By Dwain Price
ARLINGTON — Following last week’s surprising loss to the Denver Broncos, wild stories of the demise of the Dallas Cowboys started flooding the airways from coast to coast.
Obviously, those stories were grossly exaggerated.
One week after that embarrassing loss to the Broncos, the Cowboys went out and thoroughly embarrassed the Atlanta Falcons, winning, 43-3, this past Sunday at AT&T Stadium.
How anxious were the Cowboys to get back on the field after what happened against the Broncos? It’s a league-wide unofficial rule that when a team wins the coin toss, they kick off to start the game, and instead receive the second-half kickoff. In this case, the Cowboys won the coin toss and decided to receive the opening kickoff. That’s because they couldn’t wait to get their hands on the football and start correcting everything that went so wrong against the Broncos.
“We want the ball (and) we wanted to hit them in the mouth first,”said running back Ezekiel Elliott, who scored two touchdowns. “We wanted to go score first and that’s what we did.”
“We knew going into the game we had to start fast, we knew we had to make up for last week. So, we had to go out there and set the tone, and that’s what we did.”
The Cowboys scored early and often. So often that they got into the red zone – the 20-yard line — five times and scored touchdowns on each occasion. So often that they scored 29 points – in the second quarter.
That’s the most points the Cowboys have scored in one quarter in franchise history. And that massive 36-3 lead the Cowboys had at halftime? That’s the largest halftime lead since they led the New York Jets, 38-3, on Dec. 4, 1971.
In a nutshell, the Cowboys were downright angry what happened to them during that 30-16 loss to the Broncos, and they took it out on the Falcons.
“We’re a resilient team, a team that is very aware of what we are capable of,” quarterback Dak Prescott said. “Last week just wasn’t us, and everybody in the locker room knows that and it left a bad taste in our mouth. I think it was a taste that we needed, as I said, to understand how tough this game is.”
“But (Sunday) just showed that when we focus in, we take it one play at a time, when our hearts and minds are where our feet are, we’re capable of doing some great things. So, we’ve just got to continue to focus on that and take it play-by-play, game-by-game and we’ll continue to get better and hopefully have a lot more performances like this.”
Prescott’s performance was sterling as he completed 24-of-31 passes for 296 yards, and also threw a pair of touchdown passes to CeeDee Lamb. And the Cowboys’ offense totaled 431 yards.
The 40-point victory was the first time in 337 games – since a 48-7 win over Arizona on Oct. 22, 2000 – that the Cowboys won a game by at least 40 points.
It also was a revenge game for defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who was the head coach of the Falcons from 2015 until they fired him midway through last season. Quinn’s defense allowed the Falcons just 214 yards, and the Cowboys had three interceptions in a game for the first time since Dec. 5, 2010 when they picked off four passes against Indianapolis. And that includes Trevon Diggs picking up his NFL-high eighth interception of the season.
“It’s good to have that game done and over with,” Quinn said. “There’s always good rivalries between coaches and players.”
The Cowboys gave Quinn the game ball after Sunday’s win.
“It was personal,” said defensive end Dorance Armstrong, who registered a sack and blocked a punt that Nahshon Wright recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. “We just went out there and executed the game for (Quinn).
“We got embarrassed last week. Everybody was tuned in knowing we had a mission to accomplish.”
Consider that mission accomplished.
“I feel like the tone was already set from the moment we walked in the building,” said Lamb, who caught six passes for 94 yards. “I feel like together we came in with the right mindset and right game plan and just came and attacked.”
With the victory, the Cowboys improved to 7-2 and are three-and-a-half games ahead of the Philadelphia Eagles (4-6) in the race for the NFC East title.
“Clearly it was the response we were looking for,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “Excellent team win. We had a ton of production and we were pretty much dominant there in the first half.
“It’s great to see the locker room the way it is right now. But that’s what you’re looking for. Preparation was excellent and our guys did a great job applying it to (Sunday) and played with great emotion.”
The Falcons even had the nerve to try and defend the Cowboys the way the Broncos did, figuring Denver designed the blueprint on how to defeat the Cowboys. Obviously, those best laid plans didn’t work.
“Trust me, we understood what happened (against Denver) and it didn’t feel good,”McCarthy said. “I think just as a whole we didn’t give our fans a lot to cheer about (against Denver) and they were outstanding (Sunday).
“I thought the environment was awesome from the kickoff all the way through, and I thank our fans for the environment that they created (Sunday).”
And in bouncing back and running over the Falcons, the Cowboys now prepare for a huge showdown in Kansas City against the Chiefs on Sunday at 3:25 p.m. In short, the Cowboys have to ward against not getting overconfident – again.
“We’re not going to get overconfident again,” Prescott said. “That’s what a game like (the contest against Denver) does for you.
“It leaves that taste in your mouth and keeps you humble and makes sure that you stay hungry and that you don’t get too ahead of yourself. We’re going to continue to get better, we’re going to use this one and learn from it (and) grow from it.”