Each week, Baltimore Sun reporters Aaron Wilson and Matt Vensel will look back at the Ravens' previous game and that of their next opponent.
(Note: We are looking at Dallas' game before Sunday's bye.)
Strategy: The Cowboys used three or more wide receivers on more than half their plays. They attacked the Bears with deep and intermediate throws mixed with short throws to running back DeMarco Murray and tight end Jason Witten. Defensively, they stayed in their 3-4 scheme against Chicago's two-receiver sets and used three or four cornerbacks in clear passing situations. They blitzed a fair amount, including a handful of delayed linebacker blitzes.
Personnel: With outside linebacker Anthony Spencer and nose tackle Jay Ratliff sidelined by injuries, the Cowboys started Victor Butler and Josh Brent at those positions, respectively, but Spencer and Ratliff could return to the lineup against the Ravens. Ryan Cook was the latest to step into the revolving door at center. Cornerback Mike Jenkins, who lost his starting spot when the Cowboys acquired Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr, saw action in a safety-type role. Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb will see a lot of wide receiver Miles Austin in the slot Sunday, as he often worked inside when Kevin Ogletree entered the game.
What went right: The Cowboys were able to move the ball through the air, with Tony Romo and Kyle Orton combining to complete 40 of 53 attempts for 389 yards but turnovers killed them. They stomped out the run, allowing just 3.3 yards per carry to Matt Forte and the Bears. DeMarcus Ware was a beast again, sacking Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and forcing him to fumble. Witten caught 13 of 14 passes thrown his way for 112 yards and a touchdown.
What went wrong: It's never good when the backup quarterback enters the game, which happened after Romo threw five picks. Romo struggled to get on the same page with his top wide receiver, Dez Bryant, and the disconnect led to an ugly interception that Charles Tillman ran back for a touchdown. The Cowboys couldn't establish the run with Murray, who didn't have much room to maneuver. Defensively, their front seven was formidable, but the Cowboys let Cutler connect with his wide receivers, specifically Brandon Marshall, for big gains downfield.
Turning point: The Cowboys trailed 17-7 in the third quarter when they turned the ball over twice in Bears territory. After an interception of Romo and a fumble by Cutler, Romo was hit as he threw, and the ball popped out of his hands to Bears linebacker Lance Briggs, who ran it back 74 yards for Chicago's second pick-six of the game — a touchdown that deflated Dallas.
X-factor: In their Week 2 loss, the Ravens lost track of Philadelphia Eagles tight end Brent Celek when quarterback Michael Vick escaped the pocket. The same could happen Sunday with Romo and Witten. Romo went to Witten when he needed to move the chains — maybe because Bryant's hands and focus were shaky — and Witten usually came through. Maybe the Ravens should try to eliminate Witten on third down and take their chances with Bryant and fellow wideouts.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun