On the bright side, the Cowboys didn’t lose a Week 13 game on Thursday or Sunday or Monday.
But the first Tuesday Night Football game in Cowboys history is a contest the franchise will want to forget.
A glaringly deficient run defense, an inconsistent offense and three missed field goals took the Cowboys out of the game and likely out of the race for the title in the league’s worst division.
The Cowboys fell to 3-9 in the Mike McCarthy era, two games behind the New York Giants and Washington Football Team. Baltimore improved to 7-5, snapping a three-game losing streak as it fights for playoff contention.
Here are three more things we learned in the 34-17 Ravens win in Baltimore:
The league’s worst run defense gets worse: The Ravens’ run game was sure to confound the Cowboys. Baltimore entered the game averaging the second-most ground yards in the league (157.6 to Cleveland’s 157.8) and left it in a healthy first place. The Cowboys knew their defense could look this porous after ceding a whopping 307 yards to the Browns in September. But they’d appeared to improve in November, claiming to finally get a hang of their assignments in first-year coordinator Mike Nolan’s defense. Any reason for confidence in this run defense evaporated Tuesday, when the Ravens gashed the Cowboys handily up the middle and down the sidelines — often untouched.
Lamar Jackson returns from COVID-19 bout: Jackson missed nearly two weeks of practice, and his team’s game vs. Pittsburgh last week, before Baltimore activated him from the reserve/COVID-19 list Monday. The Cowboys intercepted a tipped pass from him on the Ravens’ first offensive drive, but otherwise the Ravens and Jackson had their way. Jackson completed 12-of-17 passes for 107 yards but scored twice in that performance. By ground, he rushed for 94 yards on 13 carries including a score on perhaps the most damning Cowboys defensive play of all. Baltimore faced fourth-and-2 from the 37-yard line when Jackson tucked the ball and raced straight up the field untouched to score. Jackson was one of three Ravens — Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins the others — to rush for at least 70 yards. Ravens tackle Orlando Brown Jr. summed it up well after Dobbins scurried 5 yards up the middle to score with 2:12 to play. Brown’s subsequent taunt of the Ravens’ 294 rushing yards: “Easy money.”
Scoring inefficiencies: The Cowboys finagled their way to 388 total yards, including a 285-yard, two-touchdown day from Andy Dalton. But an interception, turnover on downs and three missed field goals were too much to overcome for a team that stalled on far too many drives and needed a 66-yard kick return to initially get in the end zone. Offensive line woes, including All-Pro right guard Zack Martin’s placement this week on injured reserve, contributed. But third-down and red-zone efficiency have plagued Dallas weekly since losing quarterback Dak Prescott to a season-ending ankle injury two months earlier. Adversity has struck often in McCarthy’s first Dallas season. The Cowboys remain unable to answer.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter: @JoriEpstein