If Michael Turner's 43-yard run late in the third quarter started the Falcons on the path to Sunday night's win, his running mate came through with the play that situationally ended the Cowboys chances at a comeback.
Holding on to a slim three-point lead the Falcons began what looked likely to be their last drive of the game on their 20 with just over five minutes remaining. A surprising offensive pass interference call on Julio Jones lost the Falcons 10 yards on the first play, but after 14 yards in the next two plays, third-and-6 came up with under four minutes left.
As he had more than a few times on the night, QB Matt Ryan experienced pressure, this time up the middle, flushing him to his right. He saw his second-year running back Jacquizz Rodgers open, tossed him a short pass and Rodgers went this way and that way up the field to the tune of 31 yards.
"It's the stop route," Rodgers said of the play. "...You just hook it up on the outside. No one was covering me so I was wide open."
Rodgers knew Ryan's pocket was collapsing and he gave his quarterback some credit for finding a way to get the ball to him. He showed some of the elusive skills he's flashed before, slipping away from an immediate tackle to pick up a first down and more.
The tailback said he didn't hear any of the cheers from the fans in the Georgia Dome as he showed some nice moves going up the field, he was only worried about getting out of the game with a win. Rodgers explained that they knew only a few first downs were needed to put the game out of reach for the Cowboys.
"Once you're getting first downs, they've got to burn their timeouts and that's burning time off the clock," Rodgers said. "When they get it back on offense, they'll have no timeouts and they've got to drive the field with no timeouts so it's hard for them to score."
Rodgers would add 11 more yards on a reception on that drive to give him 53 yards on four catches, a 13.3 yards-per-catch average. His big gain at a key time was the second time in consecutive weeks the third-down back has produced a play like that. In Week 8 against the Eagles, Rodgers produced the second-longest Falcons play in the game with a 43-yard run in the third quarter.
Ryan said the Dallas third-down play was a big moment in the game and credits Rodgers as being a key part of Atlanta's offense.
"Quizz is just the consummate role player for our team," Ryan said. "He's not the feature back, we have Mike, but he does so many things for our team in terms of pass protection, running the football, coming out of the backfield and catching some balls for us. That was huge, and it's tough for a defense to worry about the guys that we have on the outside, and the tight end that we have, and then remember that we have some special players out of the backfield that can catch the ball and make plays. He's a great fit for our offense and he's played really well all year."