What a difference a week makes. After the Broncos humbled the Cowboys last week, Mike McCarthy’s team responded in the best way possible. Not only did Dak Prescott look noticeably sharper, but the rest of the team played like the dominant Cowboys we’ve seen all year.
The result was a monstrous victory that was over by halftime. The Falcons even pulled several of their starters by the end of the third quarter, a stunning white-flag waving by NFL standards. Everything came easy in the Cowboys’ 43-3 win, but these five plays helped put the game away early.
Mike McCarthy wins his challenge and brings up a fourth down for the Falcons
Getting the ball to start the game, Prescott and the offense got back into rhythm quickly and scored a touchdown. But the Falcons offense was in a groove too, and it wasn’t long before they were in the red zone.
Facing third-and-seven from the Dallas 17-yard line, Matt Ryan threw a strike to Russell Gage, who got dealt a devastating blow from Jayron Kearse. The officials signaled a completed catch at the Cowboys five-yard line, but Kearse sprinted to the sideline to implore McCarthy to challenge the ruling.
He did, and the replay clearly showed that Kearse knocked the ball loose. The call was reversed and the incompletion resulted in a fourth down. Atlanta took the field goal - their only points of the day - but Kearse’s big hit prevented a first-and-goal situation that likely would have resulted in the Falcons tying the game.
Jourdan Lewis locks up Kyle Pitts on third down
Early on, it was evident that the Falcons thought they could see success by throwing at Jourdan Lewis. But Lewis didn’t seem to get the memo, because he made several big plays in the first quarter.
After the Falcons defense had forced a three-and-out, Ryan had driven the offense to the Dallas 32-yard line with an opportunity to take the lead with a touchdown. On third and seven, Lewis drew rookie sensation Kyle Pitts in press man coverage and Ryan tried to test him.
It didn’t work out, as Lewis broke up the pass and yielded a fourth down. Up until this point, Pitts had tallied three catches for 52 yards and looked unstoppable. Lewis forcing the first incompletion of the day when targeting Pitts was big enough on its own, but doing so on third down was bigger.
Jourdan Lewis breaks up another pass to force a turnover on downs
What a day for Jourdan Lewis. The Falcons made the decision to go for it on fourth down, as a field goal would still have them trailing the Cowboys. That decision wasn’t terrible on its own, but Ryan’s decision to throw at Lewis ended up being a bad one.
Ryan rolled out to his right before throwing to Gage, but Lewis came flying down and broke up the pass for a turnover on downs. Dallas took the ball back and scored a touchdown on their next drive, and that’s when the avalanche began. Atlanta’s failure on this fourth down was the moment where it all changed, and Lewis’ back-to-back breakups were huge.
Successful fourth-down conversion sets Dallas up to go for the jugular
After the unsuccessful fourth-down attempt gave the ball back to Prescott and the offense, they started moving the ball looking to build on their 7-3 lead. But two poor run plays set them behind the curve and brought up a fourth and five from the Atlanta 33-yard line.
Rather than trying a field goal with Lirim Hajrullahu to go up 10-3, McCarthy opted to go for it. He had done so twice early in the Broncos game and both times the Cowboys failed, a point of much debate during the last week. But he stuck with the aggressive mindset, and the Cowboys went for it.
The result: Prescott hit CeeDee Lamb for a 21-yard pickup and first down. Five plays later, Ezekiel Elliott ran in for a touchdown and put Dallas up 14-3. McCarthy did something similar on the Cowboys’ next offensive drive, and it also resulted in a touchdown, as Dallas drove the stake into the Falcons’ hearts. But they weren’t done yet.
This time, the blocked punt works out for the Cowboys in a big way
There were plenty of jokes to be made after Dan Quinn’s new team went up 28-3 against the Falcons, but there certainly wasn’t plenty of time to make those jokes before things changed. A Micah Parsons sack on first down set the Falcons back, and McCarthy used up his three timeouts to force a punt.
Then this happened:
A week after Nahshon Wright “muffed” a blocked punt, he recovered another one in the endzone for a touchdown. It was an incredible effort by Dorance Armstrong to block it, and then Wright made sure to come up with a clean recovery this time around. A Falcons penalty on the extra point led to a successful two-point conversion, at which point Dallas led by an insurmountable 33 points at halftime. This was the ultimate dagger for the Cowboys as they left no doubt that last week was an anomaly.
We broke down all of the top plays from Sunday’s Dallas Cowboys win in our highlights video over on the Blogging The Boys YouTube Channel. Make sure to subscribe to our channel (which you can do right here) so you don’t miss any of our videos!