DALLAS — Week 10 proved to be quite a statement from the Dallas Cowboys. The dominating 43-3 victory over the Atlanta Falcons sent a message that previous week’s loss was an aberration and not an indication of who the Cowboys are as a team.
Following the Denver debacle, the Cowboys put it all together against Atlanta. The team won convincingly in all three phases and put the game to bed by halftime. The Falcons came in winners in three of their last four games, but the Cowboys stopped them cold.
Here’s what we learned about the Cowboys as they blew the doors off the Falcons:
The tone was set early
After getting bullied last week, the Cowboys needed to come out and let it be known that a game like that wasn’t going to happen again. The offense did their part by marching down the field and scoring a touchdown to open the game.
The tone on defense was still shaky early as the Falcons were able to move the ball on their first possession, but safety Jayron Kearse put an end to the concerns that things were going to be easy for the opposing offense. On 3rd-&-7 in the red zone, Kearse laid a big hit on wide receiver Russell Gage that caused him to drop a pass that would’ve set the Falcons up for a 1st & goal situation.
Kearse’s physical pass breakup showed that the Dallas defense wasn’t going to be pushed around. The tone was set early by the hit and the Falcons wouldn’t score another point after settling for a field goal on their first drive.
Dak Prescott is just fine
Prescott struggled to shake off the rust against the Broncos, after being out of action for a few weeks, but that was not the case against the Falcons. There were none of the missed throws to open receivers from Prescott in Week 10 as he completed 77.4% of his passes and tossed two touchdowns in just three quarters of play.
The supposed blueprint of stuffing the running game and making Prescott beat teams through the air in man-to-man defense was shown to be ineffective. Prescott got back in the groove against the Falcons.
Big three got one apiece
The top three cornerbacks for the Cowboys all had great games. Anthony Brown had a spectacular one-handed interception to end a drive and deflected another pass that was picked off by fellow CB Jourdan Lewis. Brown came out of the game with three pass breakups, tying his season high.
Lewis, meanwhile, in addition to the pick, played perhaps the best game of his career. The fifth-year CB out of Michigan had back-to-back pass breakups as the Falcons were driving on their second possession and had three passes defensed on the game. Lewis’ work early in the game helped swing the momentum to the Cowboys.
League interception leader Trevon Diggs got in on the act as well. Diggs collected his eighth interception of the season in the third quarter on a leaping grab while covering impressive rookie tight end Kyle Pitts.
Dorance Armstrong is a player
The Kansas product missed five games this season, which made him a bit of an afterthought, but Armstrong showed that he can make his mark on the defense. Without defensive ends DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory, Armstrong was thrust into a starting role and he played well.
Armstrong picked up a sack and had three more quarterback hits on the day, but his biggest play of the day came on special teams. Late in the second quarter, Armstrong blocked a punt that was recovered in the end zone for a score that essentially put an end to the competition before halftime. For his effort, Armstrong became the first Cowboy to record a sack and block a punt in the same game.
Offensive line rebounds
The Cowboys had a bit of a disaster last week after moving Terence Steele to left tackle after he had been playing right tackle for six weeks. Against the Falcons, Steele held up well and the offensive line did a much better job which helped to anchor a rebound effort from the team.
Dallas’ OL didn’t allow a sack and Prescott was able to sit comfortably in the pocket for most of the game. Perhaps the group just needed some time to work together in their current configuration without Tyron Smith. One week didn’t appear to be enough to compensate for all the moving pieces. A second week together helped improve their play.
Do you think the Cowboys will build upon their win over Atlanta? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.