After the first drive of the game, it looked like Dallas was not going to need Tony Romo or Dez Bryant in this one. Joseph Randle carved up the Falcons defense with 65 yards on two carries, including a 37 yard touchdown run. But he would finish with only 87 yards for the game as Atlanta’s defense shut out the Cowboys in the second half to win 39-28.
After scoring on the first drive of the game and forcing Atlanta into a three and out, Dallas went right back down the field on their second drive, going 77 yards in eight plays which ended in another Randle touchdown, this one from one yard out. It was the first of three 14 point leads the Cowboys held in the first half. But on the next drive, the Falcons woke up.
Matt Ryan started to get into a rhythm on his second drive of the game, going 4/8 on the drive for 48 yards, ending in a three yard touchdown run by Devonta Freeman, the first of three touchdowns on the day for him.
After two straight punts, Dallas got good field position, starting at their 44 yard line. Darren McFadden carried the load on this drive, running for 31 yards and a two yard score to put Dallas up 21-7 in the second quarter.
After forcing Atlanta to punt, Dallas looked like they could put the Falcons away early. But Brandon Weeden made a terrible mistake, rolling out to his left he throw a sailing pass down the field which was intercepted by William Moore, giving Atlanta the ball on Dallas’ 23. Seven plays later Freeman ran for his second touchdown of the day, a two yard score on third and goal. Not to be outdone, Dallas came back with another scoring drive, capped off by another Randle touchdown with less than a minute to go in the first half. With 40 seconds left before halftime, the Falcons drove 66 yards in that time frame to set up a field goal which took them into the intermission down just 28-17.
Atlanta got the ball back to start the second half, but their first drive stalled. They forced a three and out from Dallas, and that completely energized them for the second half as they kept Dallas off the scoreboard during the second half. On their second drive of the second half, Julio Jones started to look like a man among boys after being kept quiet in the first half. He accounted for 67 yards on two catches, including a 45 yard touchdown catch on third and three from the Dallas 45. After converting the two point try the Falcons were within three. They got the ball back before the quarter ran out and had all the momentum heading into the final frame.
Jones made two more catches on their go-ahead drive to keep them moving and Freeman finished it off with his third touchdown of the day, a seven yard scamper into the end zone. After another three and out from the Cowboys, the Falcons iced the game with an 11 play, 62 yard drive that took 6:14 off the clock and ended with Julio Jones catching his second touchdown of the day to put Atlanta up 39-28, which is how the game would end.
Dallas’ offense was simply too conservative in this game. They didn’t try to make any plays down the field and Cole Beasley was the only receiver to catch a pass in this game (he caught four). Most of the game Weeden just dumped the ball off to Lance Dunbar and/or Jason Witten, who combined for 16 catches and 165 yards. Terrance Williams was targeted just twice and didn’t make any catches. The simplicity of play calling allowed Atlanta to make adjustments on defense and come away with the win. The good news for the Cowboys is that they will take on the 0-3 Saints in the Superdome next week, who could very well be without Drew Brees once again.