November 12, 2017
Dallas 7 at Atlanta 27
By Allison Smith
So, the game starts as usual. Off-setting penalties, then an exciting interception by the little heard from this season Desmond Trufant, but that is overturned due to a defensive penalty. So early, you already know how the game is going to go. But wait, the headline makes it sound like a better than average Falcon game. And it lived up to the hype.
Sean Weatherspoon is back and starting again. Trufant seemed already on his game like the Tru of 2016. Rookie Takk McKinley has several tackles for a loss in the first series, so Takk is coming in to his own as well now. We all know the defense has been doing their job this season, missing some tackles, but playing so much in the game, tiring out by the end.
Then, the storyline of the day, that you don’t know is the storyline this early. Adrian Clayborn, who has definitely returned healthy this season, has a sack, for a big loss and to cause a long 3rd down. On the 3rd down play, Claybo hits Dak Prescott as he releases the ball, that goes into the ground. The Cowboys punt and the Falcons begin their opening drive on their own 15.
After 2 hapless Devonta Freeman runs, the referee steps in noticing that Free is wobbly, but not mentioning anything to the team – as is Free’s normal. We now know that Freeman already has a concussion on the season, and he did not play again on the day. On the next play, the Cowboys defender, hugging Mohammad Sanu, tips the pass which is intercepted by another Cowboy, giving them the ball on the 21-yard line. I think this is when I tossed down my 3rd drink of the day.
The Cowboys take over and the first pass was tipped by Deion Jones and could have been intercepted by Ricardo Allen, as he was reading Prescott’s eyes very well. A couple of plays later, Prescott, running for his life from Takk, while the receivers were covered, runs in for the touchdown. The good news is, now, we know that is the only score for the Cowboys.
The first play of the 2nd offensive drive for the Falcons is a pass to Julio Jones. Catching, in typical Ju form, double covered and still hauling in the pass. Then, Matt Ryan begins the 2016 campaign of spreading the ball around. Mohamed Sanu, Austin Hooper, Tevin Coleman running. Maybe Freeman coming off the field inspired the offense to step up. This drive stalled and required a Matt Bryant 50-yard field goal, so guess his injury from the previous week is as good as healed. At the end of the first quarter, the Cowboys lead 7-3.
The defense was really making it difficult for the Dallas O all day. On a long 3rd down, Prescott begins to run again and is met by, Claybo, yet again behind the line of scrimmage, for the 2nd sack of the day. The Cowboys set up to punt, but instead attempt a pass, which was called back due to offensive pass interference and end up punting anyway. Back at the 42, Chris Jones punts the ball, that again Andre Roberts lets go over his head, where a Cowboy is already standing to down the ball and the offense gets to start yet another drive from their own 2.
An immediate pass to Julio at the 12 for a first down shows that Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian has finally found the good play book that has been hidden away. Again, spreading the ball out to Coleman, Sanu, and Levine Toilolo. After a time out, clearly a confused offense, Demarcus Lawrence easily shoves by Ryan Schraeder to sack Matt Ryan forcing a 4th down punt.
The Cowboys start at midfield due to a good punt return, but the defense stands up, forces loss of yards. Then, not wanting to be outdone, Dontari Poe comes over from the right side and lays Prescott out.
Taylor Gabriel starts the next drive on a misdirection handoff and a good Toilolo block, Turbo gains 15 yards. Then Jake Matthews has a penalty that negates the clobbering Ryan took because Schweitzer allowed two defenders easily by him. Coleman finally has a good run that gets additional yards based on being tackled by his helmet. Sanu sets up the defender, sets the angle for Ryan, who double clutches to see when Sanu is ready and makes a big catch leading into the 2-minute warning. Now, at the 15 with Terron Ward in the backfield, Ward runs up the middle for a couple of yards. Guess we should be happy Ward was even active this week with the injury to Freeman. Gabriel is hugged and stopped from getting to the end zone pass. With the pass interference penalty, the ball is moved to the 2.
Now, the fun begins. Dontari Poe is in at full back….now THAT is a FULL back. Also, Ben Garland is in on the line finally. Julio and Gabriel are both on the sideline, in case you think this is going to be a big pass play. This time, Poe makes a big enough hole and Coleman pushes in for the touchdown. Meanwhile, Garland has also moved his guys into the end zone as well. If anyone wants my improved line up suggestions.
