DALLAS - On Dallas' first possession of the second half, Alfred Morris broke off runs of 14 and 20 yards Unable to establish any sort of ground game in the first half, the Cowboys went with three tight-end packages and ran to the right, as far away from Chaz Green as humanly possible.
And just as soon as the long runs stopped, Atlanta defensive end Adrian Clayborn was back at it, humiliating Green and pummeling Dak Prescott. Without All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith, Dallas was embarrassed, inept and just downright awful against the Falcons.
Because for as much as the Cowboys will miss Ezekiel Elliott over the next five games, they'll miss Smith even more.
Consider this: Green surrendered five sacks in about three quarters on Sunday. Smith gave up two sacks in 13 games last season.
Twice the Cowboys were in a position to come away with points and twice Green's poor play contributed to Dallas drives ending. Just before halftime, the Cowboys looked to take a shot downfield before attempting a field goal, and Cole Beasley was wide open down the seam for what likely would have been a walk-in touchdown.
But Prescott, with no time to throw, was immediately wrapped up by Clayborn, who forced a fumble to turn the Cowboys away. In the third quarter with Dallas in the Falcons' red zone, Prescott was sacked by Clayborn yet again, forcing the Cowboys into a 3rd and 19.
Granted, Mike Nugent eventually shanked a 38-yard field goal, but Clayborn's sack is what ultimately made that drive start to unravel.
Perhaps worse than Green's performance, however, was Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan's refusal to give him help. Only a handful of times did Dallas leave a tight end or running back in to help chip Clayborn. For the majority of the afternoon, Green, for whatever reason, was on an island.
Moving forward without Elliott will be difficult, but not having a cornerstone offensive lineman is a recipe for disaster – especially when his replacements are such of a significant downgrade. In order for Dallas to run its full arsenal of plays, they must be able to run the ball efficiently to set up play action.
Otherwise, as we all saw Sunday, teams will continue to tee off on Prescott and drop seven or eight in coverage. It starts up front. And it starts along the offensive line. Unfortunately, without Smith, there may as well be a gaping hole at left tackle.
There's no denying the Cowboys will miss Elliott for the time being -- but for as long as he misses time, they'll just miss Tyron Smith much more.
Did Sunday's game prove that Tyron Smith is the most irreplaceable Cowboy? Share your thoughts with Reece on Twitter @ReeceWaddell15.
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