Broaddus: Defensive Struggles, Collins' First Start Among Thoughts

1) My mistake believing that without Tevin Coleman in the Falcons lineup that they would struggle running the ball. Devonta Freeman played with a chip on his shoulder, and this offense didn't miss a beat with him carrying the ball. Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan punished this Dallas defense with Freeman's carries, and by doing so, he was able to keep his offense ahead of the chains and on course.

2) I am interested in seeing how many times that cornerback Desmond Trufant lined up across from wide receiver Terrance Williams in this game? If it's a significant number then I understand why he had a difficult time getting open. Trufant, in my opinion, was the Falcons best corner, and I even suggested staying away from him. But if Williams wasn't matched on him the majority of the time then that's a poor job on his part. 

3) Because of the way the Falcons play defense, I knew that Lance Dunbar would have a big day. My thinking was based on the success that Dunbar had against Dan Quinn's defense last year in Seattle. Dunbar is such a mismatch player, and the opportunities were there to take advantage of them.

4) I don't have a great answer on what would be the best way to play Julio Jones. I felt like these Dallas cornerbacks gave him too much respect in the first half with their cushion when they should have tried to crowd him, especially when quarterback Matt Ryan was struggling to get him the ball. In the future, we might see Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli doing more to try to match these receivers if the opportunity presents itself. It appeared that Morris Claiborne had the best idea in how to cover him at least in the first half.

5) I am not surprised that the Cowboys defense had trouble getting pressure on Ryan. The Falcons do a really nice job now with their scheme in not allowing the quarterback to take hits. The sack by Sean Lee was off a blitz, and that was really it. Marinelli and the staff might have made the determination to try and play more coverage with the linebackers and take their chances by rushing four.  Regardless, Ryan made them pay for the lack of a rush.

6) From my seat in the press box, it appeared that guard La'el Collins played well in his first NFL start. There were some backside cutoffs and second-level blocks in the running game that he had to make, which he executed well. When the offense passed the ball, he worked nicely with Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick. What you always worry about with a rookie are those mental busts in assignments, but there were no major issues there.

7) If you have a chance to create turnovers on defense, you better take advantage of it. The defense had two opportunities to pick off Ryan in the same drive and couldn't come up with either one. Kyle Wilber misplayed a deflected ball to Leonard Hankerson and Claiborne ,who in my opinion has the best ball skills on the team, should have come up with the ball on the slant to Julio Jones. Two plays later, Devonta Freeman scores to cut the lead to seven points.

8) Thought the Falcons had a nice plan in the way that they attacked the Cowboys' defensive ends. With the way they were able to run the toss sweeps early with Freeman, that opened up some opportunities inside. This is where the defense missed a guy like Jeremy Mincey, who can control the point of attack with his power. Jack Crawford and Ryan Russell were just not stout enough to help the defense, especially when the ball went to the edge.

9) I was told that in practice this week, Brandon Weeden missed that same pass up the seam to Jason Witten. It was a beautiful design and called at the right time, but execution was just off.

10) Fans might dislike Nick Hayden as a player, but of all the Cowboys defensive linemen, he came to play. His five tackles and two tipped passes were the reason why Marinelli loves having him around. He is not the prettiest or most technique-sound, but he does give you everything he has.

11) Those blocks that this Dallas offense were getting in the first half just didn't happen in the second. Doug Free had a couple of misses to start the half. Zack Martin missed a cutoff block on the backside. Tyler Clutts got overpowered at the point. As a group, they just couldn't get things going when they handed the ball to the running backs. The film might show me different, but I thought the Falcons just did a much better job of playing off blocks and that was the difference.

12) This might sound strange, but I am not sure that even with Tony Romo in the lineup that the outcome would have been any different. The Falcons did exactly what they needed to do to win this game with their plan and execution of it. Sure, maybe Romo makes a throw or two down the field, but I never felt like that this Cowboys defense had a great handle on this Falcons offense.

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