Can’t put all the blame on QB Romo for this loss as he threw no interceptions. No huge special team blunders and Coach Garrett didn’t blow it with poor clock management. Not to take anything away from a very good Falcons team, but the Cowboys were in this one and could have pulled off an upset.
Here are three reasons I think the Cowboys came up short in Atlanta.
1) Lack of Running Game: In my pregame analysis I said that I thought the Cowboys must run the ball against the Falcons at least 20 times. Tanner, Jones, and Dunbar combined to run only 18 times for 65 yards. Coming into the game the Falcons had allowed more than 130 yards on the ground per game so Dallas failed to get all that was available here.
At the start of the second half, Jones and Dunbar had some nice runs but later the drive stalled and the run game was all but abandoned at that point. The lack of a running game led to a deficit in TOP and perhaps led to what appeared to be a tired defense on the final drive.
2) NO Takeaways: Coming into the game the Cowboys were worst in the take away/give away ratio with a -11 differential. While the Cowboys offense had no turnovers, the defense didn’t come up with any take aways either. In the first half I thought Dallas had an excellent opportunity to get a turnover when an unblocked Ware hit Ryan on his blindside and caused the ball to squirt out. However no one on the defense was able to recover it.
That kind of turnover could have been a real difference maker for Dallas in the game.
3) ORLANDO and penalties on Falcons final drive: Have to call out Orlando Scandrick. His lousy play on the Falcons time eating late drive stood out as some of the worse play we have seen from him yet. With Dallas trailing by a FG and needing the ball back, the defense allowed the Falcons to burn the clock and get a FG too. On 3rd down, after Falcon QB Ryan completed a pass short of the first down, Orlando whiffed on a tackle that would have given the Cowboys the ball back with good field position and plenty of time on the clock.
On the play, Scandrick appeared to try to tackle without making any contact. That kind of effort is unacceptable at least on teams that are serious about winning in the NFL. But for Dallas, look for Jerry to offer Orlando another inflated contract extension.
Orlando wasn’t done making sure the defense couldn’t get off the field either by getting a holding penalty later on 3rd down to extend the Falcons drive even farther. In my view, Orlando was dogging it late in the game and seemed more than willing to accept responsibility for his poor play after the game. His coaches and teammates need to make sure he is held accountable for that weak effort when the team needed a big play.
It’s impossible to know if Dallas would have scored had they got the ball back with more time on the clock and better field position but given their momentum at the time, I liked their chances.
The most frustrating thing is many of these areas are reoccurring tendencies. Missed tackles (particularly in the secondary), penalties, and absence of a running game.