Just as you can't judge a book by its cover, you can't judge a game by its scoreboard. The Baltimore Ravens put up 37 points Saturday, but without dominating the Dallas defense.
The first-team defense didn't see the field until the 3:25 mark in the first quarter, as Baltimore jumped out to a 14-7 lead on a defensive touchdown and a 108-yard kickoff return. But a week after not forcing an incompletion until the third quarter against San Diego, the Dallas defensive unit held Joe Flacco to two completions on his first eight attempts.
Most of the first-teamers were out of the game by the middle of the second quarter, with the Cowboys trailing despite the defense surrendering just three points.
Head coach Jason Garrett said that, in addition to the offense's ability to possess the ball and the big plays that resulted in the first two Raven touchdowns, the ability of the defense to get off the field on third down was encouraging.
'They did that a couple of times and obviously that's the key to playing good defense,' Garrett said. 'Be good on first and second down, and somehow, some way get off the field on third down and they did that against a pretty good offense.'
Baltimore went just 3-for-12 on third down Saturday night.
The depth of the Cowboys' defense has been questioned, especially after key injuries this summer -- and those questions weren't necessarily answered when the Ravens put up consecutive scoring drives of 96, 67 and 37 yards between the second and third quarters.
Cornerback Terrance Mitchell, who has a chance to capitalize on Orlando Scandrick's absence, was burned twice on the 96-yard scoring drive in the second quarter. Dallas was without starting cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr.
But the third group, led by recent signee Zach Minter, forced three straight three-and-outs in the fourth quarter.
'He came out and made a big splash. I'm happy for him,' said defensive lineman George Selvie, who had a similar impact in the preseason a year ago. 'He helped us get back in that game so that's big. We need playmakers like that.'
Minter recorded two sacks late in the game.
'I don't know how many plays he played, but I bet it was over 50 percent of the plays he was in there he had some kind of an impact on the football,' Garrett said. 'He just seemed to be all over the place.'
Rolando McClain saw reps with the first and second teams at middle linebacker, and was the team's leading tackler with six. 'He had a little bit of burden being out there and making the calls and communicating,' Garrett said. 'But that's what he needs to do. He needs to play in this defensive scheme.'
McClain's stock is rising while Bruce Carter's falls in the quest to fill Sean Lee's shoes at the middle linebacker spot. And for a Cowboys defense that was embarrassed week in and week out in 2013, any sign of a stock on the rise is a positive one.