News & Analysis

NFL Week 2 PFF ReFocused: Dallas Cowboys 40, Atlanta Falcons 39

A potential rout turned into one of the craziest games of the season as the Dallas Cowboys overcame a 20-point deficit to defeat the Atlanta Falcons, 40-39, to move to 1-1 on the season. The Falcons fell to 0-2 in a heartbreaking loss that had a little bit of everything. 

Atlanta got up early with the help of four first-half fumbles from the Cowboys, three of which were lost. The Falcons were up 29-10 at halftime and 39-24 in the fourth quarter, but Dallas continued to fight back to get its season back on track.

Editor's note: All of PFF's grades and advanced stats from this game will be finalized and made available to ELITE subscribers within 24 hours of the final whistle.

Story of the Game

Both offenses moved the ball handily throughout the game, but it was the Cowboys’ passing attack that prevailed. They averaged an impressive 0.360 expected points added per play, and four different receivers had at least 50 receiving yards. Quarterback Dak Prescott went 9-for-15 for 243 yards on 10-plus yard passes as the Atlanta secondary was exploited for a second straight week. 

Wide receiver Amari Cooper picked up 100 yards and four first downs on six catches, and rookie CeeDee Lamb did exactly what he was drafted to do, picking up a gaudy 9.7 yards after the catch per reception en route to 106 yards on six catches. With wideout Michael Gallup and tight end Dalton Schultz also getting into the mix, the Cowboys and Prescott lived up to the preseason expectation that this passing attack has the playmakers to move the ball efficiently and put points on the board. 

Of course, the Falcons' defense deserves some of the blame, as well. The unit got off to a great start, pressured Prescott and forced the aforementioned turnovers, but it’s alarming that the Falcons still gave up 40 points. Safeties Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee had their issues in coverage, and after pressuring Prescott early, the pass rush disappeared — the group generated pressure on only 25% of his dropbacks.

On the other side, quarterback Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ pass-catchers had a solid day against the Dallas back seven. Ryan got away with a few risky throws that should have been intercepted, so his four-touchdown, zero-interception stat line is a bit deceptive. However, he did a nice job getting the ball to wideout Calvin Ridley, whose slick route-running led to 109 yards and two scores.

Wide receiver Julio Jones will want one back after dropping a perfect deep pass from fellow wide receiver Russell Gage, and he finished with just 24 yards on two catches. The Falcons always do a fine job of scheming up production from of their tight ends, and Hayden Hurst was on the receiving end of well-drawn Y-sneaks and mesh routes on his way to 72 yards on five catches. 

Cowboys cornerbacks Trevon Diggs, Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis were on the negative end of Atlanta’s passing attack, with Diggs, in particular, lamenting multiple interception opportunities he left on the table. 

From a game-flow standpoint, Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy may have taken some heat for his decision to go for two while down nine in the fourth quarter. It was the right move, as going for two as early as possible is preferable, rather than waiting until the end of the game when there is no time to adjust to a failed conversion attempt. This proved valuable, as the Cowboys recovered a unique onside kick that led to the game-winning drive.

Sep 20, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys receiver CeeDee Lamb (88) runs with the ball after a reception late in the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at AT&T Stadium. Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Rookie Watch

Lamb was the star among the rookies in this contest, His presence in the middle of the field and after the catch makes the Dallas offense dangerous. Cowboys offensive tackle Terence Steele started his second straight game, and he played than what we saw in Week 1. For the Falcons, cornerback A.J. Terrell held up well against a tough passing offense, allowing just a handful of catches.

ELITE subscribers can view player grades, advanced statistics, positional snap counts and more in Premium Stats 2.0.

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