Tony Romo has a pretty good idea of what awaits him Sunday in his effort to bounce back from a five-interception performance.
No venue in the NFL provides a bigger home-field advantage than the Ravens' stadium in Baltimore, where a relentless defense — combined with the deafening noise of a sellout crowd — tends to make life miserable for visiting quarterbacks.
During its NFL-best 13-game home winning streak, Baltimore (4-1) has outscored the opposition 360-209 while posting a plus-13 turnover differential. Since coach John Harbaugh took over in 2008, the Ravens are 30-5 at home, including 8-0 against NFC teams.
Romo and the Dallas Cowboys (2-2) have had two weeks to think about their 34-18 defeat against the Chicago Bears. Romo was intercepted five times in that game, and now, after a bye, he's going up against a defense that's forced 12 turnovers — four last week in a 9-6 win over Kansas City.
"This will be my first time playing up there," Romo said. "I know it's loud. You can just tell when you hear from other people and watching the game. It's going to definitely create issues, and you just have to go back to technique and fundamentals and just do what your job is. It's the only way to go into an environment like that and have a chance."
Wide receiver Jacoby Jones was on the losing side as a member of the Houston Texans in last season's playoffs, and now he relishes being backed by the home crowd.
"Being a visitor is not good because it's so loud you can't hear yourself think," he said. "Being on the home side, it brings chills to your body. It's electrifying. It makes you want to play better."
Ravens guard Bobbie Williams came to Baltimore this year after spending eight years with division rival Cincinnati.
"From a visitor's perspective, it is very hard, especially when you're going against the Ravens defense. That's first and foremost," he said. "And then there's the fans. The stadium gets really loud. You've got a defense over there moving and shifting and swarming, and you're trying to communicate with a guy you can barely hear. It can be a tad bit intimidating."
Now that he's with Baltimore, Williams can't fathom the notion of losing at home.
"The night before the game, and when you step out on the field, you think, 'We've got a great run going here. Let's make sure we don't lose it against these guys.' It ignites you. It's just that sense of pride."
The Ravens are the only team in the NFL that Dallas has never beaten. Baltimore won at home 27-0 in 2000 and 30-10 in 2004, and in 2008 the Ravens ruined the Cowboys' final game in Texas Stadium with a 33-24 victory.
"I'd like to forget that one," Dallas tight end Jason Witten said.
Both teams have changed quite a bit since then, but one constant is that Baltimore still has a stout defense.
"They want to hit you in the mouth, they're smart, they're tough, on the back end they get to the ball, the safeties play well," Witten said. "We got to be able to respond to that."
If things went differently in 2008, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett might have been on the opposite sideline Sunday. Then the offensive coordinator at Dallas, Garrett was offered the Ravens head coaching job after the Ravens fired Brian Billick. Garrett decided to stay with the Cowboys, Harbaugh got the job, and Baltimore has been to the postseason every year since.
Garrett got a raise from the Cowboys, became interim head coach in 2010 and formally got the job in January 2011. His decision to stick around proved beneficial to both himself and the Ravens.
"At that time, I just felt, and my wife felt, like it was the best thing for us to stay in Dallas," he said. "We certainly have no regrets, and I'm sure the Ravens don't have any regrets either. They've done a great job. Since that time, John Harbaugh has done a fantastic job with that team. They are one of the elite franchises in the league."
That's a title the Cowboys used to wear, but Dallas is struggling to become a contender again. A win on Sunday would be a significant step in that direction, but the Ravens have their own agenda.
"We don't play the Cowboys often, but we realize it's still a big game. It's a huge game," Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis said. "For them, definitely trying to bounce back and get their thing back going. But I think more importantly for us, we are at home, we're off to a heck of a start and we're just going to try to keep this thing rolling."
A year ago, Baltimore went 8-0 at home and 4-4 on the road. Another perfect season at home would virtually assure a fifth straight journey into the postseason.
"If you win all your games at home, it helps you to improve your record and get a playoff push," defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. "We take a lot of pride in winning at home, and I think for us as a defense, getting the crowd into it and getting the place rocking, it helps us a lot more and makes it harder for offenses to communicate."
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