As the saying goes:* *"Everything is bigger in Texas."
The Ravens made sure of that in Saturday's matchup with the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium, where they leaned on big plays from all three phases to carry them to a 37-30 victory. Baltimore scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams to improve to 2-0 in the preseason.
"Crazy game, really," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "[Cowboys Head Coach] Jason [Garrett] and I came off the field and we were both kind of shaking our heads. Preseason games are much crazier than the regular season in some ways."
Before quarterback Joe Flacco and the starting offense even took the field, the Ravens already had two touchdowns.
Outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw put the Ravens on the board first when he recovered a botched handoff by Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and returned it 25 yards for the score. Wide receiver Deonte Thompson then added a touchdown with a 108-yard kickoff return where he found a crease in the coverage and put his breakaway speed on display.
"There were a lot of exciting plays in the game in all three phases, and that's what you're looking for at this time of the year," Harbaugh said.
The big plays from the defense and special teams gave the Ravens an early lead, but it also kept the offense from getting on the field. The first-team offense didn't take the field until there just was just three minutes, 25 seconds left in the first quarter, and the unit took some time to get into a rhythm.
The Ravens punted on two of their first three offensive series, but then started to heat up. On his fourth series, Flacco led the unit 96 yards down the field for a touchdown where he hit wide receiver Torrey Smith on a perfect pass in the back corner of the end zone.
"It was definitely a weird situation, but it's something we could have to deal with any week throughout the season," Flacco said. "We came out slow, weren't really firing on all cylinders and didn't keep ourselves on the field. But I thought we did a good job of fighting through it, getting some points and putting together a couple good drives – really just battling back and making something good out of it."
The first-team offense ended up playing the entire first half because it took so long for them to actually get some action. The plan going into the weekend was that the starters would likely see between a quarter to* *a half.
"It took us a while to get the ball, and we did some good things when we did," Harbaugh said. "I thought our protection was OK, and we ran the ball downhill effectively. It was a consistent and good effort, offensively, in the first half."
Flacco finished the game 9-of-17 passing for 113 yards and a touchdown. The running game had another strong performance, as running back Bernard Pierce carried seven times for 55 yards and Ray Rice had two carries for 21 yards. Rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro racked up 59 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
The Ravens finished with 151 total rushing yards on the night.
Rice's day was cut short because of a shoulder problem that needed to be examined in the locker room. The injury doesn't appear serious, as X-rays were negative and Harbaugh told reporters that it's just a shoulder bruise. Rice also told sideline reporter Brent Harris, "don't be nervous, I'm fine."
The Ravens also had another injury scare in the first half when starting cornerback Jimmy Smith left the game with a chest injury. He was hurt after landing on his back while defending a pass intended for Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, and he was shown on the television broadcast spitting up blood. Smith didn't return to the game and his X-rays also came back negative.
The injury was a scary moment for Smith and the Ravens, but Harbaugh said it's a chest bruise and not considered serious.
Dominique Franks replaced Smith on the first-team defense, and he ended up allowing a touchdown to Bryant in the first quarter. Most of Dallas' first-team offense only played two series before calling it a day.
Most of the Ravens' defensive starters played four series, and they allowed 10 points on those drives. The Cowboys dominated the time of possession early, and it was a challenge for the defense.
"Our defense got a little tired from being out there for so many plays early," Harbaugh said. "That's a good test to get in the preseason, and it came against a very good offense."
After the starters departed, the Ravens limited the Cowboys' second-team offense and backup quarterback Brandon Weeden. Some of the standout individual players were outside linebacker Pernell McPhee and safety Brynden Trawick. McPhee thrived as a pass rusher and sacked Weeden, and Trawick intercepted the Cowboys' backup passer.
The Cowboys cut into Baltimore's big lead late in the game with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns, but the Ravens were ultimately able to run out the clock and hold onto the victory.