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DAL 40, ATL 39: Cowboys Pull Off Improbable Comeback for McCarthy’s 1st Win

After falling to an early 20-0 deficit in the first quarter, the Dallas Cowboys rallied back and pulled off a stunning 40-39 comeback victory over the Atlanta Falcons. It is Dallas’ first win of the 2020 season and Mike McCarthy’s first victory as Cowboys head coach.

Greg Zuerlein drilled a 46-yard field goal down the middle in the final seconds to give Dallas the win. His late-game heroics also included the rare successful onside kick to give the Cowboys the ball and make the final drive possible.

The Cowboys dug the early hole with three lost fumbles in the first quarter and a failed fake punt attempt, giving the Falcons good field position numerous times. The defense also struggled, sacrificing several big plays through the air and allowing four touchdowns to Matt Ryan.

However, Mike McCarthy’s team didn’t give up. The Cowboys never stopped fighting and pulled within a few possessions before halftime, then finished the job in the second half.

Dak Prescott had three short-yardage rushing touchdowns to go with 450 passing yards and another TD through the air. He had to leave the game briefly in the third quarter for a medical evaluation, leading to a brief Andy Dalton sighting, but only missed two plays before returning and scoring on a QB sneak.

With Tyron Smith inactive today and La’el Collins still on injured reserve, the Cowboys were forced to start Brandon Knight and Terence Steele at offensive tackle. The early results were not good and had everyone remembering the horrible 2017 loss to Atlanta, aka “The Chaz Green Game.”

But credit to Kellen Moore for adjusting to the blocking issues, getting the ball out of Prescott’s hands faster on later drives and using an up-tempo offense to help stifle the Falcons’ defensive attack. There was a marked difference on the Cowboys later drives in the first quarter that carried through the game and helped take them to victory.

Game Notes

  • Dalton Schultz’s debut as the new starting TE was a good one, leading all receivers with nine catches for 88 yards and a touchdown. Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb each had six catches for 100 and 106 receiving yards respectively.
  • The Cowboys only sack of the game came from Everson Griffen, his first of the year after joining Dallas just before training camp. Trysten Hill didn’t have a big day on the box score but was noticeably active with pressure and some good run stops in the second half.
  • Rookie CB Trevon Diggs had some tough moments guarding Julio Jones but was also close to making some big plays. Once he figures out how to catch the ball, Diggs has the makings of an interception machine.
  • With the Eagles and Giants already losing today, and Washington currently trailing 20-0 in their own game, Dallas should move into a tie for 1st place in the NFC East with the Football Team.
  • In Week 3 the Cowboys will head to Seattle. The Seahawks will be trying to go 2-0 later tonight when they face the New England Patriots.

What do you think?


Written by Jess Haynie

Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!


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  1. Tough and Gritty win for the Cowboys. You definetly felt all the emotions in this one. Dak played superb in this, Zeke was Zeke and Schultz was a surprise. This Defense though is very leaky and McCarthy and Nolan must look over every player and see who deserves to start and which need to be benched before a tough road game at Seattle.

  2. And with the way our Division is you gotta be encouraged. Eagles look just awful, Giants offense looks so mediocre and just lost Barkley for the year and Washington is getting beat by Cardinals

  3. Agree with Justin, Prescott, Zeke, and to my surprise, Schultz all played very well. Big win and to be honest, a gift from Falcon. How could they let that onside kick just keep rolling. One of the craziest games I’ve seen in a while. But give credit to Cowboys for not giving up when down 20. Those fumbles we’re almost fatal. Amazing 570 total yards and 33 first downs. Looked bleak for awhile, but just a great win, digging out of a big hole. Hope the momentum carries into Seattle next week.

  4. What’s even crazy to know is we could score more if we clean up the turnovers we could’ve had a couple more scores. Schultz allievated some of my concerns about Jarwins injury, let’s see if he can keep it up.

  5. Defense was porous but somewhat misleading Falcons offense was working with a short field alot due to the turnovers. Unbelievable grit and “never quit ” effort from the boys. Those were fluke turnovers and Zeke might not fumble again all yr Aside from that he was a beast…alot of tough runs many carrying Falcons on his back. He gets stronger as the season goes on so I expect some big games from him. The young guys Lamb and Diggs looked great and Knight/Steele were better. I didn’t hate the play calling and game plan. Alot of work to do if we wanna make the playoffs and beyond….but alot of things to like today. I actually don’t see this game as a gift. I look it as a game we almost gave away. Take away the two fluke fumbles by Elliott and the two dropped easy ints we win this game anyway.

  6. A game like this can teach a team not to ever give up! Bottom line is the defense has to win in the trenches, put pressure on the QB so he don’t have all day to pick our DB’s apart! We have to find a defense that can stop people at least a third of the game! Looks like the the last few years!

  7. Agree Gary b, if you take away the fumbles, Cowboy win without having to go to the last minute heroics. The gift I refered to was the huge blunder by the Falcons just not jumping on that rolling onside kick. But even so, the defense still has to improve, just one coverage sack. If they can, this team may just be a real contender, especially in this division.
    Wash, Philly and Giants now minus Barkley, do not appear too threatening. Next up Seahawks in Seattle, on the other hand, will be a good grading test game. Till then, we can savor this gritty, guttsy comeback win.

  8. Gary b…. I agree with you about Zeke, he was a beast in this game minus the fluke fumbles!! He was literally carrying defenders on his back and running them over, especially after the fumbles!! I could tell he was playing pissed off after the fumbles!! My favorite play was when he ran in for his touchdown…. He ran in with players on his back and he knocked the safety (Kazee) I believe his name is, on his back and made him slide a good 2 yards into the end zone!! That has to be one of my favorite plays of the game!! I don’t think I’ve ever seen him run over a defender like that before!! And one guy you didn’t mention was Dalton Schultz…. I was calling for him to go to the bench after the way he played against the rams last week, but he definitely redeemed himself in this game!! He played really well in this one…. I believe he had 8 catches for 88 yards and a touchdown!! I was really surprised to see him play that good, I just hope he can keep it up for the rest of the season!! Next week will be our toughest match up of the year so far, so let’s hope we can take this momentum into that game and get another win!!

  9. I hear u VAM I’m flabbergasted as to what the Falcons were thinking on that onside kick. With that said I saw good games from several players unlike the Rams game…..especially on offense. Zeke is in beast mode this yr and all of our WRs made big catches……and Schultz showed me something. Love to watch Lamb…… he seems be gliding when he runs and he showed his after the catch skills yesterday. I thought Knight/Steele played solid and should only improve……and they are getting valuable exp. Dak was unbelievable(aside from the one stupid fumble). All things considered one of the best games of his career I think. With this offense and never quit attitude we’re never out of a game. But the defense has to get better. We can’t expect to win a shootout every week. Frankly I’m disappointed in the DL which was supposed to be a position of strength. With a classic drop back passer with limited mobility u gotta be hitting him more. Diggs looks like a keeper though!

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