ATLANTA — Everything seemed to be in the Dallas Cowboys’ way Sunday night at Atlanta’s new $1.6 billion Mercedez-Benz Stadium — an imbalance of power due to the presence of Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, and Julio Jones and the loss of Ezekiel Elliott to suspension.
And in truth, Atlanta’s high-flying offense was in fifth gear during the’ 27-7 victory against the Cowboys. The problem was the Falcons — including a defense that tallied seven sacks — found a sixth.
The loss, despite a Herculean effort by Dak Prescott and the (5-4) Cowboys may have been predictable given how Dallas produced on the ground in the first half, as well as the absence of All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith. His replacement, Chaz Green, was beaten repeatedly in the inconsistent “falling house of cards” Cowboys offensive line on Sunday.
Each team lost a productive starter. Dallas lost middle linebacker Sean Lee to a hamstring injury and Freeman, a running back, was lost to the concussion protocol.
Lee’s replacement struggled against the run and the Falcons’ withering pass attack. Tevin Coleman, Freeman’s backup, kept the train on the tracks with 20 rushes, 83 yards and a touchdown. Atlanta outgained Dallas on the ground 132-107 and 347-233 in total yardage.
Alfred Morris and Rod Smith combined for 8 rushing yards on seven carries. Prescott, who finished 18-for-28 for 168 yards, had 42 yards rushing and a 10-yard touchdown run mostly on scrambles. Ryan, though, shredded the Cowboys’ defense for 215 yards and two scores on 22-for-29 passing — including leading a seven-play, 72-yard drive capped by a 1-yard strike to Austin Hooper with 3:41 left in the third quarter that handed Dallas a nearly insurmountable 17-point deficit.
Lost was the ball control and balance provided by Elliott’s dominating presence through the tackles. As a result, Adrian Clayborn found a single-game, career-high in sacks (6) and fully-loaded-turned-one-dimensional Dallas found fewer than 100 yards — 93 yards to be exact — rushing in four quarters.
Gone was the multifaceted, gunslinger-like offense that earned average 12-point margin wins against the Arizona Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs, and Washington Redskins in recent weeks. Both Jason Witten (7 rec, 59 yards), a future Hall of Famer, and Dez Bryant (3 rec, 38 yards), arguably one of the best receivers in the league, finished with less than 60 yards receiving.
In the place of Dallas’ oft overpowering offense was a underwhelming, pre-Zeke configuration, spearheaded by a stable of castoff backs from struggling franchises.
The loss dropped Dallas to second in the NFC East and three games behind their bitter rival, the Philidelphia Eagles. The (6-4) Falcons, with the victory, have the opportunity to move into second in the NFC South. dependent on a Miami Dolphins upset of the Carolina Panthers on Monday Night Football.
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