Fill-in Freeman, Falcons beat Romo sub Weeden, Cowboys 39-28

Publish date:

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Devonta Freeman filled in just fine as Atlanta's lead running back.

It remains to be seen how Brandon Weeden can hold up as the sub for Tony Romo in Dallas.

Freeman ran for 141 yards and three touchdowns, Matt Ryan connected with Julio Jones for a pair of scores, and the Falcons rallied from 14 points down three times in a 39-28 victory over the Cowboys on Sunday.

A second-year back making his first career start replacing injured rookie Tevin Coleman, Freeman had his first 100-yard game and the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.

''He made plays for us all last year,'' Ryan said, referring to when Freeman backed up Steven Jackson. ''You would see it in practice. You would see the way he worked, how hungry he was.''

The Falcons are the first team to start 3-0 after trailing in the fourth quarter of all three games, according to the NFL. They didn't win their third game until Week 10 last year, and Week 13 in 2013.

The Cowboys (2-1) had a six-game winning streak in the regular season snapped in Weeden's ninth straight loss as a starting quarterback, dating to his two-year stint in Cleveland.

With Romo watching with a sling supporting his broken left collarbone, and All-Pro receiver Dez Bryant also in street clothes because of a broken right foot, Weeden started 9 of 9 to push his streak of completions to 16 to start the season.

The run ended with a second-quarter interception by William Moore, who was waiting for the ill-advised throw from a scrambling Weeden. Starting at the Dallas 23, the Falcons pulled within a touchdown on Freeman's second score.

Weeden rarely looked downfield after the mistake, finishing 22 of 26 for 232 yards - with Cole Beasley the only receiver to catch a pass. Romo will miss at least six more games, and Bryant is out for probably another month.

''I think we didn't have a ton of opportunities,'' Weeden said. ''When you get in third-and-8 or third-and-9 and they're playing man, they're really not giving you that deep threat down the side.''

Other things to consider after Dan Quinn joined Jim Mora (2004) as the only Atlanta coaches to win the first three games of their careers:

THE TRIFECTA: Jones had his third straight 100-game game to start the season, finishing with 164 and a clinching 2-yard score late in the fourth. He had 137 yards in the second half, including a 45-yard catch-and-run touchdown that ended with a dive as he turned upside down and held the ball over the goal line in his outstretched arm.

''Matt has all the faith in the world in me and I have the same in him,'' said Jones, who has 440 yards and four scores.

FAST START, SLOW FINISH: Dallas running back Joseph Randle had 85 yards on his first three carries, including the first of three first-half touchdowns on a 37-yarder 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.

CRUCIAL POINTS: The Falcons narrowed the last of their two-touchdown deficits by driving to Matt Bryant's 32-yard field goal in the final 40 seconds of the first half. The key play a 35-yard pass to Freeman, who had 52 yards receiving. ''I thought that was a huge momentum changer for us offensively,'' said Ryan, who was 24 of 36 for 285 yards without an interception.

HOLLOW NUMBERS: Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar had 10 catches for 100 yards, both career highs, but several were futile attempts for first downs in third-and-long situations.

GROUND TURNAROUND: Facing the NFL's No. 1 rushing defense through two weeks, the Falcons almost doubled their average of 80.5 yards with 158 yards on the ground. Coleman was out with a rib injury.



AP NFL website: and


Follow Schuyler Dixon on Twitter at