The Dallas Cowboys executed an improbable comeback Sunday afternoon against the Atlanta Falcons at AT&T Stadium. It wasn’t quite losing the Super Bowl after holding a 25-point second-half lead – as Atlanta did against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI – but it was another dubious one for the record books for the Falcons.
Down 19 points at the half and losing three of their four fumbles in the first 10 minutes of the game, the Cowboys managed to pull off a come-from-behind win to rescue their September from an 0-2 blemish.
Here are four takeaways from the thrilling victory:
1. Dak Prescott still can execute comebacks — There was some doubt. In 2019, the Cowboys lost five games by a touchdown or less (technically six if you count the Bears game in Week 14, but a garbage-time touchdown only made that score respectable). Prescott and Tom Brady were the only quarterbacks to start every game in 2019 and fail to execute a game-winning drive.
The same scenario occurred last week against the Los Angeles Rams. Through 17 games, Dallas couldn't pull off a fourth-quarter comeback. Is this why the Cowboys had cold feet locking Prescott up to a long-term deal? The two-time Pro Bowler remained unflappable and undeterred on Sunday, not just on the final drive to set up Greg Zuerlein's 46-yard field goal, but throughout the game.
Prescott is tied now with Drew Brees and Derek Carr for the most game-winning drives since 2016 with 15. Not bad considering Prescott had a 17-game slump since his last game-winning drive in the 2018 NFC wild-card against the Seattle Seahawks.
2. The new management is gutsy — It is one thing to go for it with your offense on the field. It is another to go for it from punt formation, and with no regard to field position. That is what new head coach Mike McCarthy and special teams coordinator John Fassel have brought to the Cowboys.
Even though punter Chris Jones' pass on fourth-and-4 from the Dallas 29 in the first quarter fell incomplete, and safety Darian Thompson's direct snap netted three yards on a fourth-and-5 from Dallas' 40, the Cowboys put on tape that they are always a threat to go for it. Teams will have to plan for a surprise or two when they face Dallas.
3. Know where to look when evaluating Dallas' run defense — The Cowboys gave up 100-plus rushing yards again. Will McClay needs to scroll his index finger through his phone contacts and bring in a defensive tackle. However, the way defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is evaluating the run defense is not by total yards, but by yards per carry.
When explaining last week's run defense against the Rams, who had over 150 rushing yards, Nolan countered that they had a 3.8 yards per carry. Fast forward to Week 2. The Falcons had 113 rushing yards, but only 3.3 yards per carry.
Furthermore, Atlanta’s longest run of the day was 10 yards from running back Brian Hill. As long as none of the runs are explosive, as long as the yards per carry is south of 4.0, the Cowboys defense isn't going to care how many yards a team rushes for.
4. Preseason is over — During the course of the game, you could see the Cowboys finally working their way into football shape. It took four fumbles, including one from Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott each. It took Atlanta going 2-of-2 on fourth downs. It took staring a 19-point halftime deficit in the face for it to finally click.
Even if the Cowboys' comeback didn't warrant a win given all of the early miscues, the passing game came alive with Prescott going 34-of-47 for 450 yards and a touchdown.
Rookie CeeDee Lamb caught six passes for 106 yards, and Amari Cooper had six catches for 100 yards. Tight end Dalton Schultz replaced Blake Jarwin, at least for Week 2, with nine catches for 88 yards and a score. Defensive end Everson Griffen collected his first sack of the year. The team is congealing finally and all of the preseason rust should be knocked off going forward.
How are you feeling about the Cowboys after their remarkable win on Sunday? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.