Center Jeremy Zuttah probably delivered the hardest hit all game, but it was a costly one for the Ravens in their 27-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys Sunday. Zuttah's unnecessary roughness call stalled an important third-quarter drive and was one of his three penalties on the afternoon.
Zuttah certainly got his money's worth, slamming Cowboys safety J.J. Wilcox to the turf during rookie Kenneth Dixon's 9-yard run. Even though the play hadn't been blown dead and Dixon was being gang tackled near the Dallas sideline, the referees still flagged Zuttah.
"The league is kind of changing at this point," Zuttah said. "The running back is fighting for yards and I'm trying to help him out. Just certain situations, you've got to toe the line. There's a fine line between being aggressive and doing something boneheaded. He told me you can't hit him like that whether the whistle blew or not, so you just kind of got to change the way you play."
Ravens coach John Harbaugh was hesitant to comment on the penalty because he said he didn't get a good look at it, but he acknowledged "that penalty hurt us." Instead of having a 2nd-and-1 at the 45-yard line, the Ravens had a 2nd-and-16 at their own 30. Three plays later, they punted and the Cowboys wound up scoring a touchdown on the ensuing drive to take a 24-10 lead.
"It might not have been the smartest play, but the whistle had not blown," Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said, defending his center. "You know they are probably going to make that call, but when you're playing football, and you're an offensive lineman, and it's your nature, it's tough to say … play smart. You're just looking to hit guys, and you just don't necessarily know if the ball is still going up field or what it's doing."
Zuttah also was called for two holding penalties in the second quarter. The first one wiped out Kyle Juszczyk's 14-yard reception, and the second one forced the Ravens into a 3rd-and-14 situation. Two plays later, Justin Tucker kicked a 46-yard field goal. Overall, the Ravens 12 penalties for 136 yards.
"On the [Juszczyk] one, the guy falls. The refs, they got a tough job. If they see someone fall, they think you slung him or whatever," Zuttah said. "And then the other one, the quarterback scrambles, I thought I let go but if they called it, it's just too close. You've got to learn from it and move on."
Smith gets milestone: Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. might someday look back on his 1,000th-career catch and revel in an achievement that just 13 other NFL receivers have enjoyed. But he was certainly in no mood to do it after a Ravens' loss.
"Bittersweet, I guess. You want to win," Smith said. "I'd give all that back to win to be honest."
Smith hit the 1,000th-catch plateau on the Ravens' first play from scrimmage in the third quarter. He hauled in a 22-yard pass from Flacco in the middle of the field. Smith led the Ravens with eight catches for 99 yards and a touchdown and finished the afternoon with 1,005 career catches. .
"Legendary player. I was just telling him after the game, 'You can play a couple of more years if you want to. Let's just keep it going.' I think he's going to probably [retire] after this year because he's been playing 16 years. That's a long time," Ravens wide receiver Mike Wallace said. "But if anybody can keep playing, it's him. It's just an honor to be on the team with him every day, to see the way he works, the way he carries himself. I just love it. I love that guy to death. I wish I had more time with him, but when you have greatness around you, you just absorb whatever you can get from him."
After the catch, Smith threw the ball to the Ravens' sideline for safekeeping. Smith is the first player in NFL history to have 1,000-plus catches, 1,000-plus punt return yards and 2,000-plus kickoff return yards.
Judon makes key mistake: Smith's 5-yard touchdown reception about midway through the fourth quarter had cut the Cowboys' lead to seven and given the visitors some hope. The Ravens tackled Lance Dunbar on the ensuing kickoff at the Cowboys' 10-yard line, but rookie Matthew Judon was offside on the Tucker kickoff.
The Ravens had to re-kick and the Tucker touchback allowed the Cowboys to start on the 25, meaning Judon's penalty cost the Ravens 15 yards.
"That's a rookie," Harbaugh said. "You've got to be smart, you've got to understand. That's a rookie who doesn't know, yet. I guess he's the kind of guy that has to learn the hard way. I'm that kind of guy, too, sometimes."
New look for Yanda: The Ravens had a different offensive line combination for a seventh straight game. That was expected with rookie Alex Lewis out because of an ankle injury, but the Ravens added a new wrinkle. The usual starter at right guard, Marshal Yanda, played left guard against the Cowboys, leaving Vladimir Ducasse at the right guard spot.
The move was made to help Yanda who had missed three of the past four games with a significant shoulder injury.
"It had to do with Marshal, as far as his injury and what was best for Marshal and where he could play the best," Harbaugh said. "It was Marshal's idea and it works out really well for us. I thought Marshal played really well."
End zone: Offensive lineman Ryan Jensen and cornerback Asa Jackson were the Ravens' only two healthy inactives. The other five – Lewis, running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh), tight end Crockett Gillmore (thigh), linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot) and cornerback Jimmy Smith (back) — were all dealing with injuries. Not only was Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman held without a catch for the first time this season, but he wasn't even targeted. … Playing about 15 minutes away from where starred at DeSoto High, Ravens weak-side linebacker Zachary Orr had a team-leading 11 tackles. … The Cowboys were held scoreless in the first quarter for just the second time all season and punted on three consecutive possessions for the first time all season. … Swimmer and devout Ravens fan Michael Phelps was on the team's sideline during warm-ups. … Despite it being 57 degrees at kickoff, the roof at AT&T Stadium remained closed for the game. Many Ravens' fans made the trip and the "O" during the national anthem was easily the loudest for one of the team's road games all season.