For the second straight week, the Cowboys went on the road and got a win over a bird-themed team to keep their playoff hopes alive. This time, it was a 22-19 victory that ended on a Brett Maher field goal to secure the victory. It was a nail-biter that had several huge momentum swings throughout. Here are the five plays that shaped the game.
Cole Beasley drops a touchdown, Cowboys settle for a field goal
After forcing the Falcons to punt on their opening drive, the Cowboys offense was moving and seemed like they were off to a hot start. The drive ended up eating eight minutes off the clock, and the Falcons had to use a timeout midway through because they were so gassed. A big run by Ezekiel Elliott set the Cowboys up with first and goal from the four-yard line.
Dak Prescott took the snap out of the shotgun, faked a handoff to Zeke, and ran out to the right side. Cole Beasley broke off to get wide open in the endzone, and Dak threw a beautiful pass that went right into Beasley’s hands. The problem is that the usually reliable receiver dropped it right on the ground. The Cowboys’ next two plays failed to get in the endzone, and they settled for a field goal. In what ended up being an incredibly close game, leaving those points on the board was a huge blown opportunity early in the game.
Julio Jones turns into an All-Pro safety and breaks up Jeff Heath’s interception
As time was winding down in the second quarter and the game was tied 3-3, the Falcons had the ball and were trying to get a lead going into halftime. After a holding penalty set them back, the Falcons managed to gain yards and bring up second and eight on their own 42-yard line.
Matt Ryan decided to throw a deep strike to Julio Jones but the pressure forced him to overthrow his receiver. Jeff Heath was right there and he jumped up for an easy interception, something Ryan rarely throws. But Jones went up and laid a punishing hit on Heath that knocked the ball loose. Heath even had to leave the field for a play because the wind was knocked out of him. If the Cowboys had managed to get the takeaway, they would have had an opportunity to score with three and a half minutes left in the half. Instead, Atlanta held onto the ball and got a field goal to go up 6-3 at the half.
La’el Collins recovers a fumble, gets the first down, and probably saves the game
After Atlanta had kicked another field goal to go up 9-6, the Cowboys offense retook the field seeking to respond. They were working on another methodical drive when they found themselves facing a third and one at about midfield. Dallas rightly handed off to Zeke, who initially picked up the first down, but then the ball was poked loose and bounced back a yard or two.
Seemingly out of nowhere, La’el Collins scooped up the ball and lumbered forward two yards to once again pick up the first down. Not only did it keep the drive alive, which ended up turning into a touchdown, but if the Falcons had recovered the ball they would be in great position to take a two score lead. Collins’ quick reaction may have saved the game.
Brett Maher misses the extra point, keeps it close
Speaking of that touchdown, it put Dallas up 12-9 and a successful extra point would make it a four point game, giving the Cowboys some nice padding. But Brett Maher, who’s very much in a slump at this point, shanked the PAT to the left and kept it a three point affair.
Later in the game when Atlanta scored a touchdown and tied things up 19-19, it had to be pointed out that if Maher makes that extra point, the Falcons would have needed to go for two there in order to tie things up. The missed extra point ended up coming back to haunt them, and they had to turn to Dak Prescott to lead a game-winning drive.
Cole Beasley redeems himself with big catch to set up the game winner
On the ensuing drive trying to get into field goal position to win, the Cowboys were moving the ball and had reached the middle of the field with just 36 seconds remaining. The Cowboys still had all their timeouts so they could afford to throw in the middle of the field.
That’s exactly what Dak did. On second and 10, Dak took the shotgun snap and found Cole Beasley, who redeemed himself from his dropped touchdown in the first quarter by picking up 19 yards and giving the Cowboys great field position. Three run plays later, Brett Maher went out and kicked a 42-yard field goal to win the game as time expired, but it was Beasley’s big catch that set the whole thing up.