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Cowboys battle back, fall short

BALTIMORE -- The Dallas Cowboys' locker room was nearly empty as Dez Bryant and Brandon Carr quietly talked about what happened Sunday afternoon.

Suddenly, someone shouted an expletive from behind a wall, bringing everything into focus.

It was that kind of afternoon for the Cowboys following their 31-29 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

The reality of their season, and maybe just where this franchise is right now, was summed up by defensive coordinator Rob Ryan as he walked toward the team bus.

"You're sick of losing, that's all," he said.

The Cowboys played a gritty game in which adversity punched them in the face. The Cowboys fought back.

This team rushed for 227 yards, the most ever against a Ray Lewis-led Ravens defense. When we say the Cowboys mashed the Ravens, they beat them up badly. It was pitiful to watch an aging veteran like Lewis stand on the sideline nursing a triceps injury.

The Cowboys should have won this game but instead made their fans feel terrible, yet again, about why this team isn't very good.

"I am sick about losing this game," Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said. "This is a very tough place to play. We made our share of mistakes, but I thought we had a shot to win at the end."

They did, but it was lost when Dan Bailey missed a kick for the first time since training camp, a 51-yarder into a swirling wind that floated wide left.

There were plenty of questions about how coach Jason Garrett managed the game toward the end. He could have ordered Tony Romo to spike the ball with 21 seconds left. Instead, the clock hit single digits before Garrett called timeout with six seconds remaining.

It set up the miss by Bailey, but the Cowboys probably shouldn't have been in that situation.

"Honestly, I thought we'd be better at this point in the season," Jones said of his team's 2-3 record. "But in the NFL, it's a long journey. We came into a tough place to play and I love the way we competed."

The Ravens don't lose here. They've won 14 consecutive home games and since 2006 have won 12 straight home games against the NFC.

Yet the Cowboys still should have won Sunday.

Adversity flowed from the sideline as the Cowboys lost running backs DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones. Murray played only one snap in the second half after sustaining a sprained foot, and Jones battled through cramps. The Cowboys used four running backs against the Ravens and still averaged 5.4 yards per carry.

On defense, cornerback Morris Claiborne tweaked his knee and defensive end Sean Lissemore suffered a high ankle sprain.

The Ravens' offense held the ball four times in the second half, just once in the third quarter. And still won.

The Cowboys were penalized four times in the red zone and 13 times for 82 yards overall.

The Cowboys held the ball for 40:03 while the Ravens had it for almost the length of a TV sitcom (19:57), minus commercials.

Somehow, the Cowboys didn't do enough to win. It's not about figuring out how to win these kinds of games anymore. They should have learned by now from losses like last year's in New England, when they let a fourth-quarter lead slip away. The Cowboys can play badly and still win games by doing the little things, as was the case against Tampa Bay in Week 3.

Those little things didn't go right Sunday.

"The thing is, when it comes time for situations, you have to learn how to win games like this," outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware said. "We played good enough to win this game. But we didn't, so you got to know next time they're going to be in circumstances where you got to be able to pull it out."

The locker room scene was pretty sad. Several players declined to speak with reporters, maybe tiring of the same questions over and over again.

Maybe the answers are becoming too predictable. Carr said it was tough. Murray said it was hard. Felix Jones said it was disappointing. Bryant said, "We should have had this."

Yes, the Cowboys should have had this. But they're not good enough to win a game like this, even though they should be.