What a difference a week makes. With questions surrounding the Cowboys after a disappointing effort the previous Sunday, the team definitely found its form against Atlanta. Dallas manhandled the Falcons on both sides of the ball, the result a dominating 43-3 victory.
Quarterback Dak Prescott appeared out of sync in that loss to the Denver Broncos a week ago, saying that perhaps faulty footwork was the culprit. Whatever the case, he was firing on all cylinders in this one. The quarterback completed 77.4 percent of his passes for 296 yards and a 127.9 passer rating. He finished with two passing touchdowns as well as one rushing score.
Ten different players caught passes in the game, as CeeDee Lamb led the way with 94 receiving yards and two scores. And welcome back Michael Gallup. Injured in the season opener at Tampa Bay, the wideout finally returned from his calf strain to haul in three passes for 42 yards.
Throw in over 100 yards rushing and the Cowboys offense could seemingly do no wrong. They finished with 431 yards total while owning the time of possession, 37:41-22:19.
Defensively, after failing to record a takeaway in two straight games, the Cowboys earned three in this one. The Dallas defense completely shut down the Falcons, limiting quarterback Matt Ryan to just 9 of 21 passing for 117 yards and a 21.4 rating. In all, Atlanta totaled only 214 yards of offense and were 1 for 13 combined on third and fourth downs.
If there was any doubts about the Cowboys offense finding its groove after last week's struggles, those concerns were put to rest on the team's very first possession. In marching 73 yards in eight plays to the end zone, Prescott connected with Lamb for a big 37-yard gain before going back to the wideout for the score to cap the drive, a 13-yard completion. The touchdown was the Cowboys' first in the first quarter since Oct. 17 at New England.
Atlanta got on the board on its initial series as well, working down to the Cowboys' 17-yard line, following gains of 17, 18 and 14 yards. But there the Dallas defense held, limiting the damage to a 35-yard field goal. It would be the first and last hurrah for the visitors.
After stopping the Falcons on fourth-and-7 at the Cowboys' 32-yard line on their next series, Dallas started its own march the other way. And again, despite going 0-for-4 on fourth downs the week before, the offense shook off those bad memories to convert a fourth-and-5 at the Falcons' 33-yard line on the last play of the quarter.
Less than two minutes into the second frame, the Cowboys were back in the end zone, something that would become a frequent occurrence over the next 15 minutes. Ezekiel Elliott got the honors this time, powering his way up the middle from 1-yard out to give Dallas a 14-3 lead.
Which soon enough was an insurmountable 21-3 advantage. The Cowboys drove 68 yards in eight plays, which included another fourth-down conversion. This time facing a fourth-and-3 at Atlanta's 25-yard line, Prescott threw a perfect pass to Gallup, who tiptoed inside the left sideline for a 23-yard gain to the 2. Elliott then bullied his way in off left guard for the touchdown.
That score marked Elliott's 12th career multi-rushing touchdown game, which moved him into third all-time in team history and also marked the third most in the NFL since he entered the league in 2016.
And then just before the half, Prescott, backpedaling to avoid two rushers, lofted a high pass to the back left corner of the end zone that Lamb simply ran under to give Dallas yet another score. The touchdown capped a 10-play, 59-yard drive for the Cowboys that saw Prescott complete all six of his pass attempts for 53 yards.
But the Cowboys weren't done yet. After the defense stifled the Falcons, forcing the visitors to punt from their own 17-yard line, Dorance Armstrong broke through the line of scrimmage and dove to block the punt. The ensuing scramble then saw rookie Nahshon Wright recover it in the end zone for his first career touchdown. An Atlanta penalty allowed Dallas to go for the two-point conversion and Elliott muscled across the goal line to give the Cowboys yet another two points.
The 29 points scored by Dallas in the second quarter were the most in franchise history by the team in any quarter. Additionally, the 36 points in the first half were the most for the team in a half since scoring 38 against San Francisco on Oct. 12, 1980. And the 33-point lead at the break was the Cowboys' largest since being up 35 points on Dec. 14, 1971 at the New York Jets.
The third quarter was all about turnovers in the early going. Cornerback Anthony Brown made a nice juggling grab for an interception, his third of the season, which marked a new career high. But shortly thereafter, an Elliott fumble was recovered by the Falcons.
No matter, on Atlanta's ensuing possession, Ryan threw behind intended target Kyle Pitts and into the arms of cornerback Trevon Diggs, who recorded his league-leading eighth interception of the year.
This time, though, the Cowboys would not be denied, going the 47 yards needed in nine plays. Prescott used his arm for completions of 19 and 22 yards, but the touchdown came thanks to his legs. On fourth-and-2 at the 4-yard line, he scrambled to his left and then lowered his shoulder to charge into the end zone for the score.
Three snaps into the final quarter, cornerback Jourdan Lewis got in on the interception fun, diving for a tipped pass to earn his second pick of the year. It marked the most interceptions in a game for the Dallas defense since picking off four on Dec. 5, 2010 at Indianapolis.
With that, Cooper Rush got the call behind center, Prescott's day done. Likewise, Atlanta's Ryan took a seat, both teams turning to their backup quarterbacks and many second and third-string players. And neither side really did much over the remaining minutes, perhaps both ready to just call it a day with the outcome well in hand.
The win was the first by at least 40 points for the Cowboys since defeating Arizona 48-7 on Oct. 22, 2000, and it improved their record to 7-2 to maintain a healthy lead in the NFC East.