Cowboys vs. Ravens: Baltimore's Biggest Winners and Losers from Week 6
The 2012 Baltimore Ravens just seem to love playing games close and flirting with the possibility of defeat. For what is now the fourth week in a row, the game came down to the final possession, as the Ravens let the Dallas Cowboys stay in the game right down to the end.
That end came with a missed field goal, this time not one from a Ravens kicker. Instead, Dan Bailey was wide left on a 51-yard field goal with only six seconds remaining in the game.
The missed field goal preserved an uglier-than-ugly 31-29 victory as the Ravens won their 14th consecutive home game and improved to 5-1 on the season. Losses by both the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers this week have now given the Ravens a comfortable two-game lead in the division. Given the recent style of play, it's one that they are likely going to need.
Is it sustainable for a team to play like this and yet still keep racking up wins? Conventional wisdom would say "no," yet the Ravens have now won four straight games by a touchdown or less. Usually, better teams will find a way to win—even if it takes weaknesses being exposed during the course of the game.
For now, the Ravens have very little time to celebrate this win, as they must prepare for a huge clash with the undefeated Houston Texans. Before looking ahead to that game, let's take a look at some of the highs and lows from Sunday's game.
Winner: Joe Flacco
It's frequently been said that elite quarterbacks are the players that you know will drive you down the field and win the game for you. Judging by that standard, Joe Flacco's performance fits the bill as elite.
Flacco went 17-for-26 for 234 yards and one passing touchdown. The touchdown came in the second quarter when Flacco threw a 19-yard pass down the sideline to Torrey Smith.
It was mostly a good day for Flacco, as he appeared sharp and easily completed passes when he was provided protection. However, he and the offense as a whole seemed to disappear in the third quarter. The offense failed to get a first down till midway through the fourth quarter, and were it not for Jacoby Jones' kick-return touchdown, this could have been the point when the Cowboys took the game away.
Thankfully, the offense was good in the first half and its red-zone trips were successful throughout the whole day. Even though two of the touchdowns were rushing touchdowns by Ray Rice, Flacco deserves credit for leading the offense there.
Through six games, Flacco now has 1,690 passing yards on the year. That ranks him fourth in the NFL and certainly suggests that he's on his way to becoming elite.
Loser: Lardarius Webb
Lardarius Webb does not fall into the losing category because of his play on the field today. He was actually really good today, as he was able to neutralize Dez Bryant during the first quarter.
Unfortunately, Webb's good day did not last longer than that. Webb left the game in the first quarter after injuring his left knee while he was trying to make a cut. Instead of making the cut, Webb crumpled to the ground and had to be helped off of the field by trainers—he could barely put any weight on his foot.
The injury looked serious, and now it looks very likely that Webb could be gone for the rest of 2012 with a torn ACL (via ProFootballTalk.com). This is a huge loss for the Ravens, as Webb is a potential Pro Bowler who is easily the best cornerback on the roster.
Now, Jimmy Smith will look to start alongside Cary Williams while Corey Graham comes in on nickel packages. Smith has struggled with consistency throughout his career, so he will clearly need to step up if he is to successfully replace Webb.
Winner: Jacoby Jones
The Ravens did not pick up a first down during the entire third quarter. The Cowboys, on the other hand, dominated time of possession and put up 10 points.
Still, the Ravens did put up seven points in the third quarter. This time, it was finally special teams that scored the points. Jacoby Jones caught Dan Bailey's kickoff deep in the end zone, and instead of kneeling for the touchback, Jones decided to run it out.
The decision proved to be a good one. Not only did Jones score a kick-return touchdown, but he tied the record for longest kickoff-return touchdown in NFL history. His 108-yard kickoff return tied him with returns from Ellis Hobbs and Randall Cobb in 2007 and 2011, respectively.
With Jones now having scored the Ravens first kickoff-return touchdown since 2010, he should have returner duties all to himself. Between that and his contributions as a third-string receiver, Jones is looking like a good acquisition from last spring's free-agency period.
Loser: Haloti Ngata
Even with an injured knee today, Haloti Ngata was not on his game at all. Ngata was pushed around and was mostly dominated by the Cowboys offensive line. His struggles were part of the reason why the Ravens allowed a franchise-record 227 rushing yards to the Cowboys.
Things got worse, though, when Ngata got injured. He left the game during the second quarter and although he returned, he didn't really do all that much afterwards.
Ngata finished the day with five tackles and one sack. The defense in general was awful today, as the Cowboys racked up 481 total yards of offense.
With Ray Lewis, Lardarius Webb and Ngata all nursing injuries, it now looks like the worst could still be to come. This is clearly not the Ravens defense of years past.
Winner: Michael Oher
Michael Oher has taken some heat for playing poorly in past weeks, so it's only fair if he receives proper attention when he does well. This week was arguably his best performance of the season. Oher did a great job protecting Joe Flacco from DeMarcus Ware and the Cowboys' fearsome pass rush.
Ware had only one tackle and one sack. That Ware sack was the only sack that the entire offensive line allowed during the game. Oher and Bobbie Williams both deserve credit for basically shutting down the pass rush and giving Joe Flacco time to throw the ball.
Oher was also very solid in run blocking. Even though Ray Rice failed to eclipse 100 yards rushing, he still got two red-zone rushing touchdowns thanks to the great blocking he had.
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