ARLINGTON, Texas – Like most everything else that went right for the Cowboys on Sunday at AT&T Stadium, the defense kept Julio Jones in check – for a half.
The Atlanta Falcons' Pro Bowl receiver was targeted eight times with only three completions for 27 yards.
By the final whistle, Atlanta had scored 25 unanswered points in a lopsided 39-28 victory over the Cowboys – and Jones had plenty to do with its second-half rally.
He finished with a game-high 12 catches for 164 yards and two touchdowns, both over the final two quarters, a continuation of his league-leading receiving pace entering the week.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw to Jones a whopping 20 times. By comparison, Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden's most popular target was running back Lance Dunbar (10).
"He's a damn good football player and the quarterback is awfully good too," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said of Jones. "They know how to find him and they're going to persist. They're trying to get him the ball and certainly the success he had within the game was a big factor in this game."
Not surprisingly, the Falcons moved Jones all over the field in an attempt to find favorable matchups and get him away from double coverage. The Cowboys' top three cornerbacks Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and Tyler Patmon all lined up opposite Jones at different times in the game.
"They motioned him a lot, moved him in different spots," Claiborne said.
Said Carr: "In the second half, they were able to get some momentum, make some plays of their own. In the first half, we did a good job of trying to neutralize No. 11 … In the second half, we just allowed him to get it going."
The Cowboys' inability to stop running back Devonta Freeman, filling in for injured rookie Tevin Coleman (ribs), also helped loosen up the passing game for Ryan and Jones. Freeman carried 30 times for 141 yards and three touchdowns.
The Dallas defense only allowed two 100-yard rushers in the 2014 regular season (Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy).
"They're awfully good when they're running the football well with that hard playaction, and they featured Julio Jones in the passing game, and they were able to get the ball to him on a number of different times and a number of different ways," Garrett said. "They converted third downs, they kept drives alive, and they kept our offense off the field. They did what they needed to do in the second half to win the ballgame."