Physical mistakes will happen. Mental mistakes too. Failing to get enough players on the field for a critical play is inexcusable.
On the Falcons’ 2-point play after Julio Jones’ 45-yard touchdown catch, the Cowboys had just 10 defenders on the field, culminating back-to-back mistakes. On Jones’ touchdown, cornerback Tyler Patmon played too far outside of Jones at the snap, then did not get help inside from safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox.
Wilcox missed a tackle of Jones in the open field as the receiver ran away from Patmon.
On the 2-point play, Atlanta had had a three-receiver formation on the field. At times, the Cowboys combated that formation with their dime package (six defensive backs). Rookie Byron Jones was not on the field for the snap as confusion reigned.
When the running back split wide, Church went wide at the direction of linebacker Anthony Hitchens. At the snap, tight end Levine Toilolo was uncovered and caught Matt Ryan’s pass to cut the Cowboys’ lead to 28-25 in the third quarter.
Coach Jason Garrett said the Cowboys were thinking about calling a timeout. Interesting note: Linebacker Sean Lee was in the locker room getting stitches on a busted lip.
“We were trying to get the information as to whether or not we had 10 or 11 on there and they had snapped the ball before we got that information,” Garrett said.
It was the second gaffe of the day on game management. Garrett called time out with 46 seconds to go in the first half after the Cowboys got to the Atlanta 1 instead of bleeding the clock a little to make sure they didn’t give Matt Ryan time to drive for a score.
Ryan took the Falcons 66 yards in the final 40 seconds for a Matt Bryant field goal that cut the Cowboys’ lead to 28-17.
“That’s a tricky situation for us because we’re changing personnel groups and we wanted to put our big personnel in,” Garrett said after the game. “And sometimes that can be complicated there. It turned out that we scored on that first play and we gave them an opportunity. So in the ideal situation you work that thing all the way down and don’t give them a chance to go back the other way and get that field goal. A combination of different factors: personnel group, new quarterback. A few different things.”