After the shock wore off, slightly, I revisited the game tape and came away with these reassured observations.
The Cowboys and Brandon Weeden came charging out of the gate and moved the ball with great efficiency in the first half. Weeden was sharp on his passes. He took what the defense offered and moved the chains.
Joseph Randle ran the ball with balance and conviction. Randle appeared as though he was going to have that career day all running backs dream of having.
Lance Dunbar has become the receiver of choice with Dez Bryant injured. Dunbar continues to make plays across the middle of the field.
The defense played well on the first series.
Nick Hayden was the best of all the defensive linemen in this game. His effort and motor were outstanding. Hayden batted down two Matt Ryan passes in a row that forced the Falcons to have to punt. Hayden was also disruptive in the running game.
Barry Church had a decent game despite needing stitches to his upper lip and tape for a laceration across the bridge of his nose early on in the contest.
Sean Lee led the team in tackles, again, with ten. Even though he had to go to the locker room after the first series of the second half to get his lower lip stitched up. Andrew Gachkar came in to replace Sean. Lee returned to the game after two series.
Morris Claiborne was effective against Julio Jones. Jones was held in check for the first half, having only four catches for minimal yardage.
Claiborne was called for a defensive holding, away from the play, on the first successful scoring drive by Atlanta. It gave the Falcons a first down and goal instead of a fourth down. Falcons’ full back Patrick DiMarco had one big day. He pancaked Kyle Wilbur on the first scoring run by Atlanta’s Devonta Freeman.
On Atlanta’s second scoring drive, Barry Church was called for defensive holding in the end zone, it gave the Falcons another first and goal from the one and Freeman found the end zone for his second score.
Then, the game took a hard twist and along with it came the changing of the tides.
Scott Linehan failed to stretch the Atlanta defense by sending in plays to throw the ball downfield. All the passes except three were underneath type throws. The Cowboys only challenged the Falcons cornerbacks with one deep throw and that was early in the game to Terrance Williams.
Terrance Williams had a terrible game. He was targeted three times. The first time the defensive back was called for grabbing his face mask and that gave the Cowboys a big first down. The second time Brandon Weeden targeted Williams the pass was contested and Williams could not make the grab. The third time was at the end of the game on fourth down and Weeden delivered the perfect pass to keep the drive going, except Williams dropped the uncontested pass.
The Cowboys are carrying three wide receivers who were never targeted in this game, Brice Butler, Devon Street and Lucky Whitehead. This has to change.
The Cowboys need much more than they got on Sunday from defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. Lawrence was mostly a non-factor the entire game. It was not a great day for the other defensive tackles either. The Cowboys sorely missed Jeremy Mincey and Randy Gregory in this game. Without blitzing, the Cowboys just were not able to get to Matt Ryan.
Opening week J.J. Wilcox had what I thought was his best game of his career. Unfortunately, against the Falcons Wilcox reverted to his old ways. Instead of making sure tackles he tried for the big hit and missed more than once. His miss of Julio Jones on the eleven yard line, while helping Tyler Patmon cover the receiver, resulted in a touchdown. It appeared as though Wilcox closed his eyes when he launched toward Jones on the play.
The defense had two chances at interceptions. One was by Morris Claiborne inside the red zone. It was a play that could have broken the Falcons’ back early on. The other was on Nick Hayden’s first tipped pass, Kyle Wilbur had a chance for the ball, but he did not secure it, letting it hit the ground.
The Silver lining to all of this is that these things all happened in one game and the ‘boys can learn from their mistakes. It will be a tough week to be a defensive player for Rod Marinelli. The Cowboys must survive one more game before they get the services of Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain to help sure up this defensive unit.
The offense should be fine as long as they continue to play almost penalty free ball and keep ahead of the yard markers. The Cowboys should not shy away from their running game, as they were forced to in the second half.
There were mistakes made on Sunday, too many to overcome. The defense will be sure to revisit this game in the film room and work to make the necessary corrections. It is time for Jason Garrett and his staff to regroup and get back to work as the team must travel to New Orleans next.
Whitebear560.com – Whitebear560 Facebook – @Whitebear560 Twitter