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Week 16 Game Recap: Baltimore Ravens 33, Dallas Cowboys 24
What you need to know
QB Joe Flacco was asked to protect the ball and the Ravens did a good job of keeping Dallas off balance with their play calling. With a floundering running game in the first half, Flacco was called upon to move the offense through the air. He was efficient in leading them to three first half field goals despite being sacked five times in the half. Playing with a lead during the second half, they were able to pick their spots passing in order to pick up needed first downs.
The rushing attack was led by LeRon McClain, who played both fullback and tailback in the offense. McClain had little success against the strong Cowboy defense during the first half, as his longest run of the half came from the fullback position. McClain was the primary ball carrier for most of the game, until the fourth quarter when he split carries with Willis McGahee.
Derrick Mason seemed to be in the right place at the right time when an important play was needed. He was able to reel in passes despite playing with a severely injured left shoulder. His biggest play was not the touchdown reception but his fumble recovery six plays earlier. The fumble recovery came at a time when Dallas was trying to get back into the game.
Tony Romo seemed to be bothered by his sore back and was unable to move the offense. The lack of a passing attack limited the offense as they were only able to get five first downs in the entire first half. Dallas was only able to score a first half touchdown due to a fumble recovery inside the ten yard line.
Tashard Choice was given the bulk of the work with Marion Barber being limited due to his toe injury. Choice showed that he is capable of being a back that is able to pick his way through holes on the inside and contribute to the offense by catching screen passes in the open field.
Dallas receivers were hurt by Romo's inaccurate passes. The receivers were not able to make plays due to balls being thrown just out of reach. There were three separate instances where, if the ball had been thrown better, the receiver could have scored an easy touchdown on a deep pass.
What you ought to know
|QB Joe Flacco, Pass: 17 - 25 - 149 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 4 - 4 - 0|
The Ravens relied on the running game to keep the pressure off of the rookie quarterback. Flacco performed well, despite being under heavy pressure for most of the first half. He was able to complete 11 of his 15 attempts during the half, but the pressure did cause some problems as he was sacked five times. Flacco had a problem holding on to the ball while being sacked, as his fumble deep in Raven territory on their first series led to an early Dallas score. He shook off the error and led the Ravens to three first half field goals. In the second half the Ravens relied on the running game and Flacco was limited in his passing opportunities with the Ravens trying to run out the clock.
|QB Troy Smith|
Troy Smith entered the game for a total of two plays. On each of the plays he lined up at quarterback and Joe Flacco lined up at receiver. Each play turned out to be a handoff, with Smith running the option on the first play.
|RB LeRon McClain, Rush: 22 - 139 - 1, Rec: 1 - 4 - 0 (1 targets)|
McClain was the game's leading rusher and showed his versatility by lining up at both fullback and tailback. He started and was on the field for the majority of the plays. He played tailback in the one back set, and sometimes when they were in the "I" formation. When Lorenzo Neal needed a break he would move to the fullback position and either block for Willis McGahee or get the ball in short yardage situations. His constant pounding took a toll on the Dallas run defense as he had limited success in the first half, but began to see some holes open in the second half against a defense that was beginning to wear down. McClain's touchdown was the final nail in the Cowboys coffin, as the Cowboys had just scored to get within two points for the second time late in the fourth quarter. He took a handoff and slipped through some tackles on the right side of the line and broke into the open field for an 82 yard score.
|RB Willis McGahee, Rush: 8 - 108 - 1, Rec: 3 - 21 - 0 (3 targets)|
Willis McGahee only saw action in the first half when LeRon McClain was being given a rest. His first action was when the Ravens decided to put Troy Smith in at quarterback to run an option. He would see his first extensive action toward the end of the first half when the Ravens got the ball in excellent field position following an Ed Reed interception. He took a screen pass for 21 yards on the first play to put the team in field goal position. In the second half he began to see more work as the team tried to keep McClain fresh. The plan worked well as they were able to keep the ball on the ground and away from the Dallas offense. McGahee made one of the game's biggest plays when he took a handoff up the middle for a 77 yard score, the longest of his career, after Dallas had just scored to pull within two points.
|RB Lorenzo Neal, Rush: 1 - 5 - 0, Rec: 1 - -1 - 0 (3 targets)|
Lorenzo Neal's value is as the blocking back in the Ravens offense. His only carry was in a short yardage situation, where he gained more than enough yards for the first down. His targets were the result of Flacco trying to get rid of the ball while facing a heavy rush.
|WR Derrick Mason, Rec: 6 - 66 - 1 (7 targets)|
Derrick Mason deserves an award for the toughness on display. His left shoulder was clearly hurting as he was lying on the turf in pain after landing on the shoulder while making two catches in the first half. They could not keep him off of the field as he would come right back and seemed to make big plays, when needed. The biggest play was on McClain's fumble recovery. The recovery was an instance of being in the right place at the right time as the ball just bounced right into his arms. He caught an easy touchdown to close out the drive as Flacco found him open in the front of the end zone and he was able to catch the ball with only one good arm.
|WR Mark Clayton, Rec: 4 - 35 - 0 (6 targets)|
Mark Clayton started at one wide out position and was the main target of the passing game while Derrick Mason was out injured for a short period in the first half. Clayton was able to get open against a defense that played mostly zone coverage, and was a reliable target with one of his missed opportunities on a play where the defender had to make an excellent play to knock the ball out in the end zone, preventing a touchdown.
|WR Marcus Smith (1 targets)|
Smith's only target came when he was on the field in relief on an injured Derrick Mason.
