Atlanta Falcons First Takes: Observations from Week Ten

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 12: Adrian Clayborn
ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 12: Adrian Clayborn /

The Atlanta Falcons made a statement with their week 10 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. They’re not going down without a fight.

Facing a must-win scenario, the Atlanta Falcons prevailed against the Dallas Cowboys by a score of 27-7 on Sunday. Atlanta took advantage of Dallas’s misfortunes, particularly the absence of four Pro Bowlers, on their way to a statement victory.

While most believed the loss of Ezekiel Elliot would be the Cowboys’ biggest detriment, the injury to Tyron Smith proved even more catastrophic. Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn benefited the most from the All-Pro left tackle being out.

And so did his wallet. The pending free agent pass rusher recorded a Falcons record six(!) sacks and, in the process, triggered two bonuses in his contract that netted him one million dollars.

Money well spent, if you ask me. According to Cowboys writer Marcus Mosher, Dallas had six different drives where they had a 1st-and-10 inside Atlanta’s 39 yard line.

The Cowboys only walked away with seven points on those drives and four Clayborn sacks were a big reason why. However, AC was not the only Falcon that played well in the week ten win.

The Dirty Birds put together their most complete performance to date, so that begs the question – has Atlanta finally found their stride?

Have the Falcons finally found their stride?

Unfortunately, the answer to that question will not be found until the coming weeks. In the final seven games, the Falcons face teams ahead of them in the standings five times.

The good news is three of those match-ups take place at the friendly confines of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. If Atlanta plays like they did on Sunday, the only team that can stop them is themselves.

So, what exactly was the difference this week from the previous five game skid? Execution.

Dan Quinn talked ad nauseam about getting better on third down and in the red zone. And his team backed up those words with their actions on the field versus Dallas.

The Falcons offense converted seven of 13 third downs and had a 75 percent TD success rate (three for four) in the red zone. With that type of efficiency, Atlanta was able to stake its defense to a big lead that the pass rush would not surrender.

In addition to Clayborn, Dontari Poe and Brooks Reed joined the sack party, each chipping in one drive-halting stop apiece.

It’s very clear that this is the formula for success for the Atlanta Falcons. Get out to a lead and have the Falcons pass rush pin their ears back to finish the game.

Above all else, the finish that the entire team displayed this week was probably the most encouraging takeaway from the game. Coming into Sunday’s contest, the Falcons had a minus-21 point differential in the second half and failed to score an offensive touchdown in the third quarter.

They put a dent into both of those stats with the win over the Cowboys. The Falcons outscored their week 10 opponent 17-0 in the second half and hit pay dirt on their only full possession of the third stanza.

It truly was a great all-around effort from a team that came in with their backs against the wall.

But the road back to the playoffs doesn’t get any easier from here. With a Monday night date in Seattle up next, the Falcons have a chance to pass another NFC foe in the standings.

As has been the case all year, Atlanta’s fate is in its own hands. And something tells me they wouldn’t want it any other way.