Game of the Day: Falcons punch back in second half
Arlington, Texas — Julio Jones glided over the goal line on a diving touchdown. That quieted a Dallas crowd riled up by early hopes that the Cowboys might find a way to survive without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant.
Fill-in Atlanta running back Devonta Freeman did most of the rest of the silencing.
Matt Ryan connected with Jones for two touchdowns, Freeman ran for 141 yards and three scores, and the Falcons beat the Cowboys 39-28 on Sunday.
“We just want to move the ball — I don’t care how we do it,” said Freeman, who also had 52 yards receiving. “Run, pass, if we get three points on a field goal, as long as we move the ball and get points.”
Freeman’s third score early in the fourth quarter capped a rally from a trio of 14-point deficits for the Falcons (3-0), who didn’t win their third game until Week 10 last year, and Week 13 in 2013.
Jones had his third consecutive 100-yard game to start the season, finishing with 164 and a clinching 2-yard score late in the fourth. According to the NFL, Atlanta is the first team to start 3-0 after trailing in the fourth quarter of each game.
“We clearly got punched in the mouth and we were looking to respond,” said Dan Quinn, who joined Jim Mora (2004) as the only Atlanta coaches to start their careers with three straight wins. “Dallas certainly had us reeling all the way through and we had to battle like crazy to get back in it.”
The Cowboys (2-1) had a six-game winning streak in the regular season snapped in backup quarterback Brandon Weeden’s ninth straight loss as a starter going back to his two-year stint in Cleveland.
With Romo (broken left collarbone) and Bryant (broken foot) in street clothes, Weeden started 9-of-9 to push his streak of completions to 16 to start the season.
But the run ended with a second-quarter interception that turned the game in the Falcons’ favor.
Dallas running back Joseph Randle had 85 yards on his first three carries, including a 37-yard touchdown that helped the Cowboys to a 14-0 lead. He had just 2 yards on his final 11 runs, and the Cowboys had just three first downs in the second half after getting 20 before halftime.
Freeman, who started with Coleman battling a rib injury, had no trouble with the league’s No. 1 rushing defense, getting 89 yards in the second half as the Falcons scored touchdowns on three straight possessions to overcome a 28-17 deficit. Atlanta was 9-of-14 on third down.
“When you are rolling on a third down, and you’re running the ball effectively, that’s when you get into a mode offensively where you think, ‘No matter what happens, we’re going to find a way,’ ” said Ryan, who was 24 of 36 for 285 yards.