At about 11:40 p.m. Eastern time Saturday night, the curtain closed on Texas Stadium to a chorus of boos.
The Cowboys entered the game in control of their playoff destiny. After a 33-24 loss to the Ravens, they'll now need to beat the Eagles next weekend and get some help to make the postseason.
Before we get to some thoughts on this highly entertaining contest, let's break down what it means for the Eagles.
Entering tonight, the Eagles' best chance at getting in was to win out and hope either the Bucs or Falcons lose one of their final two games. That doesn't change. In short, the Cowboys' loss doesn't mean much for the Eagles. They still need to beat Dallas next week, and they still need a Bucs or Falcons loss.
The only way it could potentially help the Eagles is if you're looking at a loss to the Redskins tomorrow. If that happens, and the Bucs OR Falcons lose their remaining two games, the Eagles could still get in with a win over Dallas next week. That would not have been the case had Dallas won tonight.
As for the Cowboys, they can get in by beating the Eagles and getting either one loss from the Falcons or two losses from the Bucs.
As for tonight's game, the Ravens' defense dominated for three quarters, Baltimore got a big boost on special teams, and their run game dominated in the fourth quarter.
Through the first three, Dallas' offense was completely out of sync. Tony Romo was under constant pressure and misfired on a couple occasions when he did have time, while T.O. had a drop and lost one in the lights. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Cowboys had just seven points, and those were the result of a 4-yard drive after a Joe Flacco fumble.
In the fourth quarter, the Dallas offense finally got things going, but the defense got run into the ground. Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain put together touchdown runs of 77 and 82 yards respectively. McClain's was ironically the longest TD run allowed by an opponent in the history of Texas Stadium.
Special teams were huge for the Ravens, which should come as no surprise to Eagles fans who saw John Harbaugh direct that unit for the Birds for nearly a decade. A key play came in the third quarter when they ran a fake field goal to punter/holder Sam Koch, which picked up a first down at the Cowboys' 13-yard line on a drive that resulted in a touchdown pass to Derrick Mason. It was a gutsy call considering the Ravens led 9-7 at the time and a field goal would have forced the Cowboys to get in the end zone.
Koch had a monster game, averaging 52.2 yards per punt and pinning the Cowboys back, particularly in the first half. Matt Stover hit all four of his field-goal attempts as well.
As for the Ravens, they control their own destiny. With a win over the Jaguars next week, Baltimore will join the Colts as a wild-card team.
- Ten penalties for 86 yards for the Cowboys. They seem to have numbers like this every week.
- What a performance by Mason. The veteran wideout played basically with one arm due to a bum shoulder. He was still the Ravens' leading receiver with six catches for 66 yards and a touchdown.
- Ray Lewis was celebrating with his teammates on the sidelines as the clock ran out. Not sure if it was him or another player who bid farewell to Texas Stadium by saying, "Turn the lights off in this [expletive]."
- We've seen coaches freeze kickers the past couple years by calling timeout right before the ball is snapped on game-winning or game-tying attempts. Harbaugh used this strategy towards the end of the game, but in a different way. The Cowboys lined up for the kickoff with 1:36 left, down 26-24. With three timeouts, it was unclear whether they'd go with an onside kick or straight kickoff. Harbuagh called timeout right before the kick. The whistles blew, but the Cowboys didn't hear, and they kicked it off. It obviously didn't count, and the Ravens then knew what was coming.
- Things just didn't go the Cowboys' way all night. Some things off the top of my head: T.O. losing a ball in the lights; Romo missing Miles Austin on a sure touchdown; Tashard Choice fumbling the option on what would have been a first down; Ken Hamlin unable to hold on to a fumble recovery, which was eventually recovered by Mason; the Cowboys failing to recover a Yamon Figurs fumble in the second half.