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Dallas Cowboys News & Notes: Defense Gets Rocked In Loss To Falcons

Cowboys News: With several players missing from their match up with the Falcons, the Cowboys surprised everyone with a hot start, but then surprised them again by going cold in the second half.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys Can't Maintain Early Lead, Fall To Falcons 39-28 - Blogging The Boys
It started out great, but then for no particular reason the Falcons decided to go for a little run.

Despite being without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, the Cowboys offense scored a season high 28 points. Unfortunately, the did it all in the first half so it left Cowboys fans very unsatisfied. The biggest recipient of the blame game falls on the shoulders...or arm of Brandon Weeden

Cowboys thoughts: Defense fails; Brandon Weeden can't make downfield throws | Dallas Morning News
On the surface, Weeden seemed to play okay, completing 85% of his passes, but was he trying to play it too safe? Jon Machota thinks so.

With the defense unable to hold Atlanta, Dallas needed Weeden to make some plays with his arm. That never happened. He consistently took the intermediate throws and that ultimately didn't get Dallas in position to score touchdowns.

Hot Air: Troy Aikman zings Brandon Weeden as Cowboys' QB debate about to take center stage | Dallas Morning News
Jimmy Johnson was giving Troy Aikman a hard time before the game...

"Owner Jerry Jones said this week that Brandon Weeden throws the prettiest ball he's ever seen," provocateur Johnson said from the comfort of a Los Angeles studio as he prepared to stick the needle into the Cowboys Hall of Fame quarterback turned game analyst. "How'd that make you feel?"

Aikman's response...

"But Jimmy, you know as well as anybody [that] playing quarterback in this league goes beyond throwing just a nice pass," Aikman countered. "He's got to make good decisions under duress and how well he does that today is going to determine how much success he ultimately has."

The Cowboys offense was rolling when the run game was clicking, but then it stopped clicking.

Recap: Cowboys fail first test without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant | Dallas Morning News
The ground attack looked so promising, but then took a turn for the worse.

Dallas running back Joseph Randle had 85 yards on his first three carries, including a 37-yard touchdown that helped the Cowboys to a 14-0 lead. He had just 2 yards on his next 11 runs, and the Cowboys had just three first downs in the second half after getting 20 before halftime.

Whatever magic amulet that Randle was wearing in the first quarter must have been stolen and worn by Falcon's running back, Davonta Freeman. That's the only logical explanation.

Freeman had no trouble with the league's No. 1 rushing defense, getting 89 yards in the second half as the Falcons scored touchdowns on three straight possessions to overcome a 28-17 deficit.

Broaddus: Defensive Struggles, Collins’ First Start Among Thoughts | Dallas Cowboys
Bryan Broaddus give us his 12 thoughts from the game, including one that might come as a surprise to some people.

This might sound strange, but I am not sure that even with Tony Romo in the lineup that the outcome would have been any different. The Falcons did exactly what they needed to do to win this game with their plan and execution of it. Sure, maybe Romo makes a throw or two down the field, but I never felt like that this Cowboys defense had a great handle on this Falcons offense.

Instant Review: Staff Writers Give Quick Analysis After Loss To Falcons | Dallas Cowboys
Nothing seemed to go as expected. From a defensive let down to the conservative approach of Brandon Weeden, the Cowboys staff writers offer up their quick assessment of the Cowboys disappointing defeat.

As disappointing as it was to see the offense stall, the real culprit might be found in the 39 points the defense gave up.

Garrett: 'We just didn't get stops' - ESPN Video
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett discusses his team's lackluster defensive effort and the play of QB Brandon Weeden in their 39-28 loss to the Falcons.

How WR Julio Jones Got Rolling Against The Cowboys’ Defense | Dallas Cowboys
It didn't come as much of a surprise that Julio Jones was going to be a big part of the Falcons offense. Dallas knew it, but still couldn't stop him.

He finished with a game-high 12 catches for 164 yards and two touchdowns, both over the final two quarters, a continuation of his league-leading receiving pace entering the week.

Sabin: 'Damn good' Julio Jones torments Cowboys cornerbacks | Dallas Morning News
It seemed like the Cowboys defense was prepared for him by keeping him in check early.

In the first half, Jones was held in check, producing three receptions for 27 yards while being shadowed predominantly by cornerback Morris Claiborne. Wherever Jones was, Claiborne seemed to be in his midst. He was there when Jones couldn't snag a slant pass shortly after Dallas had built a 14-0 lead. Later, he defended Jones on a curl route on a third-and-2 pass that fell incomplete in the second quarter.

But the Falcons made some adjustments at halftime that aimed to free Jones from the coverage he was facing. "They put him in different spots," Claiborne said. "They got him underneath. A lot of pick routes. A lot of guys in the way to get him open."

Whatever Atlanta did, it worked.

Falcons dismantle Cowboys defense in second half | The Star-Telegram
It was a let down performance for the defense and no one was more disappointed than the team's defensive leader, Sean Lee.

"We just played bad," said Lee, the defensive hero last week who finished with a team-high 10 tackles Sunday.

"You’ve got to give credit to the Falcons, they executed in the second half. We didn’t across the board. It was a bad performance by us, starting with me. We’ve got to find a way to play better in the second half. We can’t allow that to ever happen again."

Gosselin: Overexposed Cowboys defense got smacked in the face by Falcons | Dallas Morning News
With so many players missing, there are a lot of excuses this team could make for its horrible performance, but the coaches will have none of that.

They own it. "It's on me," Marinelli said. "I thought we were ready. We weren't. When you don't have any takeaways, you can't stop the run, we didn't get a rush...that comes back to coaching. We just didn't execute."

There is plenty of blame to go around.

Don’t Forget About These Five: Clock Management, Costly Penalties And More | Dallas Cowboys
Nick Eatman reminds us of five key moments in the game, including a squandered opportunity for the offense to start the second half off right.

Witten, Free penalties – To start the third quarter, the Cowboys led by 11 and forced a stop, getting the ball at the Falcons 47 to start the drive. But after a false start by Jason Witten, followed by a holding call on Doug Free, the Cowboys went backward and eventually punted it away to the Falcons, who then went 87 yards in six plays to cut the lead down to three. Getting the ball in Atlanta territory is usually a great chance for any points, but just like last week, penalties were costly, and it killed the best-starting drive the Cowboys had all day.

Cowlishaw: Jason Garrett's gift to Falcons triggers unstoppable Atlanta comeback | Dallas Morning News
The Falcons would score 25 unanswered points, but the first three of these points should have been avoided.

The Cowboys called a timeout late in the second quarter right before they scored, which left too much time on the clock for the Falcons to sneak in a FG before the half. "That's a tricky situation for us because we're changing personnel groups. And sometimes that can be complicated. In an ideal situation, you work that thing all the way down and don't give them a chance to go back the other way and get that field goal,'' Garrett said. "(I) wanted to give us a chance to function well and get the touchdown, which we were able to do. But it did give them a chance to come back the other way.''

Notes: Dunbar’s Role, Mincey’s Return, Cowboys Injury News; More | Dallas Cowboys
Moving forward, looking at some positive things - Lance Dunbar is becoming a big part of this team's offense.

Through three games Dunbar is tied for the team lead in receptions, with 21, and he’s leading the team in receiving yards with 215. A big chunk of that came Sunday against the Falcons, where Dunbar led all Dallas receivers with 10 catches for 100 yards.

I don't know that it's a good thing that a role playing RB is the teams leading receiver, but certainly they are getting a lot of contribution from him.