Cowboys 40, Falcons 39: Most Remarkable Comeback Win Ever?

Richie Whitt

"Incredible,'' Dak Prescott called the 40-39 Dallas Cowboys win over Atlanta on Sunday. And it was a gross understatement. My 10 Whitty Observations ...

10. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is gone. Wildfires on the west coast. Hurricanes in the gulf. 200,000 Americans dead because of COVID-19. 

Sports to rescue, again. 

On the verge of being 0-2 for the first time since 2010 when a 1-7 start got Wade Phillips fired and Jason Garrett hired, the Cowboys produced the most remarkable rally in franchise history. Combined with the Dallas Stars, we have been afforded adequate distraction.

9. I’ve been writing about the Cowboys since 1989 and that was the worst first quarter I can recall. 

Four fumbles on offense, including three in the first 10 snaps. The defense allowed two touchdown passes, including a ghastly blown coverage that allowed tight end Hayden Hurst to stroll in from 42 yards. And on special teams, they added a failed fake punt, a decision to return a kickoff from five yards in the end zone and a penalty on a return. 

Six possessions in the first quarter without receiving the opening kickoff is like a David Blaine mind-melt. 

Add it all up and the Cowboys trailed 20-0. 

In 204 games in Green Bay, McCarthy’s Packers allowed 20 points in the first quarter only once. The blunder of gaffes reminded of the 1994 NFC Championship Game in San Francisco, when turnovers by Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Kevin Williams dug Dallas a 21-0 hole five minutes into the game.

8. It took plenty of twists and turns, but there was no way an NFL team was going to have a quarterback rush for three second-half touchdowns and still lose. In addition to his trifecta, Dak Prescott threw for 450 yards and another score.

And yes, that's a record.

“Those are just statistics,'' Dak said. "That was a team (effort) all the way around. My stats are just a credit to the whole offense.”

7. Color blind? 54-year-old Daryl Johnston’s snow white hair makes me feel very old. 

Then: Moose; Now: Polar Bear.

 And the Cowboys’ blue pants were – for the first time in a long time – actually blue. Feels like for the last five or so years they’ve been an awkward shade of seafoam green. Much better.

6. Increasing their degree of difficulty, the Cowboys played Sunday without seven of their projected 22 starters. Gerald McCoy, Leighton Vander Esch, Anthony Brown, La’el Collins, Sean Lee, Blake Jarwin and Tyron Smith were all not on the field because of various injuries. The Cowboys have nine players on injured reserve. No other team has more than five.

5. Announced crowd at AT&T Stadium was 21,708. Glass half-empty: Smallest home-opener crowd in Cowboys’ history. (Was 25,000 in Cotton Bowl in 1960). Glass half-full: Largest NFL crowd this season. The smattering of fans resembled a preseason game. 

Down 20-0, I was surprised they didn’t swap their masks for brown paper bags.

4. Despite his two early fumbles, Ezekiel Elliott again looks like the hardest, best runner in the NFL. 

Dude was breaking tackles, moving piles and transforming three-yard runs into five-yard gains merely on his extra oomph.

3. Well, for a decade we criticized Jason Garrett’s vanilla conservatism and clamored for an aggressive, risk-taking head coach. 

Careful what you ask for? 

Last week Mike McCarthy gambled on a crucial 4-down that didn’t work against the Los Angeles Rams. Sunday, he resorted to an ill-timed two-point conversion attempt and two fake punts, lowlighted by a right-handed pass from a left-footed punter. There is poor execution, which was Chris Jones’ pass bouncing into open target C.J. Goodwin. And then there are poor decisions, the first of which was sending Darian Thompson on essentially a dive play on 4-and-5.

Me? I’d prefer to attempt to convert a fourth down with Dak Prescott or Elliott or Cooper rather than a punter throwing or a safety running.

The second brain burp was going for two trailing 39-30 after scoring a touchdown with 4:57 remaining. 

Sorry, I can’t even begin to explain that strategy. McCarthy may not always be right. But he’ll apparently rarely play it safe.

And his players seem to appreciate it; they presented McCarthy with the game ball in the locker room in honor of his first win as the Dallas head coach.

2. Off the top of my head, it’s the Cowboys’ most improbable victory since the comeback in Buffalo on Monday Night Football in 2007. The Cowboys trailed 20-0 after the first quarter and 39-24 with 4:57 remaining. It’s their first victory after trailing by 14+ points since Tony Romo’s first start at Carolina in 2006.

1. The most memorable home opener in Cowboys’ history came down to the wackiest of onside kicks. Down 39-37, Greg Zuerlein – without a tee, mind you – spun the ball like a helicopter, scooting along the ground. Inexplicably, several Falcons stood and watched until the ball finally, excruciatingly went 10 yards, where C.J. Goodwin pounced on it. 

After a key completion to CeeDee Lamb, Zeuerlein drilled a 46-yard field goal at the gun. It was a season-saving miracle for Dallas. I would call it a devastating loss for the Falcons, but their fans are still stinging from coughing up a 28-3 loss in Super Bowl LI.

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Comments (3)
No. 1-1

"2. Off the top of my head..."

WHAT????? I would have remembered a 20 pt comeback against Buffalo.

Cowboys vs. Buffalo on MNF, 8 Oct 2007, was only an 11 pt deficit.
Straight from the Pro Football web page:
Tm Opp Date PF PA Deficit
Dallas Cowboys @ Buffalo Bills Oct 8, 2007 25 24 11

Highlights can easily be found on YouTube.

It was only 0-7 after the 1Q, and 16-24 with 4 min. left in the 4th.
Final score 25-24.

Great comeback, but not the fairly tale you suggested.