Lamar Jackson was back on the field and the Baltimore Ravens were back in the win column. Bolstered by a terrific showing from Jackson in his return after testing positive for COVID-19, the Ravens snapped a three-game skid and continued the Dallas Cowboys' troubles as Baltimore won, 34-17, on Tuesday.
1) In his return to the field after missing a game and multiple practices due to a positive COVID-19 test, Lamar Jackson got off to a bit of a slow start. But the man has catch-up speed. Bursting through on a first-quarter, fourth-down call for a 37-yard touchdown on a drive after throwing an interception, Jackson put the Ravens ahead and looked to be back at full strength and full speed. Jackson often looked to be the fastest guy on the field as he galloped past flat-footed Cowboys. On the evening, he had three touchdowns, two through the air along with 107 yards on 12-of-17 passing and the aforementioned one on the ground that went with 94 yards on 13 carries. He was dazzling for much of the game and was the catalyst for a Ravens rushing attack that rolled over the Cowboys. Though Jackson has hardly looked like his 2019 MVP self in 2020, he flashed that form on a terrific Tuesday. This was a big game for Baltimore and Jackson stepped up and led his Ravens (7-5) to victory.
2) The Cowboys (3-9) hadn't played since a horrendous 41-16 Thanksgiving defeat to the rival Washington Football Team. That loss likely stands as the worst of a hugely disappointing season for the 'Boys. Tuesday's wasn't much better. Offense, defense and special teams struggled all the same. The defense was run over for 294 yards. The offense was held in check most of the night and never found a rhythm. Greg Zuerlein missed three field goals. A preseason favorite to win the NFC East, Dallas' postseason hopes have been expunged as it resides in the cellar of perhaps the worst division in league chronicle. For all the lingering questions regarding the coaching staff, quandaries exist at every level. Tuesday was a microcosm of the team's struggles throughout the campaign and once more shined a light on the reality that the Cowboys' offseason must bring about myriad changes in multiple areas.
3) Ahead of Week 13, the Ravens were the only NFL team with four players who had rushed for 200-plus yards so far this season, according to NFL Research. It looked as if they all might rush for 200 yards in the first half. Jackson, J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Mark Ingram combined for a whopping 161 rushing yards in the opening 30 minutes, averaging an eye-popping 10.1 yards per carry. In the first half alone, Baltimore extended its streak of games with 100-plus rushing yards to 35, a streak matched by only two other teams in league history, per NFL Research. After battering the Cowboys for four quarters, the Ravens had 294 yards and two touchdowns on the ground with a look-twice yards-per-carry average of 7.9 yards. Edwards had a game-high 101 yards on only seven carries, while Dobbins had a touchdown and 71 yards on 11 carries. A season ago, the Ravens ran for more yards in a season than any team ever had. At least on Tuesday, the 2020 Ravens looked every bit like the purple-and-black rushing and wrecking crew they were a season ago.
4) While the Ravens were running roughshod, the Cowboys were ignoring their success on the ground. Ezekiel Elliott averaged 5.3 yards per carry in the first half on 10 carries, but offensive coordinator Kellen Moore kept dialing up Andy Dalton. At half's end, Dalton had thrown it 22 times for a touchdown, an interception that turned into seven Ravens points and was averaging 5.6 yards an attempt. The running game gained 63 yards on 14 carries, including three Tony Pollard carries for zero yards and a touchdown, which skewed the average. It was more of the same in the second half, with Elliott off the field at times when the Cowboys went five-wide and Dalton running around and chucking it in playground fashion. This has been the worst season of Elliott's career. But Tuesday was a night in which Elliott (18 carries for 77 yards, four catches for 18 yards) looked good and should've been fed a lot more a lot earlier than he was. The Cowboys passed it 48 times and ran it 28 times. At times this season, the air-it-out approach for the Cowboys might've produced statistics, but not results. That trend continued.
5) Perhaps a party shouldn't be thrown for the Ravens offense getting well against a porous Cowboys defense. Maybe the reloaded defense's performance should be graded on a curve considering the opposition. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. But none of that really matters right now. The Ravens are fighting for their playoff lives in a season of so much promise having been hindered by struggles and chaos. Following Tuesday, the Ravens are the No. 9 seed in the AFC with a colossal game on deck against the Browns before ending the regular season against three teams with losing records. Baltimore needed a win here in the worst way and got it. That's likely the most prevailing takeaway of the evening for the Ravens.
6) Justin Tucker snapped a streak of 70 straight made field goals from inside 40 yards when he hooked a 36-yarder. It wasn't your average 36-yarder, of course. He made an attempt prior that was nullified by a false start, and then FOX broadcasters Joe Buck and Troy Aikman openly spoke about him being automatic and an announcers' jinx just as he missed. Tucker's not perfect, after all. He then promptly made his next two field goal attempts and was also a perfect four-for-four on point-after attempts. Maybe he just isn't dialed in on Tuesdays. He's still the best kicker in the game even with that miss.
7) Jackson wasn't the only significant return for the Ravens. Calais Campbell was back to for the first time since Week 9, having dealt with injury and COVID issues. Campbell's stat line consisted of two tackles, but the Ravens are now 7-2 with Campbell in the lineup. He's been a perfect fit since joining the Ravens in the offseason and his presence bodes well for Baltimore going forward.