Posted November 05, 2012

Falcons’ narrow win over Cowboys a familiar result for both teams

Atlanta Falcons, Dallas Cowboys

Jacquizz Rodgers’ fourth-quarter run was a microcosm of the differences between the Falcons and Cowboys. (Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE)

At the risk of condensing an entire football game — not to mention two teams’ seasons thus far — to one play, Sunday night’s Dallas-Atlanta game hung in the balance when Jacquizz Rodgers caught a pass from Matt Ryan, turned and found himself a good four yards from a first down on 3rd-and-6. Between Rodgers and the first-down marker was Orlando Scandrick, the Cowboys’ safety who had a shot to make a tackle, force an Atlanta punt and get the ball back to his offense, down three points with four-plus minutes left.

Rodgers juked. Scandrick whiffed.

Dallas defenders finally dragged Rodgers to the turf 31 yards downfield. Later on that same drive, Rodgers made Cowboys safety Danny McCray look just as foolish in converting another third down.

Three times on Atlanta’s last possession, Dallas had a chance to get the ball back before the two-minute warning. All three times, the Cowboys failed — or the Falcons succeeded, depending on which side of the ledger you were on.

The result: a 19-13 Falcons win that pushed Atlanta to 8-0 and dropped Dallas to 3-5.

In it, a microcosm of both teams’ seasons to date. Atlanta, doing just enough to win; Dallas finding ways, again and again, to lose.

“We’re just happy to get the win tonight,” Ryan told NBC’s Michelle Tafoya after Dallas’ last-gasp attempt at a miracle victory came up a good 25 yards short. “We were resilient. [Dallas is] a very good football team … [but] we hung tough.”

The Cowboys missed a 51-yard field goal for a win in Week 6 and Dez Bryant landed millimeters out of bounds on a potential game-winning TD in Week 8. Sunday, it was the defense with a chance to flip the narrative — to turn Dallas, at least briefly, into a team capable of getting the job done down the stretch.

Instead, the Falcons did it again, just as they’ve done all season.

Let’s not kid ourselves: This Atlanta team, despite its unblemished start, has not been a complete powerhouse in 2012. Counting Sunday, four of the Falcons’ last five games could have ended differently.

But they inched past Carolina in Week 4, Washington in Week 5, Oakland in Week 6 and then Dallas on Sunday night.

The latest battle did not swing until late in the third quarter when, after the Falcons and Cowboys had poked and prodded their way to a 6-6 tie, Michael Turner broke loose off the right side of his line for a 43-yard gain.

Three plays later, Turner, stuck in the midst of a thoroughly underwhelming season — he averaged less than 60 yards per game through Atlanta’s first seven — powered the ball into the end zone.

It was the first real breakthrough in a methodical game.

“Our offensive line hung in there, they kept grinding, we kept wearing them down in the front seven,” Ryan said. “Mike [Turner] and our running backs did a great job in the second half getting through initial contact.”

Atlanta added a field goal on its next possession, aided greatly by a 48-yard Julio Jones reception. Jones did most of the work on the play, too, taking a pass over the middle and outracing several Dallas defenders to the boundary.

That completion was Atlanta’s longest of the night, though Ryan threw for 342 yards, narrowly outpacing Romo’s 321.

In all, the two teams combined for more than 800 total yards, though the points remained hard to come by. The Falcons found just enough.

“We’re starting to beat good football teams,” said Falcons receiver Roddy White, “and that’s good, because then when we get in the playoffs and are in those tight football games, we can win them.”

Ah, the playoffs. Any discussion of the Falcons cannot be had without mentioning that great franchise-wide Achilles’ heel.

Did we really learn anything Sunday night to convince us that this season will end differently than 2010, when a top-seeded Atlanta team bowed out at home to Green Bay? Or 2011, when the Falcons face-planted in New York against the Giants?

Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez (he of zero career playoff wins) talked earlier in the week about a lack of respect given his team by the national media.

Ryan reassured the world Sunday night that “we don’t care about that” — which is good since, short of a 16-0 regular season, the Falcons will and should only be judged by what happens come January and February.

The Falcons’ win over Dallas moved them one step closer to securing a spot in the NFL’s dance. Atlanta actually could clinch the NFC South division as early as Week 12, but wrapping up that title appears inevitable anyway.

Dallas is not so fortunate. Now 3-5, the Cowboys’ hopes for claiming a wild-card spot are dwindling rapidly and they still find themselves 2.5 games back of the Giants in the NFC East.

The situations could be different, for both teams.

A dropped interception here, a catch there. A tackle in space by Scandrick on Rodgers.

On the field, there is not much separating the Cowboys and Falcons. Their records and reality tell a different story.

12 comments
jss3rd2587
jss3rd2587

Okay, so for Dallas the article mentions: "A dropped interception here, a catch there. A tackle in space by Scandrick on Rodgers."  Why did it leave out a couple of missed field goals by the Falcons could have increased the score!!  Also, while better than the "Replacements," the officials blew a lot of calls for both sides!

Douglas7
Douglas7

"Atlanta doing just enough to win"...,"on the field there is not much separating the Cowboys and the Falcons"

What clown wrote this ?? This is the NFL , a team works hard to win.... they don't just do enough to win !!!

The Falcons are "winners" on the field! The Cowboys are not !!

Go and tell one of the Falcons that they did "just enough to win" right after they worked there ass off beating the team the played.....I hope you can run fast ...

I guess all the other teams do just enough to win also !!

 

Maybe you have to be a "winner" to understand another "winner"!!!!

 

Bugman
Bugman

Might as well face it - the national media just has no love for Atlanta sports teams, period. They call us fair weather fans and for some unknown reason smugly compare our market to huge, traditional markets (NY, CHI, LA).

 

The Falcons could win the next three Super Bowls and would still receive the same indifferent recognition from the likes of SI, NFL Network, Fox, et all. At least ESPN has a tiny bit of love for the Birdz.

 

Last year I seem to remember any team that had aspirations for post season play had to win in the regular season. Howz bout we quit discounting the Falcons achievements during the regular season and at least give them some credit for the consistent, focused execution they have displayed for most of the 8 games under their belt. Oh wait, that would mean you would actually have to acknowledge that winning regular season gameshas some bearing on the post season..

tadaia1
tadaia1

Gee why bother covering the sport or even having a regular season?   My money is on those Falcons.  They've been a good team but they finally look ready for Prime time now and are getting the job done by the many means available to them.  For all the talk of Mannings, Brady, RG3, etc, they are not doing it consistently enough. 

 

Some media types are either

a) angry and spiteful because they previously picked the Falcons in the playoffs when ATL weren't ready.  That's down to that writer/analysts poor assessment, not the Falcons.

b) too cowardly/vain to hitch their wagon to any team/Qtrback that hasn't recently won a Superbowl or that isn't a large market team.  If they blow a prediction on the Jets, Cowboys, a Manning or Brady no one will really remember or hold it against them.

 

It's the REGULAR season where the Falcons have had an excellent record for a few seasons now. Instead of enjoying and assessing the steady growth and maturity of this team and the rise of a fantastic QB from week to week, the media constantly looks for ways to marginalize them. 

matri0x
matri0x

Narrow win? They outgained Dallas by 100 yards and if not for 2 missed FG's, it wouldn't have been close.

JSpencer
JSpencer

What a sanctimonious story.  

 

Where was all this "playoffs" criticism when the Saints were ascending in 2009? Why are the Falcons being held to a brand new standard never applied to any other team?  How can they win a playoff game DURING the season?

 

And please check facts - in the least 3 years, the teams they lost to in the playoffs ALL went on to the Superbowl, and two were the champions.  The Falcons lost to the very best that year.  Not so bad considering.  

 

The Falcons have broken a great many franchise records and set new standards all year.  There is far more factual reason to believe they WILL succeed than not this year.

 

Regardless of which team I support, this parroting of the same tired schtick and the pious phrase "will and should only be judged..." is just hamhanded, sad and obvious.  I expect better writing from cnnsi

DapVIP
DapVIP

So. Based on what this article is telling me, we should base our teams on the number of playoff wins that they have? You're telling me that the Mark Sanchez led New York Jets are better than the San Francisco 49rs and the Houston Texans? Since you're going to judge the Atlanta Falcons based on past performance, I'm going to bring up some stats from previous years.

# of playoff wins since 2009 (Year Mark Sanchez entered the NFL)NY Jets: 4San Francisco 49rs: 1Houston Texans: 1NY Jets lost convincingly to those two teams as of this season. Are you going to label the Jets a playoff caliber team and Mark Sanchez an Elite Quarterback? A sensible person wouldn't just as a sensible person shouldn't judge the Atlanta Falcons on previous failures. Currently, the teams record speaks for itself. If anything, if the Falcons were to lose any of their coming games, I'm pretty sure that you'll crucify the team and state, "You were right all along." which puts the Falcons automatically in a lose-lose situation with the National Media.

 

It's getting way out of hand for all of the disrespect the Atlanta Falcons has gotten for winning games. "They're not demolishing teams left and right." So what if they aren't? The New England Patriots should've beaten the Arizona Cardinals. Pittsburgh Steelers were upset by the Tennessee Titans. San Francisco lost to an inferior opponent as in the Vikings. The Falcons have done nothing but win games on their schedule and it's time to take them as serious competitors. I myself, am hoping that these Falcons can get rid of their playoff drought but you can only judge teams based on the games that they play. When the playoffs come, then its the time to make such judgements.

Falcons: 8Haters: 0

TonyL
TonyL

This a article by a frustrated Dallas cowboy fan who is pissssed off at Falcons for beating them at their own game. The NFL commentators always have their egos smashed when they constantly pick their won personal favs instead of the real good teams.

Kraig
Kraig

What a smug column.  How should we judge a writer, because they obviously have no January to be measured against.  Forget the Falcon's look as if they 'barely won' 4 games of the last 5:  they won.  If they are average, their record should reflect it, as last I checked this is the NFL- where parity and averages play out each week.  Except obviously for the Falcons.  Every game there is a reason to lose, on the road, at home doesn't matter.  Why write at all on these Falcons?  Why not just act as if Dallas had a bye week and all the problems you point out are just that?  Regardless of what the Falcons do, the playoffs will own 5 losers in the NFC and one winner.  I wonder who the magical Mr. Burke believes that one winner is...or should have been, but for a missed tackle here or there.

GladKone
GladKone

The national media doesn't seem to care much for the Falcons and instead likes to focus on their darlings, which includes the purported "America's team". Those of us who are fans of the Falcons actually like it this way. So keep lovin on the Packers, the Boys, the Pats and the Giants. Our guys will just keep slogging along.

wicked75
wicked75

 credit has to be given to the team actually playing the games during the season. to say "let's see in the post season..." is a great disservice to the job these guys do week in and week out. obviously they know they have to win in the post season, but to dismiss a good regular season is extremely short-sighted and way too pessimistic.

UleNotknow
UleNotknow

" ...the Falcons will and should only be judged by what happens come January and February."

 

True enough for any team.