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Ten thoughts on the Cowboys wild 40-39 victory over the Falcons

Breaking down the finer points of a crazy Cowboys game.

Atlanta Falcons v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Madness. Complete madness.

What a crazy game as fans sat through 58 minutes of frustration, only to have it all wiped away with the swift kick of the ever-reliable leg of Brett Maher Greg Zuerlein. The Dallas Cowboys pulled off the unthinkable when they spotted the Atlanta Falcons a 20-0 lead, only to snatch the game from their lifeless, standing-around-doing-nothing hands at the end. Wow. Just wow.

It’s hard to gather your thoughts on a game like this, but sometimes you gotta push through and get it done. Here are ten thoughts on this amazing come from behind victory by the Cowboys.

1. How special is that!

Oh, the dreaded special teams play of the Cowboys. We could go on for hours talking about some questionable decisions and poor execution caused a special teams unit to completely fall on their face again and again. Two failed fake punts. One was pretty sneaky. One was not. And what was the deal with Tony Pollard running out all those kick? Does he not know the Cowboys get the ball at the 25-yard line if it’s a touchback?

It’s almost like they told John Fassel to have his guys go out there and make plays, whatever it takes! If you fail, keep at it. And fail and fail and fail is what they did until finally, they didn’t. At the most crucial time, Greg “the magic leg” Zuerlein pulled off some razzle dazzle. With a spinner kick that took nearly five minutes to go ten yards, it must’ve completely hypnotized the Falcons special teams unit as they just stood there and watched. It was as if they didn’t know that they’re allowed to touch it before the 10-yard mark. C.J. (the “J” stands for “Johnny on the spot”) Goodwin was right there to pounce as soon as it went 10 yards, and just like that the Cowboys were in business!

Isn’t it amazing how the outcome of one little spinner kick can completely change our mood for the entire week.

2. Fumbles galore

It was almost laughable to watch the Cowboys put the ball on the turf as much as they did in the first quarter. Four times they fumbled in the quarter, and in three of those instances the Falcons recovered and turned them into points. In the blink of an eye, the Falcons held a 20-0 lead.

The Atlanta defenders were making a conscious effort to punch at the ball, and it worked to perfection as the Cowboys weren’t able to hang on. This put Dallas in a hole early to where they had to play catch up ball the rest of the way. In the future, it would be nice to maybe not turn the ball over so much.

3. Have yourself a game, Schultzy!

The Cowboys offense did a variety of things to get the ball out of Prescott’s hands quickly, and one of those things was to utilize tight end Dalton Schultz. A knee injury to Blake Jarwin has opened the door for more opportunities, but expectations weren’t that high that Schultz could step in and be a key contributor to the offense. Boy, was that a little presumptuous of us.

Schultz was outstanding. He caught nine of his ten targets for 88 yards and a touchdown. Schultz is known for his blocking, but little did we know he could be such a reliable, sure-handed target for Prescott in the passing game. That proved valuable going against a Falcons defense who was more focused on taking away the Cowboys big play receivers.

4. Zeke is relentless

Since we’re appreciating people, let’s give it up for 21, shall we? The sheer determination of Ezekiel Elliott was an impressive site as the star running back just had no quit in him. Every carry brought with it so much toughness as he just kept grinding away, plowing through Falcon defenders. He helped the Cowboys find the end zone for the first time with a strong goal line effort, including a not-so-clean exchange from Prescott. It didn’t matter. Zeke was getting in the end zone, whether Dak was going with him or not.

While all the craze is for the pass-catching star running backs or fresh new guys with breakaway speed, Zeke just keeps being one of the most durable chain-movers in the game. And that stuff matters. It matters a lot.

5. Slipped through their hands

The Falcons let the game slip through hands figuratively, and literally. It looked like Atlanta had the Cowboys defense burned when a wild cat formation resulted in a perfectly thrown pass by Falcons receiver Russell Gage, however, the ball went right though the hands of Julio Jones. This failed conversion combined with a 12-man in the huddle penalty forced the Falcons to punt.

On the ensuing possession, another big passing play came down to the finger tips of another former Alabama receiver, only this time he hauled in it. Amari Cooper caught a 58-yard pass that looked like it was going to be a smidgen deep. Cooper tracked it perfectly and was able to use his outreached hand to bring the ball back to him. The Cowboys scored a touchdown five plays later to make it a 29-24 game. What a huge turn of events.

6. The defense got worked

It feels great to get the win, but let’s not forget about the three hours of aggravation we had towards the Cowboys defense. At first, it was easy to feel a little bad for them as dreadful offense put them in tough spots. The Falcons offense is too good to let them get away with that.

But then later, time and time again, the defense just couldn’t make stops to get off the field. This was especially frustrating because the offense finally started to click and showed they could make some noise if they were just given a chance. To make matters worse, the defense would show up with some big plays on early downs, only to squander it by giving up a costly third-down, or fourth-down, conversion. The Falcons always seemed to get just enough yards, even if it meant rolling on the turf to the marker.

In the end, they made the stop they needed, but Mike Nolan and company have some things they need to work out.

7. Shout out to the UDFA tackles

This was supposed to be the game where we were all up in arms about the incredible position the offensive line was in without both La’el Collins and game-time scratch Tyron Smith. It was supposed to be a nightmare. And when it was clear that the Falcons defense was bringing the house to throw all kinds of pressure Dak’s way, what a mess that was, right?

Well, not so fast. The Cowboys struggled early. Right tackle Terence Steele did get called for a couple holding penalties as well as a false start (I think the Falcons jumped into the neutral zone first). Brandon Knight was fantastic, and it should be telling that he got the nod at left tackle protecting Dak’s blindside. Sure, the offense had to resort to a lot of shorter stuff so Dak wasn’t a sitting duck, but these young tackles stepped up and played well.

Despite trailing 20-0 in a game script that required Prescott to throw the ball 47 times, the offensive line did a fantastic job allowing Prescott an opportunity to get back in the game. Only once was Dak sacked. Kudos to the coaching staff and the stellar performance of these two young tackles.

8. First 100-yard game for CeeDee

It was another solid performance by rookie wide receiver CeeDee Lamb. He actually led the Cowboys team with 106 receiving yards, and he got just as many targets as Cooper. For the second straight game, Lamb got called for a penalty that turned a nice gain into a lesser nice gain as his judgement in blocking needs improvement. But he also had some big plays, including a 37-yard play down the middle on a free play after the Falcons jumped offsides as well as they key 24-yard catch that set up the game winning field goal. Lamb continues to show his playmaking ability in this offense.

9. Team 40 burger!

The offensive stats are gaudy. The Cowboys had 570 yards of total offense with 450 of them coming through the air. While the passing attack was in full force, four of the Cowboys five touchdowns came on the ground, including three of them courtesy of Prescott. Even though they took the first quarter off, the Cowboys still managed to put up 40 points. It only took Mike McCarthy’s Cowboys team two games to make that 40 burger goal a real thing.

10. Everyone else in the NFC East lost

There was a lot of time during that game to reflect on how the Cowboys just didn’t have their act together yet, but eventually it would hopefully happen. And even if they started out in a 0-2 hole, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world because they still have an easy path to the playoffs by means of the playing in the NFC East.

The Philadelphia Eagles lost at home with another two-interception game by Carson Wentz. It turns out, those Los Angeles Rams are still proving to be a tough football team. The New York Giants lost again, and it got even worse when Saquon Barkley left the game with a knee injury. And the Washington Football Team is no longer undefeated as they lost as well.

The 2020 season is a journey, and the Cowboys have a lot more games to work some stuff out, but seeing their divisional foes falter always brings about great pleasure.