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Falcons @ Cowboys Game Film: Five Observations

Looking over the game film revealed some plays that helped identify why some things took a turn for the worse in the second half.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Losing to Atlanta wasn't a big deal. They are a good football team and everyone knows the Cowboys are banged up so it wasn't surprising to see them come up short. But what made this game frustrating was how everything unfolded. After such a strong first-half performance, the Cowboys just shut down. They couldn't make plays on offense and they couldn't make plays on defense. What happened?

Here are five plays that showed why the Cowboys had success and identified why things suddenly changed.

Joseph Randle - the elusive one

The Cowboys running attack looked impressive in the first half, but most of the damage came off of Joseph Randle's first three carries, where he had runs of 28, 37, and 20 yards. The blocking was good and the running backs took advantage, however Randle did a lot of the work himself. On his big touchdown run, Atlanta linebackers, Justin Durant and Paul Worrilow each had a shot at Randle in the backfield, but Randle got away and took off down the sideline.

Offensive play calling - mixing it up

In the first half, the Cowboys started four of their six drives off with passes. Excluding the one-play drive where Brandon Weeden threw an interception, every single one of these drives, started off with a play that was a gain of at least nine yards. Of the Cowboys 28 first half plays, 19 of them went for seven or more yards. The Cowboys offense was "winning the play" a great majority of the time and the balanced attack kept the Falcons on their heels.

This play action resulted in a 19 yard pass to Jason Witten starting off the Cowboys second scoring drive. The Cowboys had the Falcons defenders going in the wrong direction.

In the second half, it would be a different story. With the exception of the final drive when Dallas was in hurry-up mode, each drive started with a run. And an ineffective one at that with gains of -1, -4, and 1 yard. These are plays that are going to get you behind the chains and make things difficult for the offense.

The Cowboys offensive line - got outplayed

In the second half, the offense couldn't produce anything. A big part of this was that the Falcons front seven just overpowered the Cowboys offensive line and got penetration.

On this play, Randle doesn't stand a chance.

Tyron Smith had bad game. He got called for a holding penalty and gave up a sack to the rookie edge rusher, Vic Beasley. You know it's going to be a long day when your All Pro left tackle is struggling.

Here is Tyron lying on the ground pretending to be invisible.

The Falcons running game - attacking the linebackers

The Falcons first offensive play would be a pitch to Davonta Freeman where Kyle Wilber and Anthony Hitchens closed in on him right away for a one-yard gain. From that point on, Atlanta did a great job taking the linebackers out of the game. They would run away from Sean Lee, and get their offensive lineman to the second level to take the other linebackers out.

Davonta Freeman would be running at top speed, eight yards down the field before the Cowboys could get a hand on him.

Atlanta also did a great job utilizing fullback Patrick DiMarco. On this play, DiMarco puts Wilber on his back and allows Freeman a clear path to the end zone.

Moving Julio around

It's weird to say this, but the Falcons started going away from Morris Claiborne. While it is great news that he is playing good enough to stay away from, it didn't help the team on Sunday. Atlanta would move Julio Jones around a lot and both times he found the end zone, Claiborne wasn't in the mix.

On this play, the run Julio across the field behind the line of scrimmage leaving Claiborne stuck in purgatory.

These are the key things that stood out to me the most. What did you see that caused you the most concern?

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