Since winning their opener 44-13, the Ravens have had their last five games decided by a combined 14 points.
Sunday’s 31-29 win over the Dallas Cowboys was the latest anxiety-inducing, knee-rattling game in a string of them. And this one had a dynamite finish for those wearing purple.
The Ravens might’ve allowed a team-record 227 rushing yards against them, lost several defensive starters and let Dallas close an 11-point deficit to two in the final minutes, and on top of that get in position to win the game if kicker Dan Bailey could’ve converted a 51-yard field goal.
But in the end, Baltimore was able to do what it has in three of its first four tight games this season and win.
The Ravens have now won four straight since a one-point loss at Philadelphia and 14 straight games at M&T Bank Stadium in improving to 5-1 with a nice cushion atop the AFC North, as Cincinnati lost to Cleveland to slip to 3-3.
“I’m just proud of this team. It was a team victory,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Was it perfect? Was it pretty? No. And I’m sure that’s all stuff that will get written about, and it’s all fine. But a victory is still a victory. I’m proud of these guys for understanding and figuring out a way to win. We do have a bunch of fighters on this team. We have a bunch of fighters on this football team.”
As for those tense moments at the end, where the Cowboys went from sure-losers to in position for a game-winning kick, Harbaugh described them as “emotional,” even though he declined to describe those emotions.
Baltimore led 24-13 until 3:19 remained in the third quarter and then held a 31-23 advantage until 32 seconds remained in the game.
But that’s when quarterback Tony Romo connected with Dez Bryant for their second touchdown hook-up of the day, cutting the Ravens’ lead to two. The following two-point try went awry, as the ball went off Bryant’s hands in the front left of the end zone, forcing Dallas to go for an onside kick. And the Cowboys got the ball back when Andre Holmes recovered it.
“It was, ‘Let’s keep them out of field-goal range.’ That was what was going through my mind,” Harbaugh said. “I thought (defensive coordinator Dean Pees) came up with some very good calls there. And our guys executed them well.”
But a pass interference call on Baltimore cornerback Chykie Brown advanced Dallas to the Ravens 34 with six seconds remaining. And that gave Bailey a try from 51 yards. But he sailed it wide left, allowing Joe Flacco to kneel down to complete the win.
“It’s just football, man. You’re trying to play at your best and just going out there and performing and staying within your fundamentals and things like that,” cornerback Cary Williams said. “Fortunately, we came out on top.”
Because of the struggles stopping the run, the Ravens’ offense was dominated in time of possession, only able to get on the field for 19:57, less than half of Dallas’ 40:03. Baltimore also had just 49 plays to the Cowboys’ 79.
Some of that had to do with Jacoby Jones’ 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, which tied an NFL record and gave the Ravens their 11-point lead. (“They did a great job of blocking for me. We worked on it all week at practice,” Jones said. “When I saw it, I heard the crowd, that’s when I knew I was free, and I just opened up and I just ran as fast as possible.”
But Baltimore maximized its offensive chances, finishing with 316 yards. Flacco completed 13 of 18 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown. Ray Rice had 48 rushing yards and 43 receiving. Anquan Boldin added three catches for 54 yards, all on the same possession.
That and Jones’ kickoff return put the Ravens in position to win despite multiple defensive injuries and another 481 yards allowed.
“We’re playing good football right now,” Flacco said. “We’re 5-1. I know that some of the games have been close. But that’s the way it is in this league, and we’re happy to get them. Last year, we didn’t get some of those and we’re happy to get these when we can.
“I don’t know if we necessarily deserved to win this game, but we’ll take it, we’ll get the hell out of here really quick and go home and fall asleep and wake up the next morning with a win.”