The Cow­boys have too much star power

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - Mike Pre­ston mike.pre­ston@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/MikePre­stonSun

ARLINGTON, TEXAS — When­ever the Ravens play top teams in the NFL, their lack of play­mak­ers or gamechang­ers will show up and hurt them.

The Ravens went toeto-toe with the hottest team in the league for a half Sun­day, but in the end, the Dal­las Cow­boys had too many play­mak­ers — Dez Bryant, Ezekiel El­liott and Ja­son Wit­ten — to go along with a pow­er­ful of­fen­sive line.

The Ravens coun­tered with wide re­ceiver Steve Smith Sr., age 37. That’s not a knock on Smith, who is an amaz­ing story, but just a sim­ple fact about the Ravens. Un­til they get more play­mak­ers on of­fense and one in the sec­ondary, they will stay on the verge of be­ing a good team. They might not get there soon. Af­ter hid­ing in a cor­ner dur­ing the Ravens’ two-game win­ning streak, all the crit­ics of Ravens coach John Har­baugh and gen­eral man­ager Ozzie New­some will resur­face in the next few days. But the Ravens have im­proved since the be­gin­ning of the sea­son.

The coach­ing staff might have put to­gether its best all-around game plan of the sea­son against Dal­las. The of­fense still strug­gled at times, but the Ravens ran the ball well. They ran wag­gles, bootlegs, un­bal­anced lines and re­verses, flooded zones with re­ceivers and ran pick plays.

On de­fense, they con­fused rookie quar­ter­back Dak Prescott in the first half with a lot of dif­fer­ent looks be­fore and af­ter snaps. They used a heavy pack­age to slow Quar­ter­back Joe Flacco and the Ravens of­fense strug­gled at times but ran the ball well. But they didn’t have enough play­mak­ers to keep up with the Cow­boys. El­liott and ran twists and stunts in the front seven.

But there is only so much de­cep­tion to be used in a game. Even­tu­ally, it will come down to play­mak­ers. Dal­las had too many and the Ravens had too few. From the mid­way point of the sec­ond quar­ter, Dal­las scored on all five of its pos­ses­sions, in­clud­ing drives of 92, 88 and 72 yards.

What hap­pened to the top-ranked de­fense in the NFL?

“When the team runs the ball so well, it is hard to get to the quar­ter­back,” Ravens safety Eric Wed­dle said. “Play-ac­tions, boots — they ex­e­cuted well. Five straight scor­ing drives is im­pres­sive. They made the plays to win the game and we didn’t.”

That’s be­cause they have play­mak­ers. The Ravens con­tinue to hurt them­selves with penal­ties: They com­mit­ted 12 for 136 yards. Dal­las had five for 45, and the Cow­boys have the play­ers to bail them out.

When the Ravens are fac­ing first-and-15 or first-and-20, they might as well punt. The Cow­boys had a first-and-30 at their 28-yard line dur­ing the sec­ond quar­ter, and they went on to score a touch­down. They just have too many weapons. Wit­ten had five catches for 37 yards and Cole Beasley had five for 59. Bryant fin­ished with six re­cep­tions for 80 yards, in­clud­ing two touch­downs.

The Ravens couldn’t stop him. They were miss­ing cor­ner­back Jimmy Smith, and he cer­tainly is bet­ter than Sha­reece Wright, but he isn’t a match for Bryant, ei­ther. He isn’t a shut­down cor­ner­back.

And when the Ravens tried to stop Bryant from mak­ing big plays down the field by keep­ing their safeties back, the Cow­boys worked un­der­neath to Wit­ten and Beasley. Or they just pounded the Ravens into sub­mis­sion with El­liott.

The Ravens don’t have an El­liott on their ros­ter, a run­ner who can beat you with power, speed or as a re­ceiver out of the back­field. They don’t have a Tom Brady at quar­ter­back or an An­to­nio Gates at tight end. There is no Aqib Talib at cor­ner­back. The Ravens play hard; they just don’t have enough star power.

They came into the game against Dal­las with the best front seven in the NFL, and the Cow­boys wore them down. It’s no se­cret how to beat the Ravens: You go over the top with the pass­ing game and chal­lenge their cor­ner­backs to make plays. It’s been that way for years.

The sta­tis­tics in this game were fairly even. One ma­jor dif­fer­ence was that the Cow­boys had nearly an 11-minute ad­van­tage in time of pos­ses­sion.

Here’s another: Dal­las has sev­eral elite play­ers and the Ravens have only one.

“They didn’t make the mis­takes we did and they made the plays down the stretch with both the run and pass game that we didn’t,” Har­baugh said. “So, that’s what it boiled down to at the end.”

And it will end that way against all good teams.

KARL MER­TON FERRON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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