ATLANTA -It was just starting to seem like Jay Ratliff was back to his normal self. Seemingly fully recovered from an ankle injury that he suffered in the preseason, Ratliff had been playing very well the past couple weeks and having a large impact on games.
But at the end of the first half of Sunday's game against the Falcons Ratliff went down to the ground holding the same ankle that had caused to miss time earlier in the season.
Ratliff's left the field and went to the locker room. He came back out in the third quarter with his helmet and pads, but remained on the sideline.
Ratliff sat out the entire third quarter and the beginning of the fourth quarter as well. The Pro Bowl lineman is known for his ability to clog up running lanes and his absence certainly seemed to be felt. In the first half the Falcons only managed 23 yard running the ball. In the third quarter, with Ratliff on the sideline, the Falcons more than doubled that number with 52 yards.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Ratliff proved his toughness by returning to the game in an attempt to help his defense make stops down the stretch. Unfortunately, his presence was not enough to stop the Falcons from making enough first downs to seal a victory, but the fact that Ratliff was willing to play through pain was a testament to his commitment to the team.
After the game there was no word on the status of Ratliff going forward. It is worrisome that he was favoring the same left ankle that he had injured earlier in the year. However, as Jerry Jones pointed out, the fact that he was able to return to the game bodes well for the near future.
"It was a good sign that he did come back and play," Jones said. "That's a good sign for his ability to come back and play next week."
Harris Has Promising First Return
Coming into Sunday night's game against the Falcons, the punt returning duties had officially been taken from Dez Bryant. After a few crucial mistakes an unproductive stretch as punt returner, the team decided to go in a different directions. So they handed over the reigns to Dwayne Harris.
And on his first punt return of the game Harris did not disappoint.
When the Falcons were held to a three and out in the opening drive of the game they were forced to punt it to Harris who returned it for 37 yards. Harris took the ball all the way to the Falcons' 32-yard line, eluding numerous tackles in the process.
Harris showed great vision and quickness on the play. In fact, he seemingly just needed to break one more tackle in order to take the ball all the way to the end zone. After the game Harris admitted that he had thought he could finish off the play with six points.
"Yeah, every time you're back there you're thinking touchdown," Harris said. "You don't think that you're going to get tackled. Coach put me back there to make plays and that's what I did."
Harris claimed that his teammates were also happy with his ability to immediately make an impact in his newly appointed position.
"(They said) 'good return,'" Harris said. "It was a long time coming for the punt return. We work hard. The guys, they want someone back there that can take it to the house. I tell them to block and I'll do the rest."
The return was a great way to start the game and looked to be a sign of things to come. Unfortunately for Harris, it was the only opportunity that he would receive all night. The Falcons only punted it one more time in the game and Harris was forced to let it bounce rather than return it.
Ogletree Shines On NBC
The last time the Cowboys played a prime time night game on NBC it was the season opener against the New York Giants. It was also the last time that Kevin Ogletree had what could be considered a very good game.
Catching two touchdowns and recording over 100 yards, it was supposed to be Ogletree's breakout performance. However, he failed to come close to matching those results in any game since.
But when the Cowboys traveled to Atlanta to play the Falcons on NBC's Sunday Night Football, Ogletree decided to have another big performance. The wide receiver accounted for arguably the two biggest offensive plays for the Cowboys all night.
In the first quarter Romo found Ogletree on 3rd and 20 for a 65-yard pass that eventually set up a Cowboys' field goal. Then in the fourth quarter, he caught Romo's only touchdown pass of the night.
Ogletree finished the game with three catches for 96 yards and a touchdown.
- Sunday's win marked the first for the Falcons since 2001 when Michael Vick made his first career start for Atlanta, defeating the Cowboys, who started Ryan Leaf at quarterback.
- After tying his career-long last week with a 14-yard punt return against the N.Y. Giants (10/28), Dwayne Harris bettered that Sunday with a 37-yard return in the first quarter.
- Felix Jones' rushed for 39 yards Sunday, upping his career rushing yards total to 2,533. He is the 10th Dallas Cowboy with at least 2,500 career rushing yards.
- Kevin Ogletreehad a 65-yard catch in the first quarter of Sunday's game. It was the longest catch of his career and the longest reception for the Cowboys since a 74-yard Tony Romo-to-Laurent Robinson hookup against the N.Y. Giants last season.
- Tony Romo threw for 321 yards Sunday to extend his club record of career 300-yard passing games to 35.
- Romo had a passer rating of 109.3 Sunday. It was his 45th career game with a rating above 100.0 to establish a club record and rank fourth in the NFL since 2006:
- DeMarcus Ware's 1.5 sacks Sunday upped his career sack total to 108.5 to move him past Pat Swilling (107.5) for 19th all-time in league history. He trails Greg Townsend (109.5) by one for 18th.
- Ware's 1.5 sacks Sunday was his sixth straight game with at least a half sack – the fourth such streak of his career.
- Sunday's performance also upped Ware'sclub record of multiple sack games to 26. It was also his third multi-sack game of the season to give him his sixth season with at least three multi-sack games.
- Jason Witten had seven catches Sunday to give him 754 for his career and pass Michael Irvin (750) as the club's all-time receptions leader. Witten reached 750 receptions in his 151st career game. Irvin reached the figure in 159 games.
- Only two other tight ends in league history have reached 750 career receptions – Tony Gonzalez and Shannon Sharpe – and Witten reached the figure faster than the previous two – 163 games for Gonzalez and 169 for Sharpe.
- Witten's 51 yards upped his season yardage total to 538, giving him his ninth career and ninth consecutive season with at least 500 yards. His nine total are the third-most all-time among league tight ends and his nine consecutive are second.