1. Before we get into the quarterback situation and the offense, it must be noted that the Dallas Cowboys’ defense was the biggest problem in Sunday’s 39-28 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. The Cowboys gave up 438 yards. They couldn’t stop the run or the pass and couldn’t get off the field.
2. Matt Ryan looked a bit like Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers in the second half. The Cowboys failed to get any pressure on him and he picked them apart. The Cowboys have been unable to mount a pass rush all season. They have three sacks in three games. They played Sunday without their three best pass rushers in Greg Hardy, Randy Gregory and Jeremy Mincey. Only Mincey will return for this week’s game against the New Orleans Saints.
3. The Cowboys gave defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford five-year, $45 million contract extension with $25.7 million guaranteed before the season because they felt he was a playmaker. Crawford hasn’t made much of an impact so far and was no where to be found when the Cowboys needed somebody to make a play against the run or the pass against Atlanta.
4. The lack of a pass rush helped expose the secondary as Julio Jones had his way with 12 catches for 164 yards and two touchdowns. Jones was simply a mismatch for cornerbacks Morris Claiborne, Brandon Carr and slot corner Tyler Patmon. Claiborne played him the best, but should have come up a gift interception in the first quarter. Safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox did a poor job with help coverage on Jones in the second half.
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5. It’s one thing to get exposed by Ryan and Jones, who are among the league’s best at their positions. But the Cowboys were gashed for 141 yards and three touchdowns on the ground by backup running back Devonta Freeman. No one saw this coming from Freeman, not even the Falcons. The defensive tackles didn’t play well, thus the linebackers were not able to run downhill and make plays. Sean Lee had 10 tackles and a sack, but he did not have an impactful performance.
6. The defense will continue to get exposed until they get their top players back, namely Hardy, Gregory and middle linebacker Rolando McClain. Hardy and McClain should be ready for the Oct. 11 match up against the New England Patriots. There is a chance that Gregory will be ready too.
7. The loss to the Falcons was not on backup quarterback Brandon Weeden, who started in place of the injured Tony Romo. He was efficient, completing 22 of 26 passes for 232 yards and an interception. But he did not play winning football, which was a product of a limited game plan and lack of confidence in himself. Weeden completed a lot of passes because everything he threw was underneath. He threw only two passes more than 15 yards down field in the air the entire game. There were opportunities for him to get the ball to the outside receivers, but Weeden continually chose to check the ball down. He could have made better decisions.
8. Terrance Williams had a crucial drop in the fourth quarter, but it’s a crime that he saw only three passes all day. Weeden threw deep to him on the second play of the game. It was incomplete, but he drew a facemask penalty on a defender scrambling to cover. Williams got a skinny post that was incomplete with 6 minutes, 22 seconds left in the the third quarter. He didn’t see a ball come his direction again until 1:34 left in game when he dropped the slant on fourth and 4. He needs to be involved to keep him focused and to back off a defense that played eight men in the box to stop the run.
9. Again, Weeden didn’t lose the game for the Cowboys, but he didn’t playing winning football. Sunday’s game against the Saints is a must-win game for Weeden. If he plays poorly, the team has to look at Matt Cassel as an option. The Cowboys traded for Cassel because they are all in on winning this season and keeping things afloat until Romo returns Nov. 22. They like Weeden’s arm, but he is on a short leash. .
10. Jason Garrett and his coaching staff get an F grade for the poor offensive game plan, the decision to take a timeout late in the first half, which gave the Falcons time to score, and being out-coached in the second half when Atlanta made adjustments and the Cowboys failed to counter. The Cowboys also failed to call a timeout when they had 10 men on the field on the Falcons’ successful 2-point conversion.