ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys whipped out the "Men In Black" Neuralyzer in their matchup against the Atlanta Falcons, making sure the NFL forgot all about what happened in Week 9 by demolishing their visitors from North Georgia with a 43-3 beatdown that was as impressive as it was needed. Winners of three of their last four heading into Week 10, the Falcons looked poised to use a supposed blueprint set forth by the Denver Broncos a week prior and hand the Cowboys their first two-game losing streak of the 2021 season.
Only, there is no blueprint, as cornerback Trevon Diggs made clear ahead of this NFC matchup. Because despite the loss of Randy Gregory to injured reserve and still waiting for DeMarcus Lawrence to get healthy enough to return, the Cowboys reared back and knocked the bill right off of the Falcons face on Sunday afternoon.
What the Falcons learned was which of the two clubs is a Super Bowl contender and which still has a long ways to go before they can consider themselves one, with the Cowboys going 7-2 on the season -- their hopes of landing a No. 1 spot atop the NFC still very much in play -- and sending the Falcons back home with a bloody face and sore backside.
Why the Cowboys won
Dak Prescott played like a man possessed, and the Falcons were all out of holy water. Opting to forego their usual method of deferring to the second half after winning a coin toss, the Cowboys instead tasked Prescott with leading the offense to a momentum-defining drive early on, and he did just that. The two-time Pro Bowl quarterback used wideout CeeDee Lamb to gash the Falcons secondary on the first possession of the game -- en route to a Lamb touchdown -- sending a message that the Cowboys of this week are not the ones who got punched in the mouth a week ago.
This was domination in all three phases of the game and from the standpoint of coaching, making it a four-piece haymaker that sent the Falcons dizzying into the loss column. Prescott racked up more than 200 yards before halftime along with two touchdowns to Lamb, with Ezekiel Elliott adding two rushing touchdowns to the mix. Lamb finished just shy of 100 receiving yards receiving, and the Cowboys got nearly 150 combined receiving yards (split nearly evenly) from Gallup, Amari Cooper and running back Tony Pollard.
And that was just the offensive onslaught.
Defensively, the Cowboys intercepted Matt Ryan twice and when the Falcons waved the white flag and put in Josh Rosen, it was the same result -- Jourdan Lewis picking off the Atlanta backup. Despite having only two sacks on Ryan, the Cowboys forced the Falcons into a 1-for-10 day on third down conversions, and the one didn't arrive until garbage time. It was a collective effort led by Micah Parsons, Trevon Diggs, Jayron Kearse and Anthony Brown, on a day that saw the defense equally as visceral as the offense which were both matched by special teams.
The Falcons ran into a buzzsaw in Arlington, and the only question now is who'll clean up all the feathers?
Why the Falcons lost
They weren't good at any point in this game, and looked every bit like the questionable Falcons the NFL has become accustomed to seeing on a weekly basis. Matt Ryan attempted to jab back with rookie first-round pick Kyle Pitts, who mostly had his way in the first quarter and more, but the Falcons couldn't extend drives due in large part to excelsior play by cornerback Jourdan Lewis. A field goal was all the Falcons could muster from their first three drives, failing on a fourth-and-7 conversion stealing even more wind from their sails and, ultimately, it's all they could muster in 60 football minutes.
That wind instead blew often and passionately in favor of the Cowboys, as they walked into halftime with a huge lead (also aided by the aforementioned blocked punt and recovery for a touchdown) and gave themselves a chance to rout the Falcons -- assuming they could keep up the pressure on both sides of the ball. They did just that, never once taking their foot off of the accelerator and daring the now one-dimensional Falcons to throw their way out of the Seventh Circle of Hell.
Things couldn't have gotten any worse for Atlanta, but then they did.
Ryan began to truly come apart without the threat of a run game that also features a usually electric talent in Cordarelle Patterson, and the gassed Atlanta defense could do nothing more but clutch their pearls and pray Prescott would be merciful. He refused their request, however, and the Cowboys went on to throttle the Falcons in a game that not only sent a message for Dallas, but one that echoes throughout the entire league. There was one sent by the Falcons as well, but it's one they wish they could return to sender.
With the Cowboys up 14-3, the Falcons still had a chance to turn the tables, if they could get Prescott off of the field on fourth down. Instead, Prescott escaped and hit Gallup for a toe drag reception that set up a touchdown, and the Falcons began mailing it in from there.
Play of the Game
In a game with a slew of highlights by the Cowboys, it was the blocked punt that led to a recovery and TD to end the first half that arguably served as the nail in the Falcons' coffin.
T.K.O. by the Cowboys
"Yeah, yeah. We know." - Atlanta Falcons, via Twitter
The Cowboys will pack up and hit the road to face the Kansas City Chiefs, while the Falcons look to recover from their wounds against the New England Patriots.