Cowboys defense still can't stop anyone, gets run over by Ravens in another embarrassing loss

When Mike McCarthy was putting together his first staff with the Dallas Cowboys, he called on an old friend to run the defense.

Mike Nolan hired McCarthy in 2005 to be his offensive coordinator when Nolan was coach of the San Francisco 49ers. Even though Nolan hadn’t been an NFL defensive coordinator since 2014, when McCarthy was hired by Dallas he repaid the favor and hired Nolan to run the defense.

That hire has been a disaster, and it continued to be in Tuesday’s 34-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. You can’t blame everything on a coordinator, but Dallas’ defense is one of the worst in team history. Dallas has plenty of issues. The offense has fallen apart since Dak Prescott’s injury. The special teams failed Tuesday with Greg Zuerlein missing three field goals.

But the defense has wrecked the Cowboys most in McCarthy’s first season. The Ravens didn’t look great on Tuesday, but they couldn’t help but pick up first downs practically whenever they wanted on the ground. Baltimore had 294 yards rushing and averaged 7.9 yards per attempt.

The Cowboys’ defense, again, looked like it had no idea how to stop anything.

Dallas’ defense gets gashed by Baltimore

The Cowboys’ defense is as bad as an NFL defense can be. The Ravens rushed the ball at will. They had 161 yards on 16 attempts in the first half. It’s hard to average more than 10 yards per carry over a half in the NFL, but it can be done against Dallas this season.

Lamar Jackson got the scoring going with a 37-yard run up the middle. On Miles Boykin’s 38-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter, he was so wide open it looked like the Cowboys decided to not cover him. It was a blown assignment and Boykin had an easy path to the end zone.

After Dallas cut Baltimore’s lead to 27-17 in the fourth quarter, the Ravens faced a third-and-3. There was no doubt Baltimore would run the ball. The Ravens handed off to Mark Ingram II and he easily picked up a first down. On the next play Gus Edwards ran for 24 yards. A couple plays later J.K. Dobbins ran for a touchdown. Offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. yelled, “Easy money!” which was picked up by the Fox microphones on the field. Brown wasn’t wrong. All night it was easy for them to pick up yards on the ground.

The Cowboys don’t do anything well on defense. Their run defense is particularly bad. That made for a tough matchup against a Ravens offense that isn’t what it was last season but can still rush the ball pretty well.

Quarterback Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens rushes for a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Quarterback Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens rushes for a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Ravens get a much-needed win

The Ravens needed a win. They are 7-5 and still in the mix for a wild-card spot.

Baltimore had lost three in a row and don’t have much room for error. It plays an easy schedule down the stretch but still need to improve to have any chance at a postseason run. On Tuesday night the Ravens ran it very well and did their job on defense against a flailing Cowboys offense, but Jackson missed some throws and the game would have been much closer had Zuerlein not missed three field goals. It has been a rough stretch — even on Tuesday night the Ravens dealt with receiver Dez Bryant testing positive for COVID-19 shortly before kickoff and having to be held out of the game — but the reality is they have a top-end roster that has underachieved after a decent start to the season.

The Cowboys have underachieved too. At least the Ravens still have hope to turn things around this season, and maybe Tuesday’s dominant rushing performance is the start of that. The Cowboys’ season is lost, and there will have to be major changes in the offseason to make sure 2021 isn’t a repeat. Those changes might start on the defensive staff.

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