The Falcons have won big, won small, won pretty, and won ugly. Against the Dallas Cowboys, their performance wasn’t pretty, but Atlanta has already won some games this season in a very ugly manner. And this was not one of those games.
Watching the first half of the game in real time, it seemed like the Falcons were losing big even though they never trailed by more than six points. It really felt like they had dug themselves into a massive hole, one that was barely escapable. Luckily, they defense played well when the offense couldn’t move the ball. And by playing well, I mean they played well only when they absolutely had to.
Early on, Dunta Robinson couldn’t defend anything. He looked absolutely pedestrian. Tony Romo was finding open spaces in the backfield to move around and avoid pressure, and found open receivers down the field. It was chilling how poor the defense looked early.
But down six, the defense stiffened up. The offense started moving the ball well between the twenties. The Falcons didn’t find the endzone until very early in the fourth quarter, but they started at least putting points up on the board when they possessed the football. And that’s critical for any team.
The second half went well because the Falcons were finally able to capitalize on their commitment to running the football. They had a lot of runs that went for no gain or a short gain in the first half. Turner did his usual period of nonproductive plays, and Jacquizz Rodgers simply wasn’t finding any running lanes. He was completely stonewalled on several occasions, including one particular play where Dallas LB Bruce Carter leveled him for a loss. But that completely paid off when the Falcons were able to bust off a couple big gains in the second half. It made the play-action pass work in addition to helping to spring Atlanta’s runners on those big runs.
Matt Ryan may not have had a touchdown pass, which broke his previous streak of 22 consecutive games with such a pass, but he was absolutely clutch especially on third down. It didn’t matter what the distance was that Ryan needed to go, he instilled confidence in my heart that he would get the job done. Never did I feel more confident in the Falcons’ franchise quarterback than when Ryan led the Falcons 60 yards down the field in one minute to give Atlanta the game tying field goal at the very end of the half. I wasn’t sure how the game would end until that point, but from that moment on every Falcons fan had supreme confidence.
The real theme of the game was that the Falcons mad just the plays they absolutely had to in key situations. When the Falcons had to have a first down, they converted. Whey they had to put points up, they did. And when they had to get a defensive stop, they found a way to make it happen. On the flip side, the Cowboys found ways to come up short when they had to have points, conversions, or defensive stops.
All season long, the Falcons have found a way to win. They have done things very unconventionally and in very close ball games, and they have dominated opponents, but the one common theme has been that the Falcons just keep winning. And with a resilient quarterback like Matt Ryan playing QB for the Falcons, they have a shot in every game possible.