Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) and the team ended their three-game losing streak with a win against the Dallas Cowboys. Next up, the Ravens will go head to head with the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 14 at 8:15 p.m., for a game they can’t afford to lose. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

By Demetrius Dillard
Special to the AFRO

Coming off of a challenging week riddled with injuries, COVID-19 infections and three consecutive losses, the Baltimore Ravens knew every game, beginning with a Week 13 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys, was a must-win.

From the start, Baltimore’s game plan seemed clear and highly effective: run the ball. Powered by the rushing abilities of quarterback Lamar Jackson and running backs Gus Edwards, J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram II, the Ravens tallied a season-high 294 rushing yards to sail to a 34-17 win over the Cowboys at M&T Bank Stadium on Tuesday evening.

While Baltimore (7-5) was expected to beat Dallas, statistically one of the worst defenses in the NFL, at least the win snaps a three-game losing streak and keeps the Ravens in the running for a wild card spot in the playoffs though they are No. 3 in the AFC North.

“It was a must-win. We went out there and got it against a very determined team, a very talented team and a well-coached team who played really hard. I thought we made plays when we had to make plays,” Coach John Harbaugh said after the win.

“I just thought our guys played well. The offensive line deserves a ton of credit, running backs, running game, Lamar… The running game was excellent, that was the key on offense.”

Jackson, back in his first game after a 10-day layoff due to contracting the coronavirus, completed 12 of 17 passes for 107 yards and ran for 94 yards on 13 carries for a touchdown to lead the way for Baltimore. 

Edwards recorded a game-high 101 yards on seven carries while Dobbins ran for 71 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, showing why the Ravens are the league leaders in rushing yards per game (as of Dec. 9).

Baltimore overcame a rough start to the evening, which included an interception, a missed field goal and trailing 10-7 after the first quarter, and found its offensive footing about midway through the second. 

After Jackson tossed a 38-yard touchdown to Miles Boykin with 8:08 remaining in the second, the Ravens led 14-10 and never trailed after that point. Conversely, Dallas was held to only one touchdown the rest of the game as a result of Baltimore’s tenacious defensive effort. The two last met on Nov. 20, 2016, when the Cowboys bested the Ravens, 27-17.

The more the Ravens pounded the ball on the ground, the more their lead extended, consequently putting the game out of reach for the Cowboys, who fell to 3-9 with the loss. Given the fact that Dallas ranks last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game, it made sense for Baltimore to establish a rushing attack early on.

In addition to Jackson being out, the Ravens were short-handed in last week’s loss to Pittsburgh. Thankfully, a number of key pieces suited up against Dallas after returning from the COVID-19/Reserve list, including Calais Campbell, Pernell McPhee, Ingram, Dobbins, Patrick Ricard, Patrick Mekari, Matt Skura, Justin Madubuike, Jihad Ward and Morgan Cox.

Baltimore won’t have long to celebrate the big win as it prepares to face one of its toughest challenges this season: the Cleveland Browns, who boast one of the top defenses in the NFL, are on a four-game winning streak, and have gone 8-2 since losing to the Ravens, 38-6, in the season opener.

Baltimore will play at Cleveland’s FirstEnergy Stadium on Dec. 14 at 8:15 p.m. A loss would more than likely eliminate the Ravens from playoff contention, depending on how other AFC teams perform.

Jackson feels if he and his teammates remain focused they can knock off Cleveland (ranked No. 2 in the AFC North) for the second time this season. However, it likely won’t be as easy this time around as it was the first time.  

“Just keep building staying focused on our craft. Everyone just has to do their assignments. I feel we could pull it off,” Jackson said. 

“We’ve got the Browns right now – a great team. We’ve got to come to play. We’re going to Cleveland, we’ve just got to be ready to play football.”

Bryant misses game against Cowboys after positive coronavirus test

A moment Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Dez Bryant has awaited all season came to naught after he found out that he contracted the coronavirus and had to instantly go into self-isolation.

The veteran confirmed he had COVID-19 on Twitter moments before kickoff and expressed frustration, saying he’s been following the same routine which left him somewhat confused.

“Tell me why they pull me from warming up so I can go get tested… my come back positive…  I tested positive for Covid WTF,” Bryant tweeted on Tuesday evening.

“Yea I’m going to go ahead and call it a quit for the rest of the season… I can’t deal with this.”

In his eight years with the Cowboys, Bryant recorded nearly 7,500 receiving yards and 73 touchdowns on 531 receptions in 113 games. He was released from Dallas in April 2018, and finally facing off against his old team was something he anticipated all season.

“This was more than just another game for me… It wasn’t about revenge..  I didn’t need a catch… I wanted to make a point,” tweeted Bryant, who reportedly wasn’t on the field with the rest of his teammates when the entire squad warmed up during pregame.

Bryant might have spoken prematurely when calling it quits for the season, quickly changing his mind to say “Yea I’m coming back… I’m being smart.