In many ways, this Falcons game was a summary of the entire season. Close and hard fought. Critical mistakes at critical points that ultimately turned the tide. Losing in the last second. It was a painful loss that will likely put Atlanta out of the running for the playoffs, barring an unbelievable streak of luck going forward.
On to the full recap.
The Falcons start the game on offense. An early scary pass was quickly forgotten with Matt Ryan finding Julio Jones for a big gain of 28 yards. Tevin Coleman’s receiving was huge for a key third down conversion around midfield. Ryan was able to avoid a sack, but his deep ball was dropped by Julio just a few yards short of the end zone. Unfortunately, the Dallas pass rush eventually got home on third down forcing the Falcons to punt.
Dallas started their offensive series targeting Amari Cooper without success. Ezekiel Elliott made up for it with a solid 6 yard run on second down. Amazingly, a 3-man rush didn’t get home, allowing the Cowboys to extend their drive. A good pass break up by Robert Alford setup a 3rd and 9 for Dallas, but it was undone by an illegal contact by Robert Alford and a defensive holding. The drive got a big boost when a short pass to Elliott went for 34 yards. The drive finally stalled out when Desmond Trufant broke up a pass to Cooper. Dallas settled for the short field goal.
Cowboys 3 - Falcons 0
The Falcons next offensive drive started with a great catch by Calvin Ridley for a nice gain followed by a big run by Tevin Coleman for 15 yards. The drive continued in earnest with a big catch by Mohamed Sanu, putting the Falcons inside the Dallas 30. The Falcons take the drive to 3rd and short before the quarter came to an end.
The third down conversion failed to open the second quarter, bringing out the living legend Matt Bryant to kick a field goal (which he of course made), tying the game.
Cowboys 3 - Falcons 3
The Cowboys next offensive drive quickly stalled out when Isaiah Oliver (who stepped in for a banged up Desmond Trufant) made a nice pass break up against Cole Beasley. The Cowboys are quickly forced to punt.
The Falcons first drive of the second quarter started with a dropped pass to Austin Hooper. Hooper makes up for the drop by catching the 2nd down pass as Ryan had to extend the play outside the pocket. The subsequent third down is converted when Mohamed Sanu runs it from the wildcat formation. Another good offensive drive is stymied when Demarcus Lawrence brings down Matt Ryan on 3rd down. The Falcons opt to punt instead of going for the long field goal.
The Cowboys start their offensive drive on the 10 yard line. The drive converted initially, taking the ball close to the 30 before Vic Beasley (yes, the Vic Beasley) brought down Dak Prescott with his second sack of the year. The Cowboys are forced to punt.
The Falcons get the ball back at their 39. A big Tevin Coleman run is offset by a holding call, setting up an unfortunate 1st and 20. Julio Jones made an amazing play by forcing a fumble from Jeff Heath on what would have been an interception. On third and 8, Mohamed Sanu made a fantastic grab to keep the drive alive. Julio Jones continues to dominate, converting another key third down to keep the drive going. Unfortunately, the drive stalled yet again as the Cowboys pass rush forced Ryan to throw the ball sooner than he wanted. Matt Bryant comes on to nail his second field goal, giving the Falcons the lead with just 29 seconds left in the first half.
Cowboys 3 - Falcons 6
The Cowboys came out throwing the ball before handing off to Elliot for a first down run. They surprisingly let the half run out with timeouts still available, knowing they’ll get the ball back to start the second half.
The Cowboys start the second half on the 25 and immediately strike with a throw to Amari Cooper for 9 yards. That play was immediately followed up by a big run by Ezekiel Elliott. Another big pass to Cooper keeps the drive alive. Vic Beasley’s second sack of the game set up a long third down. The Cowboys are unable to convert the third and 16 but end up nailing the 50 yard field goal, tying the game again.
Cowboys 6 - Falcons 6
The Falcons offense takes the field again and after a short 1st down pass, Tevin Coleman breaks a big run of 18 yards. After spinning out of a sack, Matt Ryan throws a quick pass to Tevin Coleman who runs it for another big first down. The drive stalls out as Ryan misses the deep pass to Julio on a key third down. Matt Bryan proves his immortality by nailing a 53 yarder, giving the Falcons the lead again.
Cowboys 6 - Falcons 9
The Cowboys lean on the legs of Ezekiel Elliott on their subsequent drive. The running game was working for Dallas and a fumble knocked out by Jack Crawford was ultimately recovered by Dallas for another first down. Several key third down conversions extend this drive until it’s disrupted by the end of the quarter.
The Cowboys drive continues until Dak Prescott runs it in for the first touchdown of the game. They miss the extra-point, keeping the game within 3 points.
Cowboys 12 - Falcons 9
The Falcons ensuing drive starts with a good run by Ito Smith followed by a beautiful toss and catch from Ryan to Jones for the first down. Unfortunately, Calvin Ridley’s propensity for drops leads to a tip that ends up as an interception for Leighton Vander Esch.
Dallas follows up the interception with a two play drive that ends with an Ezekiel Elliot TD run to put the Cowboys ahead early in the fourth.
Cowboys 19 - Falcons 9
The Falcons start their subsequent drive with a nice 11 yard run from Tevin Coleman. Mohamed Sanu followed that up with an aggressive catch and run for another first down. The Falcons hurry up finds continued success with a first down catch to Julio Jones and yet another to Logan Paulsen, putting the team in the red zone. The Falcons are forced into a 3rd and 2 on the 3-yard line. The third down conversion is stymied when Austin Hooper is unable to pull in the pass. The Falcons go for the field-goal and nail it, bringing the game to within 7.
Cowboys 19 - Falcons 12
The Cowboys offense starts with a little over 8 minutes on the clock. On third and one, Dak Prescott runs it to convert the third down and keep the clock running. On 2nd and 6, Takk McKinley finally shows up to tackle Dak for a loss, forcing a 3rd and 8. A false start by Dallas makes it a 3rd and 13 which ultimately leads to a third down stop and the Falcons forcing a punt.
The Falcons offense gets the ball back on their 32 yard line, after a great punt is offset by a personal foul penalty on Dallas. The first play is another big first down run by Tevin Coleman. Mohamed Sanu converts a critical third down on 3rd and 9 with 2:39 left on the clock. A quick 9 yard pass to Ito Smith takes us to the 2 minute warning, with the Falcons trailing by seven. The Falcons strike fast after the break, with Ryan hitting a beautiful 34-yard TD pass to Julio Jones to tie the game.
Cowboys 19 - Falcons 19
The Cowboys get the ball back with 1:52 left on the clock and three timeouts. The first play is a deep ball that could have been intercepted if Robert Alford had turned around. The second down pass went for 5 short yards, forcing a 3rd and 5. A three man rush doesn’t get home, and the Cowboys get the first down. A quick pass to Cole Beasley picks up big yards, putting the Cowboys in field goal range with a first down and 34 seconds left on the clock. Dallas goes conservative, opting for the long field goal opportunity while also burning down the clock. After burning the clock down to 3 seconds, the Cowboys nail the go ahead 42 yard field goal and win the game.