ARLINGTON, Texas – This was a game of two halves as the Cowboys came out hot in the first, but the Falcons were way too strong in the second and steamrolled Dallas for a 39-28 win.
On Saturday, the staff writers gave their gut feeling for Sunday's game. Check out the instant reactions from the staff of DallasCowboys.com.
David Helman:I thought the defenses would factor a little more prominently in this one, considering I picked the Falcons to win, 20-17. But in the grand scheme of things, I think this one played out more or less with my expectations – the Cowboys had far too many personnel losses to overcome in a 39-28 loss. Brandon Weeden wasn't awful by any stretch of the imagination, but his checkdown-heavy approach didn't inspire any fear in the Atlanta defense. That helps explain why the Cowboys were utterly hopeless running the ball after halftime. You can't be one-dimensional in the NFL and expect to move the ball. The Cowboys defense started out strong enough, but without an offense to help out, the Falcons took over down the stretch. The fact that the Falcons had both their Pro Bowl quarterback and their Pro Bowl receiver while the Cowboys did not cannot go unnoticed. You can't let the defense completely off the hook, though, considering that Atlanta's backup running back tore off 193 all-purpose yards. Bottom line, in my opinion: Dallas needs to get back to the drawing board and find a more balanced gameplan. I understand the coaches don't want to put Weeden in any bad situations, but they have to find a way to make the opposition respect the pass.
Nick Eatman:Ok, well call this one a big goose egg for me. Nothing I wrote on Saturday was accurate here. I said the Cowboys would win, nope. I said Brandon Carr would have a good game, nope. I said Jeremy Mincey's loss would hurt but the Cowboys could overcome it, nope. I said Brice Butler might have some big plays, nope – didn't even have a target. And more importantly, I thought Brandon Weeden would play well enough to win, and that's a big nope. While Jason Garrett praised his performance, he certainly wasn't good enough. He checked the ball down all day and eventually the Falcons figured out how to stop him and the run. No one wants to hear any excuses, so let's just call it like it is, the Cowboys weren't good enough and were beaten by a much better team.
Bryan Broaddus:Even with the loss of Jeremy Mincey I felt like that Jack Crawford would have been able to step up and give this defense a little juice playing off that right side. Crawford is such an active player but Jake Matthews did a really nice job of holding him in check. It was clear in the running game that the Falcons wanted to test these Dallas defensive ends in the running game and once they had success - then it was going to be difficult to slow them down. Crawford and his teammates didn't do a good enough job of handling blocks at the point of attack and was the reason that the Falcons had so much offense success.
Rob Phillips:My gut feeling was a tight, low-scoring victory for the Cowboys which would require a high-level performance from the defense and special teams. For a half, that appeared to be the narrative for Sunday's game. The defense was swarming early, and replacement starting quarterback Brandon Weeden was highly efficient for two quarters because the run game was by far the most effective it had looked all season and there were plenty of opportunities underneath to keep drives moving through the air. I'm not sure if fatigue factored in for the Cowboys' undermanned defense, but the Falcons never gave up on getting Julio Jones involved, and he and running Devonta Freeman moved the ball at will in the second half. I thought Weeden would need a Cowboys takeaway or a big return to give him extra possessions/short fields, and he never got either. The passing game also just was never able to make Atlanta pay for crowding the box to stop the run in the second half. Head coach Jason Garrett said all their injuries could not be used as excuses, but ultimately it looked like the team needed those offensive skill players and pass rushers to keep the 11-point lead they had at halftime.
For the initial gut feeling predictions of the staff writers posted on Saturday, click here: