Coming into the game on Sunday it was almost a “must-win” for the Falcons after losing four of their last five games and falling to 4-4 on the season. With the Falcons opening up a home stand with the next four of five at Mercedes-Benz, the birds knew that they had to win at least three of these next five games to have a significant shot of reaching the playoffs, and they started off just the way that they wanted to against the Cowboys. Adrian Clayborn set a franchise record of SIX sacks on Dak Prescott, and the pass defense held Dak to 176 yards through the air. Matt Ryan had completions to seven different receivers along with two touchdowns on the evening, and everything else came together for a 27-7 Falcons victory.
Adrian. Clayborn. A guy that came into the game against Dallas only recording two sacks all season, more than tripled that total with six sacks Sunday evening. To add to that, he also had two forced fumbles that turned into takeaways for the Falcons defense. But Clayborn wasn’t the only defender that came to play. Devondre Campbell led the team in tackles (11), and the pass defense led by Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford, held Dak Prescott to just 176 passing yards and allowing just 109 yards on the ground. The Cowboys only had one drive that went further than 50 yards in the whole game, and the only touchdown that the Falcons defense allowed came off of a Matt Ryan interception that set Dallas up at the Atlanta 21 yard line.
On the other side of the ball, Matt Ryan and Tevin Coleman led the Falcons to 27 points on the top ten Cowboys defense. Things started ugly with an injury to Devonta Freeman on the Falcons second play from scrimmage that held him out for the remainder of the game, and then on the next play Ryan threw an interception that four plays later turned into a Dallas touchdown. But after that touchdown, the Falcons never looked back and scored 27 unanswered points. Taylor Gabriel stepped up in a big way with three catches for 58 yards, all in which came in big moments, and Julio wasn’t too far behind him with six catches and 57 yards.
It all started off with a blow. Devonta Freeman carried the ball on the Falcons second play from scrimmage and took a hit that looked nothing but a normal tackle. Freeman was on his way back to the huddle when head referee, Ed Hochuli, told Freeman to head to the sideline after appearing a little loopy. Freeman acted like he was fine and wanted to stay in the game, but after being checked into the tent on the sideline, Freeman grabbed his helmet and headed to the locker room where he would stay for the rest of the game, and be ruled out with a concussion. Not to mention, on the very next play, Matt Ryan threw his seventh interception on the season, which went right through Mohamed Sanu’s hands, to set the Cowboys up on the Atlanta 21 yard line. Four plays after that, Dak Prescott jogged into the end zone to put the Cowboys on the board first up 7-0.
But after that mess, the Cowboys would not see the end zone again. The Falcons added a field goal in the first quarter and a touchdown three minutes before the half to go up 10-7 at halftime. The offense came out of the locker room in the second half boomin’. The Falcons marched down the field twice in the third quarter on back-to-back 70 yard drives with touchdown passes thrown to Justin Hardy and Austin Hooper to add to the Falcons lead, 24-7. Midway through the third quarter, Matt Ryan became the fastest quarterback ever to reach the 40,000 yards of passing milestone by beating out who other than Drew Brees. Matt Bryant would add a field goal early in the fourth quarter which would be the last score of the game. With the Cowboys giving it one more push late in the fourth, Dak Prescott was strip-sacked by Adrian Clayborn, which would give him the Atlanta record, six sacks in a single game to complete a 27-7 win.
Here are some stat leaders from each team:
Matt Ryan- 22/29 215 yards 2 TD’s 1 INT
Dak Prescott- 20/30 176 yards
Tevin Coleman- 20 attempts 83 yards 1 TD
Alfred Morris- 11 attempts 53 yards
Taylor Gabriel- 3 catches 58 yards
Julio Jones- 6 catches 57 yards
Austin Hooper- 6 catches 49 yards 1 TD
Jason Witten- 7 catches 59 yards
Dez Bryant- 4 catches 39 yards
Devondre Campbell- 11 tackles/2 assisted
Adrian Clayborn- 6 sacks 2 forced fumbles
Byron Jones- 7 tackles/2 assisted
Demarcus Lawrence- 2 tackles/4 assisted 1 sack
Matt Bryant- 2/2 FG 3/3 XP 50 Long
Mike Nugent- 0/1 FG 1/1 XP
The Falcons head out to one of the toughest environments in football before returning home for three straight, but get an extra day off as they face Seattle on Monday night. The Falcons hope that Devonta Freeman has a speedy recovery as they could surely use him in what will be a huge playoff-implication game against the Seahawks.