ATLANTA – The Cowboys defenders won't be content with allowing 19 points to the Falcons knowing they could have given their offense a legitimate chance at a fourth-quarter comeback had they halted Atlanta's final drive sooner.
The Falcons started their last drive with 5:21 remaining and kept the drive going until kicking a field goal with 22 seconds left, converting three first downs along the way and practically eliminating any chance for the Cowboys to drive the field.
An offensive pass interference call on Julio Jones backed the Falcons up 10 yards to start the drive. Michael Turner then took a 10-yard run back to the 20-yard line, and a 4-yard catch by Tony Gonzalez set up a third-and-6 at the Falcons' 24-yard line. A short pass to Jacquizz Rodgers would have come up short of the sticks, but cornerback Orlando Scandrick missed the tackle on the shifty running back, who darted for 31 yards on the play.
"I'm very disappointed in myself," Scandrick said. "I've got to make the plays I'm capable of making. That's what I get paid to do. No excuses. I take full accountability."
A 2-yard run by Michael Turner and an incomplete pass then set up a third-and-8 at the Cowboys' 43-yard line. It appeared the Cowboys stopped the Falcons on an incomplete pass, but Scandrick was flagged for holding on the play.
"It's just very upsetting," Scandrick said. "My first penalty and my first missed tackle of the season come in one game and in a crucial part of the game. Like I said, I don't have any excuses. I accept full responsibility. I'm not one to make excuses. I'll bounce back. I'll continue to work hard. I'll work harder on those things."
After another short run and an incomplete pass from Ryan, a third chance to stop the Falcons on third down would have given the Cowboys' offense more than three minutes to operate. Instead, Rodgers took a short pass 11 yards by dodging safety Danny McCray for another Falcons first down with 3:18 remaining, allowing the clock to wind down with the Cowboys out of timeouts.
McCray said he thinks the missed tackles were a result of bad technique, combined with laziness and complacency, as Cowboys defenders, and specifically the defensive backs at the final drive, figured they'd just run up and make tackles without the right technique.
"I really can't think of one of us that didn't have a missed tackle for the game," McCray said. "That's just something that we need to go back and work on."
Three more runs set up a 32-yard field goal with the clock all the way down to 22 seconds, which wasn't enough time for the Cowboys offense to maneuver toward the end zone.
Though the defense held the high-powered Falcons offense to 16 points until late in the fourth quarter, it was the final drive that defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will remember most.
"This team will hit some big plays on you, and that's what we didn't want to do," Ryan said. "They hit a couple big ones."