It was supposed to be a celebration for the Cowboys in their last home game at historic Texas Stadium.
The visiting Ravens ruined the party.
The final game in Texas Stadium history was scheduled for Dec. 20, 2008 and featured a matchup between the Ravens and Cowboys. Dallas handpicked the Ravens in the offseason to play the last game at Texas Stadium, thinking it would be a win for the momentous day. But it turned out that both teams were in the hunt for the playoffs. Both teams had Super Bowl aspirations. It was sure to be a classic.
Eyeing a playoff berth with a 9-5 record, the Cowboys entered Week 16 of the 2008 season looking to close out their rich history at Texas Stadium with a win to propel them into the playoffs. Quarterback Tony Romo had the Cowboys on the verge of their third-straight playoff berth. As it seems to always be the case with Dallas, the Cowboys had an explosive offense and its main attraction was the always-entertaining Terrell Owens.
The Ravens were far less flashy. Baltimore came into the game with the same 9-5 mark under first-year Head Coach John Harbaugh and were in position to reach the postseason with a strong finish. Harbaugh's Ravens were backed by a rookie quarterback in Joe Flacco and the league's fourth-best rushing attack, thanks to Baltimore's trio of running backs that consisted of Le'Ron McClain, Willis McGahee and Ray Rice. Tasked with handling the Dallas offense was Baltimore's second-ranked defensive unit.
The contest was featured in in primetime on NFL's Network's Saturday night slot and lived up to the billing. After three quarters of play, Baltimore led 16-7, but the game's final frame saw a combined 34 points between the teams thanks to nonstop, back-and-forth action. After the dust settled, the Ravens came out on top by a final of 33-24, thanks to some clutch runs and spectacular interceptions, playing spoiler to Dallas' celebration.
Stat Of The Game
Le'Ron McClain's 139 rushing yards and 108 from Willis McGahee. Baltimore has not had two 100-yard rushers in a single game since that night in Dallas, and it's no easy feat. The Ravens ran all over the Cowboys, including an 82-yard touchdown run from McClain and a 77-yard touchdown from McGahee, both in the fourth quarter.
Player Of The Game
Ravens safety Ed Reed. What does Reed do best? Force turnovers. He did that in this game, picking off Romo twice and setting the stage for Baltimore's offense.
Play Of The Game
As Dallas had pulled within two points late in the fourth quarter, McClain's 82-yard touchdown run with one minute, 33 seconds remaining in the ball game sealed the Cowboys' fate. On the first play from scrimmage following the kickoff, McClain appeared to be stuffed at the line of scrimmage before emerging with a full burst of speed that led to the score.
Quote Of The Week
Ravens Defensive Coordinator Rex Ryan on the team's focus for the game: "It's probably kind of a circus atmosphere there. They're bringing everybody back and all that. But we have to focus on the 11 guys that are out there that we're going to be trying to defend. Maybe before the game, I think they'll realize that there's something to this one, a little bit. But our focus is we have to win this game to go to the playoffs, so it doesn't matter if Too Tall Jones is out there."
What It Meant
The Ravens' win in Dallas kept their playoff hopes alive, improving to 10-5. As it turned out, Baltimore would win their final two regular-season games to clinch a spot as one of the AFC's wild-card teams. The Ravens would travel to Miami in the wild-card round and Tennessee in the divisional round, winning both games. But, the Ravens' [add apostrophe] Super Bowl dreams would be halted in the AFC championship game by the Pittsburgh Steelers, 23-14. As for Dallas, the loss in Week 16 carried over into the next game. With a chance to earn a playoff spot, the Cowboys fell to Philadelphia 44-6 in their regular-season finale, missing the playoffs completely.