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Saturday, September 24, 2022
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Cowboys Rebound with Crushing Defeat of Atlanta


Dallas Cowboys vs. Atlanta Falcons game. | Image from USA TODAY

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After the Denver Broncos came into AT&T Stadium last week and decimated the Cowboys, many people began to wonder if a “blueprint” for defeating America’s Team had been revealed.

During the week leading up to the game against the Atlanta Falcons, there was lots of talk about whether the Cowboys’ hot start to 2021 was nothing more than a fluke.

On Sunday, the team answered back at home against Atlanta, tearing the Falcons apart in all three phases of the game and walking away with a 46-3 victory.     

The Falcons’ opening drive, which resulted in a field goal after the Cowboys’ defense was held, turned out to be the game’s only points. In fact, it would be one of the only times the Atlanta offense crossed midfield all game.

The Falcons managed to make it to Dallas’ 32-yard line in the first quarter before failing to convert a fourth and seven. The ensuing Cowboys drive resulted in Ezekiel Elliott making a touchdown.    

With both starting defensive ends on the bench, big questions about how Dan Quinn’s defense would pressure quarterback Matt Ryan abounded. The ‘next man up’ philosophy paid off, as Dorance Armstrong and Terrel Basham immediately made an impact, freeing linebacker Micah Parsons to operate in his usual position rather than filling in on the line.    

Parsons totaled six tackles to lead the team, adding his sixth sack of the year in continuing his bid for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. Armstrong recorded a sack in the game and blocked a punt that resulted in a touchdown just before the halftime break that put the Cowboys up 36-3.     

There is no doubt that the Cowboys came into the game to prove to fans, sportswriters, and themselves that the early season hype was well deserved. Probably one play demonstrated this team’s skill and ability to make something out of nothing.

Facing a third-and-seven at the Atlanta 9-yard line, quarterback Dak Prescott took the snap and immediately got pressure from two Falcons defenders. From his back foot, Prescott floated a rainbow pass to an empty spot in the endzone. Receiver CeeDee Lamb was able to break from coverage and come back to collect his second touchdown of the day.    

Prescott was efficient throughout the game, producing 296 yards on 24 completions. Cooper Rush came in late in the game, denying Prescott the opportunity to hit over 300 yards. Atlanta is one of only three NFL teams to have not allowed a 300-yard passer this season.       

Another big question going into the game was how the Cowboys would handle kicking duties with starting placekicker Greg Zuerlein on COVID-19 protocol. The team brought in Lirim Hajrullahu, who had briefly joined the team in the preseason to handle kicking duties.

Hajrullahu wasn’t asked to kick any field goals as head coach Mike McCarthy continued to push the offense by going for it on fourth down, but Hajrullahu connected on all five extra points. The Cowboys also successfully converted a two-point try following the blocked punt that resulted in a touchdown.    

All three starting cornerbacks managed to win battles and recover interceptions, including one by Anthony Brown that seemed more like an act on America’s Got Talent than a play in football.

Trevon Diggs recorded his eighth INT of the season, and Jourdan Lewis made his first of the year on an acrobatic dive. Lewis also had three pass defenses while demonstrating a perfect through-hands technique.     

The win puts the Cowboys at 7-2 and leads the NFC East by four games. The Falcons drop to 4-5 and sit in last place for the NFC South behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints, and Carolina Panthers   

The Cowboys face the AFC West-leading Kansas City Chiefs next Sunday before returning home for a Thanksgiving day matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. 

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