ARLINGTON, Tex. – The Falcons played several dramatic affairs leading into Sunday's game at Dallas. Win or lose, most of this season's contests came down to the wire.
There was little tension as this game progressed, with no real doubt about result heading into halftime.
The final score was the only thing left uncertain as this Sunday afternoon ticked by. The Cowboys were a surefire victor after building a large lead that ended up a 43-3 victory over the Falcons here at AT&T Stadium.
Let's get into it. Here are three gut reactions to this Falcons loss:
The tale of tone-setting conversions
The Falcons were moving the ball well early in this game yet faced a fourth down on their second series that was well within Younghoe Koo's field goal range. Arthur Smith chose to go for it, a clear sign the Falcons head coach thought it took touchdowns, not field goals, to beat the Cowboys.
He wasn't wrong. He wasn't wrong to go for it there, even though it didn't turn out well. The Cowboys seemed to agree with Smith, and faced with a fourth-down of their own, at almost the same yard line in opposing territory. They went for it, converted and carried on to score a touchdown.
That exchange set the tone for this entire game, with the Cowboys able to convert in big moments. The Falcons, by stark contrast, could not.
That set the tone and a trend for this game, with the Falcons unable to execute on third down and the Cowboys thriving in big moments. That set the stage for a lopsided game that was essentially cemented in the first half.
Our Tori McElhaney broke this divisive first-half issue – though it extended into the second -- down succinctly:
Those numbers didn't get any better in the second half, with the Falcons struggling to do much of anything on third down or regularly set up manageable conversion opportunities. The Falcons didn't convert their first third down until their 10th attempt, with roughly six minutes left in the game.
The outcome becomes predictable considering that context, and Sunday's game was no different.
Cowboys-Falcons highlight clear talent disparity
There will be many who try to make this result into Dan Quinn soundly beating the team he recently used to coach. This wasn't that. This wasn't a battle of coaches and schemes. Not on this day.
The result, instead, highlighted an obvious talent disparity between these two sides.
While upsets happen all the time, the outcome's not an absolute shock with one team in transition, with a new head coach and GM dealing with serious salary-cap constraints, and the other poised for a legitimate title run.
That these teams are in different places was crystal clear along the lines of scrimmage and in the Falcons secondary. The Cowboys receiver corps is stacked, with quality throughout the pattern. The Falcons didn't have the cornerbacks to match up considering their injury situation and overall roster depth, for example, leaving rookie Avery Williams regularly matched up with CeeDee Lamb. It didn't go well for the Falcons when that matchup presented itself, though Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott was able to frequently find mismatches to exploit with his top-tier attack. Lamb beat several Falcons on the way to a big statistical day.
The Falcons are in the process of building a team and a stout defense, but that's going to take time and remains a work-in-progress that's far from finished.
Most everything must go right to compete with a talented team playing at its peak. That's not what happened with the Falcons on this day. That led to a lopsided result. It also counts as just one loss, assuming the Falcons can flush it quickly and play well moving forward.
Still waiting to creep above .500
The Falcons have evened their record twice after starting the season with two losses. They haven't, however, been able to creep into the positive. Another opportunity to do so has passed, with a loss to the Cowboys where basically nothing went right.
That doesn't remove the Falcons from the NFC mix, but it demands a boisterous response as the season moves forward. If they can remain competitive and treat this loss like an isolated incident, they can crawl back into contention. That's certainly possible, considering the Falcons' previous response to poor showings, but bad feelings can't linger.
Another performance like this will certainly raise cause for concern as we, just now, enter the season's second half. This game was the dividing line of a 17-game season. The Falcons can't let this result turn their season south, with a quick and impactful rebound required after getting beat soundly.
Call for questions
Let's fill up the mailbag with your comments and questions while they're fresh following that result against the Cowboys, with the Patriots coming up on Thursday night. Submit them right here for inclusion in Monday's Bair Mail.
Falcons Final Whistle | A Postgame Podcast
Break down the hottest topics surrounding the Atlanta Falcons and how they can impact the team's success with Atlanta Falcons Insiders Scott Bair, Tori McElhaney and Kris Rhim. Like and subscribe to join us for the lively debate on Falcons Final Whistle.
Welcome to Falcons Final Whistle – an Atlanta Falcons football postgame podcast during the season that shifts gears in the offseason to answer a pressing question about the team's future each week through free agency, the NFL Draft and the offseason program.