Mark it Eight: Falcons Survive Battle Against Big D
By Matthew Asher
Say what you will about Atlanta being the only undefeated team left in the NFL. You can say they’ve only beaten one team with a winning record this season, or that their running attack is the team’s Achilles Heel, but what you cannot argue is that they keep winning. Sure, they may have narrowly defeated Dallas 19-13, but as the late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis would say, “Just win baby.”
This is one of the rare games where there will not be a Good, Bad and Ugly report. Overall, Atlanta played a good game offensively, gaining 453 yards, and defensively, limiting Dallas to 377 yards with 59 yards coming on the final drive when they were just playing prevent. The Falcons special team plays were the only true black-eye for the Falcons. They only punted once, but missed two field goals.
Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Julio Jones all get an A-. As expected, this game was a battle of aerial offenses. The two quarterbacks stats were nearly identical. Ryan completed 24 of 34 passes for 342 yards while Tony Romo was 25 of 35 for 321 yards. Neither quarterback threw an interception. Why does Matty Ice get an A- rather than A? Romo threw for one touchdown, Ryan didn’t throw for any.
White and Jones each topped the 100-yard receiving mark, the first time this season the tandem has done that and the first time Jones has done this at the Georgia Dome. Roddy finished with seven receptions for 118 yards while Julio ended the game with five catches for 129 yards. Again, neither scored a touchdown.
Special congratulations should also be given to Roddy White for setting the new franchise record in receptions. In the third quarter Ryan found Roddy for a 26-yard catch, his longest gain of the night. With that catch, Jones had amassed 574 catches as a Falcon, breaking the record previously held by Terrance Mathis. This is the seventh franchise record that Roddy now owns.
Atlanta’s defense gets an A. Playing without Sean Weatherspoon the Falcons defense did an admirable job. They limited the Cowboys to just 65 yards on the ground. While Romo did eclipse the 300-yard passing mark, 59 of those yards came in the final drive when the defense was really just playing prevent. Take that drive out of the equation and Romo finished with 262 yards. Not a bad job when you consider Dallas averages nearly 300 yards passing a game (the third highest total in the league). Neither Dez Bryant nor Miles Austin eclipsed the 100-yard receiving mark. The Falcons limited the two receivers to just 91 yards combined. The Cowboys tandem averaged almost 150 yards combined in their first seven games.
Michael Turner gets a B+. For just the second time this season, Turner the Burner rushed for more than 100 yards in a game. He did score Atlanta’s lone touchdown. The reason he doesn’t get an A for his game is the big 43-yard run in the third quarter. Take that out of the equation and Turner had just 59 yards on 19 carries for an average of 3.1 yards per carry. Not exactly highlight material.
Kicker Matt Bryant gets a B-. Bryant led all players in scoring with 13 points. He made four field goals of 45, 46, 36 and 32 yards. He did miss two kicks of 37 and 43 yards. Still, he converted 71 percent of his attempts (including the PAT).
With half the season now over for the Falcons, they still stand atop as the only undefeated team. The Chicago Bears and the Houston Texans are both 7-1. Atlanta will head to the Big Easy to take on the New Orleans Saints for just their second divisional game of the season. Kickoff to that game will be 1pm EST.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.