltdown loss against the Seattle Seahawks and their rookie quarterback Russell Wilson. The home opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers saw the Cowboys escape with a 16-10 victory that was aided by the replacement referees blowing a play dead when Tony Romo fumbled and the recovery by Tampa Bay’s Eric Wright was returned for a touchdown. In a league full of parity that includes a few good teams, a few bad teams and a plethora of 8-8 teams, the loss to the Bears has many NFL insiders and Cowboys fans alike questioning if Dallas simply has too many issues to be able rebound or if it was a case of a week where everything that could go wrong did go wrong.
If the first four games were pretty challenging for Dallas, the next five are bordering on horrific. Judging by what the Cowboys have shown, it is hard to see them going any better than 3-2 and more than likely going 2-3. Four of the five are on the road (Baltimore, Carolina, Atlanta and Philadelphia) sandwiching a home game against the Giants who have never lost at Cowboys Stadium. With four of the five contests also being against NFC teams that are also battling for playoff spots, the next five weeks will go along way to showing what type of team the Cowboys are this season.
Next up for the Cowboys is a trip to M&T Bank Stadium to battle the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens defense has become legendary over the past decade as it has carried them to countless victories, playoff appearances and a Super Bowl title. This season has been a change of pace as the Ravens had the NFL’s second-ranked offense through the first four weeks of the season, but it sputtered against the Kansas City Chiefs defense last week.
Baltimore had to settle for three field goals by Justin Tucker that turned out to be enough due in large part to the dominating performance by Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and the rest of the Ravens defense. They shut down running back Jamaal Charles and the rest of the Chiefs’ offense in the second half, and made a big fourth-quarter stand to depart Kansas City with a 9-6 victory. Charles had 140 yards rushing, but only 15 in the second half. Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassell threw for 92 yards, with two interceptions and two lost fumbles before leaving in the fourth quarter with what was reported as a head injury.
“This game is as hard as it gets,” Lewis said. “We knew the kind of game we were going to get out of these guys. We knew it would be a tough sled. For us to come in and just keep fighting, keep fighting, keep fighting, that’s the one thing we talked about. … Today was a big win for us.”
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had an off day as he threw for 187 yards with an interception while getting sacked four times. With offensive tackles Michael Oher and Kelechi Osemele having trouble with speed rushers on the outside against Kansas City, look for Dallas linebacker DeMarcus Ware to get pressure on Flacco.
“Games like this last year, we had a hard time winning,” said running back Ray Rice, who rushed 17 times for 102 yards. “But right now, with our veteran leadership, we’re finding ways to win. Obviously, this one felt good. We learned from our situation.”