ARLINGTON, Texas – Five observations after watching Cowboys (9-1) roll to their ninth straight win, 27-17, over the Ravens:
1. The Ravens (5-5) stepped up in competition and it showed.
This could be a preview of what faces the Ravens down the stretch. They didn’t play poorly, but it wasn’t good enough. They still have three tough road games on their schedule – at New England, at Pittsburgh, at Cincinnati. The AFC North is clearly up for grabs, but the Ravens saw what the team with the NFL’s best record looked like, and looked overmatched in the second half.
2. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is unflappable whether Tony Romo is in uniform or not.
Prescott keeps showing why this is his moment, his team. He was off target on several throws early, but once he settled down, he was superb. The Cowboys scored on every second half possession, and Prescott (27 for 36, 301 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions) was the catalyst. He can throw on the run, he reads defenses calmly, and he scrambles when necessary. Most of all, he wins, and he is surrounded by tremendous talent. Romo was dressed for the first time all year after a back injury, but on this team, he is simply the backup quarterback. Prescott is the man, and the in the second half, the Cowboys’ offense took over the game and wore down the Ravens’ defense.
3. Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant owned the red zone, without Jimmy Smith (back) in action.
The Ravens sorely missed Smith, their best and most physical cornerback. Bryant caught two touchdown passes, and on both of them, he simply outmuscled or outmaneuvered Ravens corners. On his first touchdown, Bryant basically boxed out Shareece Wright like he was an undersized point guard. On his second touchdown, Bryant muscled past Tavon Young to reach the end zone after Young tried to tackle him. The Ravens need a healthy Smith to matchup with top receivers. They must hope Smith’s back problems do not linger.
4. Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. is a player for the ages, regardless of his age.
Smith (eight catches, 99 yards, one touchdown) did everything in his power to bring the Ravens back. Not only did he surpass 1,000 catches for his career, Smith played with the passion he always brings. On the Ravens’ final scoring drive, he was hit hard twice after making the catch, but popped up each time unfazed. Smith cannot be intimidated. He should have a bust in Canton in his future, because his career is Hall of Fame worthy.
5. There were some encouraging signs for the Ravens’ offense.
Their 90-yard drive in the second quarter was probably their best of the season, and their 75-yard drive in the third quarter was nice as well. Joe Flacco (23 for 25, 269 yards, one TD, no interceptions) had a solid game at QB, but the Ravens’ offense didn’t have the ball enough in the second half. But the Ravens look like a better offensive team in November than they did in September and October.