With a minute and a half to go, the Cowboys come out trying with big play attempts. Trufant nearly gets an interception. The next play, the entire defensive line nearly gets a sack, but the elusive Prescott manages to escape and make it to the sideline for a first down. Flushed out again, Vic Beasley chases Prescott down for a 2-yard gain. With Zeke Elliot out, apparently Prescott is the only runner and runs again for a first down. Jason Whitten is finally targeted for a 6-yard reception and is pushed out by De’Vondre Campbell. While still at midfield, Claybo sacks Prescott again, not even forcing a fumble, but stripping the ball out of Dak’s arms before allowing him to go to the ground. Grady Jarrett’s arm was on Prescott’s back too, so there was not going to be any escape.
With only a few seconds going into the half and being near midfield, Ryan lobs it up a couple of times to no avail. Going into half time with the 10/7 lead.
We start the second half by lighting it up. A huge run by Coleman and 26-yard reception by Jones on the sideline quickly get the Falcons into Cowboys territory. Then a big catch by Hooper is negated by a block in the back by Toilolo. Gabriel, having his most targets of the season, makes an incredible catch down the middle after escaping coverage and sets the O up at the 8 with a first down. Ryan, while being tackled, gets a pass to Julio who is being covered by 3 defenders. Then, Justin Hardy makes a great move to escape the coverage, runs along the back of the end zone and gives Ryan the perfect touchdown target.
The Cowboys come out working the run pretty well for a couple of first downs. Clayborn and Jarrett were closing, but Prescott is getting rid of the ball much quicker now. Down in the red zone, Prescott drops back and has no clue that Clayborn has now left his feet and is about to land on him, for Claybo’s 4th sack of the day…so far….and a loss of 7 yards. Campbell causes a loss of 2 on the next play. On 3rd down, they cannot get back to the line of scrimmage. The 38-yard field goal attempt dings the upright and falls out to the right.
After taking over and a few short plays, Gabriel, with inside leverage, catches a 34-yarder across the middle, turns on his Turbo speed and goes. Coleman gets a first down along the left sideline. Down at the 15 with a first down, the 3rd quarter ends. Hooper gets to the 1-foot line. Poe is back in at fullback, then on play action, Hooper gets the 1-yard touchdown reception.
After a 2 yard loss caused by Deion Jones, an errant pass, it’s 3rd down….Claybo and Dak get together again. This forces a punt from deep in Dallas territory, giving the Falcons the ball back near midfield. Both Coleman and Ward blasting out big runs have the Falcons quickly in the red zone again. Unfortunately, all the Falcons could manage was another successful field goal and the game is set at 27/7.
Really late in the game, Whitten final gets another big pass to move the Cowboys to the 35-yard line. The next play is another errant pass based on a quick throw because of Clayborn swarming close. In the annoying prevent defense, the Cowboys continue to drive down the field. Clayborn almost has another sack, but falls/gets tripped. Robert Alford and Trufant had great coverage of Dez Bryant all day. With 3rd and 6 at the 20, Prescott is scrambling with Beasley and Clayborn on his heels. With just over 4 minutes to go, the Cowboys have to go for it on 4th down. Not to be forgotten for his early season game winning sack, Brooks Reed sacks Prescott, deep in the backfield, closely flanked by Beasley and Jarrett. While, on the same play, there was offensive holding, which must have been the only thing keeping Clayborn for being back there too.
The next Falcon drive goes for nothing with runs up the middle and the Cowboy defense standing up, trying to get the ball back for their offense. Little did they know what that would entail.
The 2nd play in the Cowboys final drive, Clayborn strip sacks Prescott. Completely in the backfield, way behind Prescott, Clayborn knocks the ball out, Takk and Jarrett both see the loose ball and head for it, where Takk recovers the fumble, giving the Falcons offense the ball back. Claybo is then attacked by Reed, Rocky, Debo, all jumping on him in celebration. He smiles, walks over to the sideline like, “Another day another dollar.”
Dallas had utilized all of their time outs, Atlanta ran out the clock and the Falcons are officially back on track. We hope.
Injury Report: Devonta Freeman, concussion, no updates yet. Not yet ruled out against Seattle, but I would suggest unlikely.
Iron Falcon: Obviously, Adrian Clayborn defensively. Claybo passes the great Chuck Smith and legend Claude Humphrey who both tallied 5 sacks in a single game. Clayborn’s 6 sacks not only set a Falcon record, but clearly took the Cowboys out of their passing game and without the running of Zeke Elliott, Prescott was left to run or pass really quick himself.