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GAME RECAP: Cowboys Can't Keep Pace Of Strong Start, Lose 39-28

If you knew going in that the Cowboys offense would rack up 28 points without the services of Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, you'd have to feel pretty good about your chances.

But in losing 39-28 to the visiting Atlanta Falcons in front of a sold-out crowd of 90,345 fans, perhaps it was the injuries that kept defensive linemen Jeremy Mincey and Randy Gregory out of the game that actually hurt the Cowboys more.

As the day wore on, Atlanta seemingly made the adjustments needed while Dallas simply could not in what became a tale of two halves for the home team.

Through the first two quarters of play, the Cowboys held a 28-17 lead, had totaled 295 yards of offense to just 179 for Atlanta and narrowly held the time of possession, 15:54 to 14:06.

But that script completely flipped in the second half, as Atlanta shut down the Cowboys' running game, allowed Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden nothing but check-down passes and suddenly found its rhythm on offense.

Dallas finished the game with 347 total yards of offense, while the Falcons erupted, racking up 438 yards. The Cowboys would also go on to lose the time of possession, 34:13 to 25:47.

And one need look no further than the performance of running back Joseph Randle on the day to see how the game changed. Through his first three carries, he totaled 85 rushing yards, already a career high. But over the rest of the day, he earned just 2 more yards on 11 attempts, failing to even crack the century mark.

Overall, Dallas ended the first half with 131 rushing yards to only 52 for the Falcons, but actually lost yardage on the ground in the second half, ending the game with 127 rushing yards to 158 for Atlanta.

Under little pressure throughout the game, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan picked apart the Cowboys secondary apart, finishing with 285 yards passing with two touchdowns and no interceptions. The Cowboys also had no answer for running back Devonta Freeman, who carried the ball 30 times for 141 yards. Receiver Julio Jones also ran free throughout the secondary, especially in the second half, totaling 164 receiving yards on 12 catches.

For the Cowboys offense, although he faced much scrutiny in replacing Romo, Weeden actually was efficient in the game, completing 22-of-26 passes for 232 yards. And while he did have one costly interception, the loss could hardly be blamed on him. The Dallas defense was just unable to slow down Ryan and the Falcons.

The Cowboys couldn't have asked for a better start as the team scored on each of its first two drives, and doing so rather easily. Randle took the first snap of the game and sprinted 28 yards around left tackle, then after a facemask call on Atlanta moved the ball 15 more yards, Randle this time went around the right side for 37 yards and a quick score.

That was followed on the Cowboys' next series by Weeden completing all four of his pass attempts for 56 yards, the last a 20-yard beauty to Cole Beasley to the Falcons' 1-yard line. Randle then capped things off with a plunge up the middle, Dallas cruising 14-0 with just over seven minutes still remaining in the first quarter.

And while the Falcons got on the board late in the opening frame, Freeman making his way around the left end from 3 yards out, the Cowboys came right back and tacked on another seen points.

This third scoring drive featured Darren McFadden, the Cowboys' running back by committee approach working to perfection. He totaled 34 rushing yards on five carries including his first touchdown as a Cowboy, the advantage back up to 21-7.

At this point, Weeden had completed all nine of his pass attempts, which put his streak up to 21 completions in a row, dating back to last season, a new Cowboys' record. But on his 10th attempt in this one, he was flushed out of the pocket and scrambling to his left tried to connect with tight end Jason Witten, but instead tossed it right into the arms of Atlanta safety William Moore, who returned it to the Cowboys' 23-yard line.

That eventually led to Freeman's second touchdown run of the day, the score narrowed to seven again, 21-14.

But Weeden and Company bounced back from the previous mistake, coming out and running the two-minute offense to perfection. The quarterback stayed efficient, completing each of his four passes for 59 yards on the drive, with Randle then notching his third rushing touchdown of the half with a dive over the top from the 1-yard line, Dallas up 28-14.

The Cowboys perhaps could have taken a few more ticks off the clock during that drive, though, taking a timeout that would later give Atlanta 40 seconds with which to work. That was enough for Ryan, who marched his team 66 yards in six plays, the big blow a pass to Freeman underneath that went for 35 yards. That led to a 32-yard field goal by Matt Bryant as time expired in the second quarter.

But that little bit of momentum for the Falcons to close out the first 30 minutes of play only snowballed as the game continued. The Cowboys simply couldn't do anything on offense in the third quarter, Randle, who was so effective earlier in the game, rushing the ball four times for a minus-5 yards. The team as a whole totaled only 33 yards.

Meanwhile, the Ryan to Jones connection seemed to get only stronger as the game continued, the receiver hauling in four passes for 96 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown grab midway through the third quarter. After Atlanta was successful on its two-point conversion, they sat only a field goal behind, 28-25, with the Cowboys searching for ways to somehow stop them.

They didn't find them, as the visitors quickly took the lead for the first time of the day early in the fourth quarter. This came thanks to an extended 11-play, 89-yard drive that ate up 6:44 of clock before Freeman barreled in for his third touchdown, the Falcons now firmly in control, 32-28.

And the onslaught only continued, Dallas simply just unable to contain the Falcons' combination of Freeman and Jones. On its very next possession, Atlanta went on another 11-play drive, this time lasting 6:14, that saw Freeman rush five times for 31 yards with Jones hauling in three passes for 21 yards, the last a 2-yard reception that put six more points on the board, the extra point giving Atlanta an insurmountable 39-28 lead.

With the loss, the Cowboys fell to 2-1 on the season, but still hold the top spot in the NFC East. They'll next head to New Orleans to take on the Saints on Sunday Night Football.

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