ATLANTA (WFAA) — At the halfway point of the season, Cowboy nation has seen enough evidence. Cheering for a flawed team is a recipe for heartache each Sunday, and the Cowboys provided more on a noisy night in Atlanta.
The Cowboys' 19-13 loss to the Falcons can be summed up in two words: Missed opportunities.
And it started early.
Following a 37-yard punt return by Dwayne Harris, the Cowboys set up shop in Falcons territory. But the drive stalled after a first-and-goal at the 10 yard line, and the Cowboys had to settle for a field goal.
On their next possession, the Cowboys again drove deep in Falcon territory. This time, a dropped pass by running back Lance Dunbar ended the drive and forced another field goal.
It's who the Cowboys are: Going into Sunday the third-ranked passing team in the NFL, but ranked 23rd in scoring.
They had seven plays in the first quarter inside the Falcons' 20 yard line, and gained just 19 yards on those plays.
And the mistakes just kept coming in critical situations.
Later in the first half, a drop from Kevin Ogletree ended a drive. In the second half, a Tony Romo overthrow followed by a sack blew up a drive near midfield. And on their next possession, another drop — this one by Miles Austin — stopped a drive near mid-field.
"We left some opportunities out there tonight," said Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. "We had some key third down plays that we didn't convert on; we had a couple drops, and we had a short yardage play that we didn't get. That stuff comes back to haunt you. You need those plays."
The Cowboys' defense played stellar in the first half, keeping the explosive Falcons offense out of the end zone. But there were key mistakes in the second half that helped pave the way for another heartbreaking Dallas loss.
Safety Danny McCray missed a tackle on Michael Turner when he ripped off a 43-yard run that led to the game's first touchdown.
On the Falcons' next drive, safety Gerald Sensabaugh whiffed on Julio Jones' 48-yard catch-and-run that set up a field goal and a 10-point Falcon fourth quarter lead.
But there were more misses and mistakes to come.
After the Cowboys scored a touchdown to get within three points, the defense had a chance to get the ball back for the offense. But on 3rd and 6, defensive back Orlando Scandrick missed a tackle on Jacquizz Rogers that would have forced a punt with 3:45 left.
Scandrick later got called for a defensive holding penalty on a 3rd and 8 play that would have given the Cowboys the ball back with 3:19 left.
It's what Cowboys fans should expect from this team. Mistakes. That's been the only constant. Sometimes they make enough plays to overcome them; more often than not — and on this night in Atlanta — they could not.
And now, time is getting short.