The Baltimore Ravens will remember the last game at Texas Stadium more fondly than Dallas after beating the Cowboys 33-24 on Saturday in a game both teams needed to boost their NFL playoff chances.
Willis McGahee ran 77 yards for a lead-stretching touchdown when things got tight late in the fourth quarter, then Le’Ron McClain topped that by going 83 yards for the real victory-clinching touchdown with 1:18 left for the Ravens.
Baltimore led 19-10 midway through the fourth quarter behind four field goals from Matt Stover, who sold programs outside the stadium as a kid growing up in the area, and a touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Derrick Mason.
Tony Romo threw touchdown passes to Terrell Owens and Jason Witten over the last 3:36, each putting Dallas within two points.
But the Ravens answered both with one-play scoring drives, both coming on runs up the middle against a defense that had done a great job against the run all night. When Romo’s final drive ended on downs, fans began to boo.
More boos followed when Flacco took a knee and time ran out.
Baltimore (10-6) bounced back from a controversial last-minute loss to Pittsburgh to win for the fourth time in five games. With only the AFC’s sixth seed up for grabs, the Ravens are guaranteed of being in the mix when the play Jacksonville at home next weekend.
Baltimore was to go into yesterday with a half-game lead over three AFC East teams that are 9-5, one of which will get in by winning the division.
Dallas (9-6) lost for the second time in three weeks. While they can still get an NFC wild-card berth, this loss makes it tougher.
They go to Philadelphia next Sunday needing a win and, perhaps, some help. Dallas’ loss clinched a playoff spot for the Carolina Panthers.
Despite the importance of this game, much of the emotion came from this being the 313th and final game played under the hole in the roof. The Cowboys finished 213-100 in games at the home they moved into in 1971, going 6-2 this season.
It was during the 37 seasons here that Dallas blossomed into “America’s Team,” winning five Super Bowls and filling the Hall of Fame with stars like Bob Lilly, Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett and Michael Irvin — all of whom were among the roughly 100 former players welcomed back for a postgame ceremony.
This was the Ravens’ first game here and, thus, they’ll finish 1-0 at Texas Stadium. The Oakland-Los Angeles Raiders went 3-0 and are the only other NFL team not to lose under the hole in the roof.
Flacco was 17-of-25 for 149 yards and the touchdown, which was set up by a 9-yard run by punter-holder Sam Koch on a fake field goal. Although he was sacked six times and lost a fumble, his efficiency helped the Ravens turn an early 7-0 deficit into a 16-7 lead late in the third quarter.
Romo was 24-of-45 for 252 yards and two touchdowns, with two first-half interceptions. Ed Reed had both, tying him for the NFL lead with seven.