BALTIMORE (AP) — The three missed field goals, the seven penalties and futility on third down were not easy to take.
Those shortcomings, however, were not what jumped off the stat sheet when Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy assessed his team’s performance in a 34-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Tuesday night.
One number — 294 — was impossible to miss. That’s how many yards the Ravens gained on the ground, so many that McCarthy simply rounded it up to 300 when discussing the difficulty the Cowboys had in collaring elusive quarterback Lamar Jackson and the rest of the Baltimore backfield.
“Almost 300 yards in rushing is obviously a big factor in the outcome of the game, but their big-play production, particularly with Lamar, I thought was a huge, huge factor,” McCarthy said.
Jackson ran for a 37-yard touchdown, Gus Edwards had a 36-yarder and rookie J.K. Dobbins got 30 of his 71 yards on one impressive jaunt. The Ravens make a living running the ball, and the Cowboys — who came in ranked last in rushing defense — were powerless to defend it.
Baltimore averaged 7.9 yards per carry, with Edwards averaging a whopping 14.4 per carry in totaling 101 yards on a mere seven carries.
“This is a unique offense. A very physical offensive line and the dynamic of the combination of the running backs and Lamar,” McCarthy said. “The yards is obviously astronomical. Just when you feel like you’re taking steps as a team, the keys to the game was stopping the run and we definitely didn’t.”
That’s been perhaps the Cowboys’ most glaring problem during a season that has been disappointing on many levels. Dallas (3-9) has lost six of seven and is pretty much out of contention, even in the forgiving NFL East.
In this one, the Cowboys forced an early turnover and grabbed a 10-7 lead in the second quarter. Then, Greg Zuerlein missed field goal tries of 40, 53 and 52 yards. The offense sputtered and the defense got run over. And it was 24-10 by the end of the third quarter, and that was that.
“That’s where we are as a football team. The only one that can change that is us,” McCarthy said. “Until we take those steps of playing well in all three phases, particularly for all four quarters, you’re not going to win these kind of games.”
Andy Dalton threw a second-quarter interception on a ball that was tipped, but for the most part he did well enough to keep Dallas in the game. He went 31 for 48 for 285 yards and two scores.
But the Cowboys failed to convert nine of 15 attempts on third down, leaving Zuerlein to get his kicks from farther than he would prefer.
“There were some good things that happened tonight, but we’ve got to find a way to keep pushing, keep getting those first downs, give us a chance to score,” Dalton said.
Despite the defeat, the last-place Cowboys haven’t abandoned hope of somehow clawing their way to the top of a division that has two teams with 5-7 records sharing first place.
“We know the situation that we’re in, and all we have to worry about is us,” Dalton said. “Would we have liked to close the gap a little bit? Yes. But it is what it is, and we’ve got to keep moving forward.”
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