Which group bears the most responsibility for the Cowboys' loss to the Ravens?
BALTIMORE — With a chance to pull off a win where few visitors do, the Cowboys created opportunities. But just like in this closing sequence, they failed to take advantage.
Jason Garrett talked about one particular gaffe, in which the Cowboys wasted precious time after a Dez Bryant reception with 25 seconds left. "The plan.... Tony was gonna get them on the ball, bang the timeout."
The missed opportunity seems to also weigh heavily on quarterback Tony Romo. "Instantly at the moment... saying that it took a long time for us to get into the formation we wanted to get into."
As it turns out, the Cowboys had 25 seconds and a timeout left, but managed to run just one play. And there was an alternative.
Dez Bryant started to get up with about 20 seconds left. If the team was prepared to rush to the line and clock the ball, surely they would have had 9 or 10 seconds left. And with a timeout to stop the clock, surely they could have managed another play.
"Its the same kinda thing," Garrett said. "Get to the line of scrimmage as quick as you can, and you very easily could have clocked it or called a play. The biggest thing is, we couldn't get guys to the line of scrimmage."
Romo questioned whether it would have made a difference.
"Either way, you have to have everyone come back to your side of the deal," he said. "That would have saved us a couple, but at that point you'd have been under 10. You don't want to risk it, probably."
A persistent and explosive ground game revived a dormant Cowboys offense and gave them a shot at stealing this game. But in too many crucial situations, it was familiar Cowboys form — mistakes and penalties.
In the end, failed execution doomed the team — like Dez Bryant's drop of a potential game-tying two-point conversion.
Bryant wishes the circumstances would have been better.
"I thought it was pass interference, but hey, he made a good play and they didn't call it," Bryant said.
Romo gave credit to his wide receiver despite the drop. "Dez did a good job of stacking his guy and getting in the right position... gotta go back and watch the tape, but its a tough play. Bang-bang," Romo said.
The Cowboys came within inches of snapping the Ravens' 14-game home win streak. But this is big boy football, and simply put — close is not good enough.
Tight end Jason Witten knows it.
"Ultimately, there are no moral victories," he said. "Obviously, they're a good team. You don't walk about saying, 'Hey, we played a good team close.' You walk away saying, 'That's an opportunity we lost.'
For this team to be anything other than an also-ran, they have to manage to make those few precious seconds and inches work in their favor.
Follow Joe Trahan on Twitter @JoeTrahan.
E-mail Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org