DALLAS -- Sometimes statistics can't tell the entire story of a game. Sometimes a stat line is misleading. But other times, statistics can paint a full picture, tell the whole story or lead you to an obvious conclusion. It doesn't happen often because football - like many things in life - isn't black and while. But in the Falcons 43-3 loss to Dallas, the stats tell you every thing you need to know about why the game got out of hand.
Let's take a further look at the statistical discrepancies between the Cowboys and Falcons. It shows us a lot about the game itself, and how lopsided it really was (if the score wasn't proof enough):
Dallas had 22 first downs. Atlanta had 11.
Dallas had 431 total yards. Atlanta had 214.
Dallas was 6-for-14 on third down. Atlanta was 1-for-11. The Falcons did not convert their first third down until right before the six-minute mark in the fourth quarter.
Dallas was 3-for-3 on fourth down. Atlanta was 0-for-2.
Dallas was perfect in the red zone, making its way into the red area five times and coming away with a touchdown every time. Atlanta was inside the red zone only once, and it happened during the Falcons opening drive of the game. The Falcons didn't get in the endzone.
Dallas' defense intercepted Matt Ryan twice. The Cowboys sacked him that many times, too. Atlanta never really put much pressure on Dak Prescott, and he finished the day averaging 9.5 yards per play though the air. For Ryan's two interceptions, Prescott had two touchdowns.
Dallas had three receivers with 50-plus receiving yards. Atlanta had one: Kyle Pitts.
In the end, Dallas' offense was rolling while Atlanta's was stalling. And that's really all there is to say.
"We didn't do hardly anything well," Arthur Smith said after the game. "We didn't play well as a team."
Smith said he felt things starting to slip away from the Falcons early.
"We had an avalanche in the second quarter and never recovered," he said.
Veteran safety Duron Harmon said the defense's struggle to get off the field on third and fourth downs was the difference for the unit.
"When you're playing a good team like that and you're giving them the momentum to just keep going up and down the field," Harmon said, "it's tough."
As for the offensive unit, Ryan and Smith agreed the Falcons' first two drives of the game had the rhythm they wanted, but the offensive attack stalled and sputtered after that. From there, Ryan said, the game "got ugly quick."
As the stat line shows, the Falcons struggled to convert on third down, but they also struggled to get drives going at times.
Atlanta went three-and-out four times nearly in a row from the second quarter to their first drive of the third quarter. In all four of those three-and-out instances, the Falcons either had a play for no gain or lost yardage via a tackle for a loss or sack on their first down play. This made it difficult for the Falcons to convert in third and long situations.
"Early down success is huge," Smith said. "It's the difference in the first play of the game: We hit Kyle on a crossing route for a pretty big play and we get going there… We had two more drives really in real time and then we didn't do anything on first down."
There's more on this loss. There's more to this loss. And we can break it down even further, but in the end, Ryan probably summed it up best:
"I thought they played very well," he said of Dallas. "I thought we played poorly... We can do better than that, and we need to."
And perhaps that's all there is to say.
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