Baltimore travelled to Dallas with the hope of defeating the hottest team in the NFL, but came away with a demoralizing defeat. Joe Flacco was correct when he said the Ravens should win that game. With the amount of veteran leadership on the team, Baltimore should be able to march into Dallas and come out on top. Even if Dallas has some rare rookie mojo this season in Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.
After a first half in which the Ravens looked like the superior team, Dak Prescott connected with Dez Bryant for two second half touchdowns that proved to be enough for the Dallas victory. While the rookies have been getting most of the attention this season, players like Bryant shouldn’t be an afterthought.
Baltimore gave it their best shot and came away empty. Fortunately for the team, they remain on top of the AFC North even after Pittsburgh’s victory over Cleveland. Here are my thoughts on Sunday’s game.
What I Liked
- Aggressive First Half. For a team that has been known to start slow, the Ravens wanted to make a statement in the first half. The defense looked good without arguably their best player (Jimmy Smith). They slowed down Ezekiel Elliott and for the most part contained the passing game. The offense was aggressive with passes down the field and the line opened big holes in the run game. After the first half, the team did not look the same.
- AFC North Standings. If there is anything positive to take away from this defeat, it is that Baltimore still sits atop the North. The team would have gained major confidence and momentum had they won, but all is not lost in Baltimore. The team still has three divisional games ahead of them, and plenty to be confident about this season.
- Marshal Yanda. A quiet, tough, veteran leader on this team. Yanda is widely regarded as one of the toughest players in the NFL, and consistently rates among the top three linemen in the league. The guard has been nursing a right shoulder injury this season that has kept him out of three games. This week, he requested to move to Left Guard to take advantage of his healthy left shoulder and contribute on the field. Yanda is an ultimate team player and is willing to play any position on the offensive line. He is likely to play alongside Ronnie Stanley going forward due to Alex Lewis’ ankle injury. Yanda’s presence could contribute a positive development to the rookie first-round pick.
- Steve Smith Sr. Congratulations to Smith Sr. for recording his 1,000th career catch. Smith Sr. is the heart and soul of Baltimore’s offense, and is proving that age is just a number. After Dallas went up 24-10, he responded with 3 catches, 44 yards, and a touchdown on the following drive.
What I Didn’t Like
- Offense Disappearing. The first half was great for Baltimore. Second half? Not so much. The reason for that is both the offense and defense couldn’t keep up with their first half performances. The offense was nonexistent for much of the second half, except for Smith Sr.’s touchdown drive. That affected the defense’s performance as well. The defense is reliable, but cannot be expected to keep offenses like Dallas from scoring every drive our offense does not.
- Defense Without Jimmy Smith. Smith must be viewed as one of the top three most important players on this team by now. The defense with him is much better than the defense without him. Yes, the defense has players like C.J. Mosley, Eric Weddle, and Brandon Williams as well, but they need Jimmy Smith on the field to cover No. 1 Wide Receivers. Without him, players like Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham Jr. have field days against the Ravens defense.
- Abandoning The Run. This 2016 offense has a knack for abandoning the run game too early, even when they are having success. Terrance West looked like he was on the way to a productive game when he took his second carry 18 yards for a touchdown. He ended the day with only 8 carries for 42 yards to go along with Kenneth Dixon’s 6 carries for 40 yards. Baltimore ran the ball two times for 6 yards in the second half, with all 6 yards coming from a Flacco scramble. The game was tied and West/Dixon had 82 first half yards, there was no reason to abandon that momentum.
- Losing To The No. 1 Cowboys. The Cowboys entered this game with the best record in the league, and then added to it. Dallas is not invincible by any means, and the Ravens knew that, but they still couldn’t get it done. In years past under John Harbaugh, this is the type of game the Ravens would go on the road and win. For the first half of the game it was looking like another one of those games. Baltimore faltered in the final half and lost the game, but the season is far from lost.
- Normally, a game like this would give the team some kind of boost in morale, but this game is different. There were no moral victories in this one. The Ravens fought hard, as they always do, but lost to a team that is red hot. Baltimore is still the top squad in the North, and that is important. The team must move on from this defeat quickly, and look forward to the rest of the season.
Week Twelve Preview
- The Cincinnati Bengals are coming to town this Sunday for their first of two matchups this season. The Bengals are having the worst season under Andy Dalton’s tenure, and just suffered two major blows to their offense. A. J. Green and Giovani Bernard were both injured against the Buffalo Bills, and will not be available for this week’s game. Green has been a “Raven Killer” in years past, being a major contributor to the Bengals’ current five-game win streak over Baltimore. This is a must win for Baltimore.