The Dallas Cowboys weren't supposed to win this game. The Baltimore Ravens had won 14 straight home games coming in, and so on the surface, it would seem as though the Cowboys should be able to take solace in the fact they played well and fell only two points short in Baltimore. Besides, if you're going to lose, you want to do so on the road against non-conference foes like the Ravens.
But the problem is that the Cowboys outplayed the Ravens for much of the day, losing mainly because they again lacked the focus and the organization required of a quality team.
The football gods were on the Cowboys' side in Baltimore. The highly-criticized running game was rolling despite the loss of DeMarco Murray, and the well-rested Cowboys were lucky enough to face a Ravens team without Terrell Suggs. On top of that, top Baltimore corner Lardarius Webb went down early with a knee injury and Haloti Ngata was less than 100 percent.
But Dallas couldn't take advantage in order to earn a victory that would have been a large bonus.
Down eight in the final minutes, the offense looked confused and panicked. It wasn't getting set quickly enough coming out of huddles, and Tony Romo was often forced to rush his cadence. It took 35 yards worth of penalties on that drive alone, but still found its way into the end zone.
That's a testament to how good this team can be, but Dez Bryant's foreseeable drop on the ensuing two-point conversion was a testament to how unpolished this team is.
It got worse.
Dallas got two more breaks in the final moments and failed to take advantage. It recovered an onside kick and then drew a pass-interference penalty on a pass that, without the infraction, may or may not have been caught by Kevin Ogletree. As a result, it was at the Baltimore 34, down two, with 26 seconds to play.
When you're inside the 35-yard line with 26 seconds and a timeout and you're only able to run one more play before forcing your kicker to take a shot from 51 yards out, you've defined poor game management.
Romo appeared to panic on first down, failing to go through progressions despite only mild pressure coming and throwing to Bryant underneath for a one-yard gain that kept the clock running. But rather than use that last timeout and throw a pass or two toward the sidelines to shorten Dan Bailey's game-winning attempt, Romo inexplicably tried to call a play on the fly, couldn't get it together and finally used that timeout with only four seconds on the clock.
The Cowboys didn't have a plan in place and let 18 seconds expire before settling for a difficult field goal. Ray Lewis was one of many of us who were confused...
Bryant deserves heat for another big drop, but this loss is on Romo and Jason Garrett. That duo are responsible for managing key situations on offense, and they failed to execute on Sunday. The result was another painful loss for a team that might lead the NFL in that category all-time. What has to be so agonizing for fans is that they clearly have the talent, but nobody shoots themselves in the foot as often and as uniquely as the Dallas Cowboys.
Does anyone expect that to change? And if it doesn't, how long before Jerry Jones does something extreme?