|TE Todd Heap, Rec: 2 - 24 - 0 (8 targets)|
Todd Heap seemed to run into a bit of bad luck as his first two targets were wiped out due to Dallas penalties. The second target was the most frustrating as only the defender holding him prevented him from catching the ball and scoring a touchdown. He did get a bit of revenge on his next target as Flacco found him open in the middle of the field and hit him in stride, getting the ball down to the five yard line and setting up their second field goal.
|PK Matt Stover 4 - 4 FG, 3 - 3 XP, 15 points|
Stover was successful on all four of his field goal attempts.
|BAL Rush Defense|
The Ravens rush defense was able to hold the Cowboys backs to a total of 92 yards rushing and only one touchdown. The rushing touchdown was a direct result of Dallas having a short field to work with on their second series. The defense clogged the middle of the field and took away the cutback lanes to keep Tashard Choice from breaking runs to the outside.
|BAL Pass Defense|
The pass defense was able to keep Tony Romo in check for three quarters by sending a strong pass rush up the middle and playing Ed Reed deep against the threat of a deep pass. Reed was able to get two interceptions in the first half by playing the deep ball; his second interception gave the Ravens excellent field position just before halftime and led to a field goal that would give them the lead for good.
|QB Tony Romo, Pass: 24 - 45 - 252 - 2 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 2 - 2 - 0 (1 targets)|
Tony Romo had one of his worst games in recent memory. It was not apparent if his back injury, suffered last week, was the cause of his problems or something else was wrong. His passes seemed to hang up in the air, giving the defensive back plenty of time to make a play on the ball. Other times he was just off target as he overthrew his receivers on deep pass plays twice, passes that would have gone for touchdowns had he been able to connect with the receivers. His inability to connect with his receivers would haunt him as the Ravens blitzed him up the middle to create pressure and try to rattle him more. It took three quarters before Romo was able to connect with his receivers with any consistency, but that was when the game appeared to be well in hand and the Ravens were giving the receivers plenty of cushion, allowing them to catch the ball underneath and not giving up the big play.
|RB Tashard Choice, Rush: 17 - 90 - 1, Rec: 7 - 25 - 0 (10 targets)|
Choice got the start and did well as the main back. On runs up the middle he waited until a hole developed before running through the line, and seemed to not want to just plow directly into the line and pick up the hard earned yards. His big plays happened when he slipped through holes between the guard and tackle and was able to get into the second level of the defense. The offense was not successful in getting him the ball outside, where he could use his speed to outrun the defenders. Romo was forced to rely on him in the passing game as he was unable to connect with any of his receivers downfield for the first three quarters.
|RB Marion Barber, Rush: 2 - 0 - 0, Rec: 1 - 7 - 0 (1 targets)|
It was reported before the game that Barber was healthy and would start. He did not start and only saw one series of action, the fourth series. He seems to be bothered by his toe injury as he lacked any burst and seemed hesitant in running the ball between the tackles.
|WR Terrell Owens, Rec: 5 - 63 - 1 (11 targets)|
Owens was frustrated on multiple fronts during the entire game. The Ravens defense played in a combo coverage that was designed to take him out of the offense and Romo was very inconsistent during the first three quarters. Owens was targeted deep downfield on two consecutive passes toward the end of the first half, the first pass was badly overthrown and the second ball was thrown into double coverage that resulted in an interception. Owens finally was able to get open during the fourth quarter as the Ravens played in softer coverage underneath and Romo was able to connect with him on shorter routes.
|WR Patrick Crayton, Rec: 3 - 58 - 0 (5 targets)|
Patrick Crayton was the third receiver in the Dallas offense and did not see any passes thrown in his direction until the fourth quarter when the Cowboys were in the process of mounting their comeback. He made some big plays, gaining first downs on his first two receptions and coming up two yards short on a third and twenty play on his third one.
|WR Roy Williams, Rec: 3 - 12 - 0 (7 targets)|
Williams started but was a non-factor in the offense. He was the target on Romo's first interception, a pass into double coverage that was picked off at the Ravens eight yard line and would lead to the first Cowboys touchdown when Joe Flacco fumbled the ball away on a sack two plays later.
|WR Miles Austin (1 targets)|
Miles Austin only saw one target, on a deep pass that was overthrown. Had Austin been able to come up with the ball he had a clear patch to the end zone.
|TE Jason Witten, Rec: 5 - 87 - 1 (6 targets)|
Witten was the only receiver that Romo was able to connect with, but he was only targeted during drives toward the end of each half. He made tough catches in traffic and took some good hits from the defenders, but was able to hold onto the ball each time. On his final reception he was injured and could be seen limping off of the field. Early reports after the game showed that he had a knee sprain.
|PK Nick Folk 1 - 1 FG, 3 - 3 XP, 6 points|
Folk connected on his only field goal attempt and was perfect on all three of his extra points.
|DAL Rush Defense|
The Dallas rush defense did an excellent job keeping the Raven backs in check until the final five plays of the game. Until that point the Ravens had only gained 116 yards on 31 carries and were having troubles running the ball successfully enough on their own to keep the clock moving. All that changed on back to back plays that resulted in long touchdown runs that broke the Cowboys back. On each play the long run was the direct result of the back breaking through the line and Dallas having nobody in the defensive backfield that stop either back after he broke free.
|DAL Pass Defense|
During the first half the pass defense was able to get some pressure on Joe Flacco, sacking him five times and causing one fumble. During the second half they were not able to get much pressure on him as the Ravens did an excellent job of mixing up the plays and keeping the defense off balance.