Dallas Cowboys: Lessons learned from the team’s first loss


"“I am a big believer in momentum, but I’m a big believer in you make your own momentum. You make your momentum by executing and doing the things you need to do. So it’s not just going to happen. Just because you get off to a good start doesn’t mean it’s going to continue and just because things aren’t going well for you, that doesn’t mean that’s going to continue.”"

Those were the words of Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett after Sunday’s 39-28 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Those words are the best way to describe exactly how the game went.

The Cowboys came out on fire, scoring three touchdowns on their first four possessions. The defense was playing the way they had in previous weeks as well, only allowing one touchdown and forcing three punts up until the late stages of the second quarter.

And then, the whole thing seemed to come unraveled.

More from The Landry Hat

Two situations occurred that significantly changed the outcome of this game.

With 6:03 to go in the second quarter, and the Cowboys leading 21-7, quarterback Brandon Weeden did what every fan feared he would.  Rolling to his left, he made an errant throw over the head of tight end Jason Witten and into the arms of Falcons safety William Moore.

Seven plays later, the Falcons were within one score of tying up a game in which they were being dominated.

Yes, the Cowboys answered that score with one of their own, pushing it back to a two score advantage, but that likely set into motion what turned out to be a disastrous second half of football.

The second situation was halftime.  Once the two teams were able to regroup, the Falcons made all the necessary adjustments, loaded the box to shut down the run and used a diversified attack to wear down the Cowboys defense.

Dallas, meanwhile, did absolutely nothing.

Not only did the Cowboys fail to score another point.  The offense feebly mustered drives that totaled 52 yards, consisting of three, seven, three and six plays.

You can blame the defense all you like for allowing 25 unanswered points.  Coach Garrett will never allow this team to use the list of missing players as an excuse but there is only so much that can be done when the offense never has the ball for more than four minutes on any one drive.

The game plan on offense was great going into the game.  Giving Weeden short throws and leaning on the running game worked… for a half.

Unfortunately, when the adjustments to take away the running game and sell out on short routes came, the offense never adjusted by taking shots downfield or outside the numbers.

While you can blame the coaching staff for such a plan, it’s hard to fault why they didn’t execute it.  Weeden’s opportunity to prove he could be smart with the ball when he needed to be bursted into flames with that horrible second quarter interception.

Receivers on the outside didn’t exactly dominate their one-on-one opportunities to get open either.

These are the types of game plans you can expect until either Dez Bryant returns or Terrance Williams, Devin Street and Brice Butler take this personally and do something about.

It’s a player’s game.  Coaches don’t make plays, players do.

I don’t fault Garrett or offensive coordinator Scott Linehan for not calling more plays to stretch the defense.  If no one gets open and your quarterback can’t be trusted to not turn the ball over, that limits what can be done.

Knowing that this team would be missing Tony Romo and Bryant on offense and so many pieces along the defensive line, it’s not shocking that Dallas dropped a game to a very good Falcons team.

Maybe the shock was that they looked so good for a half.

Lessons will be learned from this loss.  If the Cowboys can regroup, get a win next week and start the first quarter of the season 3-1, the large majority of fans will take that.

Players will eventually be on their way back.  After next week, two huge pieces will be added to the defense.  Once the bye is finished, it’s very possibly that Bryant and Randy Gregory come back as well.  Until that happens, the players who do suit up have to be better.

Otherwise, you can expect to see more of the same that you did Sunday.

Next: Lance Dunbar has career day against the Falcons