Two NFC teams coming off of surprising results in Week Nine will meet on Sunday to see if it was an aberration or a new direction for both. The NFC East-leading Cowboys lost for just the second time this season, losing at home by 14 to the last-place Broncos.
The Falcons were able to get to .500 on the year and pull out of last in the NFC South with a last-second win on the road in New Orleans.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Dallas Cowboys
Sunday, November 14, 2021 – 01:00 PM EDT at AT&T Stadium
No Meltdown This Time
The Falcons appeared to be on the verge of continuing their history of blowing leads in the fourth quarter. They did it in a quarter of their games last season, including back-to-back blown 15-point leads. On Sunday, Atlanta led the Saints, 24-6, with 10:39 left in the game, then watched New Orleans put up 19 straight points to pull ahead. Matt Ryan finished off a 343-yard day, however, by engineering his 41st career comeback win.
The Falcons have now won three of their last four and matched last season’s win total for the entire year. Atlanta is currently in possession of the final playoff spot in the NFC and will be looking to the postseason for the first time in a few years. The Falcons are also 3-1 away from Atlanta this season, which is a good sign heading into Big D.
Atlanta is nursing a number of injuries and other health issues. Receiver Calvin Ridley missed his second straight game with mental health issues, although Cordarrelle Patterson stepped up with two big catches, including a 64-yarder to set up the game-winning kick. Olamide Zaccheaus also contributed with two scoring catches.
The defense suffered some dings as corner Kendall Sheffield left the game with a hamstring injury. Linebacker Adetokunbo Ogundeji suffered an injury as well, and linebacker Steven Means hurt his leg. Coach Arthur Smith addressed Means’ injury after the game, saying it didn’t appear to be as serious as it initially looked, but the team will await updates on the ailing players as the week goes on.
The Cowboys gave every indication of a team that had overlooked its opponent on Sunday. Broncos players said after the game they were upset over Dallas’ early attempts on fourth down, saying it was a show of disrespect. The Broncos had 12 “explosive” plays against Dallas, nearly matching their total from the previous three weeks, and held the ball for 41 minutes, the most by a Cowboys’ opponent since 2011.
“This is the first time I’ve felt clearly our energy didn’t exceed our opponent. That’s disappointing,” said Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy. The Cowboys struggled on offense, despite the return of quarterback Dak Prescott, who missed the previous week with a calf injury. Even with Denver trading top defensive player Von Miller earlier in the week, the Broncos nearly shut out the Cowboys before Dallas got two late scores.
Also, the Cowboys saw running back Ezekiel Elliott battle a leg injury that knocked him out of the game for brief periods. He said afterward it was something he’s been “dealing with the past couple of weeks.” Dallas also was without left tackle Tyron Smith, who missed the game with an ankle injury.
The Cowboys got back right tackle La’el Collins, who started for the first time this season after missing the start of the year with a substance-abuse suspension. The team also expects to get back injured receiver Michael Gallup for the Falcons game.
The Cowboys have seen injuries slow their quarterback, running back, and left tackle. Even if all three are able to play on Sunday, it will impact the offense to have their three top players on that side of the ball hobbling. An upset may be a big ask, but look for the Falcons for your NFL pick to make a run at it and keep things inside the hefty point spread.
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