In a game marked by a flurry of fourth-quarter scoring, a play that simply notched a first down in the third quarter may have been the biggest for the Ravens.
Many players and coaches said it after Baltimore's 33-24 victory over the Dallas Cowboys: punter Sam Koch's perfect execution of a fake field goal was huge.
With the Ravens clinging to a tenuous 9-7 lead off three Matt Stover field goals, and the offense sputtering to a stop at the Dallas 22-yard line, Baltimore lined up for a fourth three-pointer.
But Koch, the holder, took the snap and sprinted through a huge hole on the left side for the first down.
The Cowboys actually set eight men to rush from Stover's right, enabling the Ravens to take advantage of the short-handed area.
"That may have been the play of the game," head coach John Harbaugh said. "We planned to run it all along and it's something we've been working on all year. [Special teams coordinator] Jerry Rosburg is an aggressive person and he likes to get things done."
Koch admitted that he had designs on the goal line once he saw the hole cleared out by a block from guard Chris Chester, but he was tripped up after his 9-yard gain.
"If you saw the hole I went to, you're definitely thinking touchdown," Koch said. "Unfortunately, there was someone there."
The Nebraska product also was prolific with his punting. He posted a net average of 46.6 yards, sailing five kicks for 261 total yards (52.2 gross average) and placing two inside the 20-yard line.
And even though he admitted it was fun to run the fake, Koch knows he is not going to give up his regular job, even though Harbaugh joked that Koch was the Ravens "other running back."
"It's been a long time since I ran the football," Koch said. "I played fullback in high school, but you lose the vision it takes to do what [Willis] McGahee and Le'Ron [McClain] have to do what they do. It takes a lot of talent to do that, and obviously mine isn't there."
The Ravens had a major scare in the fourth quarter, when Yamon Figurs fumbled a kickoff just after Dallas had pulled within two points on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Tony Romo to Terrell Owens.
As the ball hit the turf, bodies from both teams pounced on the fumble, causing a scrum that took all officials to untangle.
In the end, it was Ravens safety Daren Stone who came up with the football, saving the possession.
"A lot of dirty stuff was going on in there," Stone said with a laugh. "A lot of scratching and clawing and kneeing. Originally, I had one hand on it, and another guy had a hand on it, too. I was just trying to pull on it, and eventually it came out."
On Baltimore's next play from scrimmage, McGahee burst up the middle for a 77-yard touchdown to extend the lead.
Welcome Home, Matt
Kicker Matt Stover returned to his native Dallas, where he used to sell programs in the Texas Stadium parking lot for the hometown Cowboys as a child.
Stover, a 19-year veteran, last kicked in Dallas on Dec. 10, 1994 as a Cleveland Brown. In that game, he hit field goals of 34, 32, 42 and 32 yards in a Browns victory.
Saturday, he connected on 26-, 29-, 37- and 35-yard attempts.
"I always knew the history of the Dallas Cowboys growing up here," Stover said. "I played on the Cowboys YMCA team as a kid. I couldn't be more proud to have the opportunity to come in here and kick again. It was a blessing to have that happen to me."
Willie Anderson left the game briefly in the second quarter with an ankle injury and was replaced by Chad Slaughter and Adam Terry. But, Anderson returned in the second half after X-rays taken at halftime were negative. … Wideout Derrick Mason left the game three times after aggravating a dislocated shoulder. He continued to play, however, catching six passes for 66 yards and a touchdown. … Saftey Ed Reed's two interceptions marked the 40th and 41st of his career. The Ravens are now 7-0 when he snares two picks in a game. … Ravens director of player development O.J. Brigance, who is battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, attended the game. Harbaugh dedicated the win to Brigance in the post-game locker room.