With El­liott sus­pended and line­man Smith out, Cow­boys of­fense held to 233 to­tal yards.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Clarence E. Hill Jr. Fort Worth Star-Tele­gram

The Dal­las Cow­boys’ like­li­hood of suc­cess against the At­lanta Fal­cons on Sun­day at Mercedes-Benz Sta­dium was al­ready min­i­mal at best.

The Cow­boys re­ceived a set­back in a New York fed­eral court on Thurs­day when star run­ning back Ezekiel El­liott’s six-game sus­pen­sion for vi­o­lat­ing the NFL’s per­sonal con­duct pol­icy was of­fi­cially re­in­stated.

The ir­repara­ble harm of El­liott’s ab­sence was noted, felt and real in a 27-7 loss.

But add in the in­jury losses to tackle Ty­ron Smith and line­backer Sean Lee and the Cow­boys sim­ply had no chance in what ar­guably was their worst per­for­mance of the sea­son while com­ing off their best in a 28-17 vic­tory against the Kansas City Chiefs last week.

The run­ning game with­out El­liott was in­ept save some scram­bles by quar­ter­back Dak Prescott.

But as much as El­liott is the foun­da­tion to their run-ori­ented phi­los­o­phy, the loss of Smith, the peren­nial Pro Bowler and ar­guably the best left tackle NFL who was ruled out Satur­day with groin in­jury, proved to be fa­tal to the en­tire of­fense.

Backup Chaz Green started in Smith’s place and of­fered lit­tle re­sis­tance in what was eas­ily the worst per­for­mance by a Cow­boys of­fen­sive line­man in years. He al­lowed six sacks to Fal­cons de­fen­sive end Adrian Clay­born and had a hold­ing penalty. Clay­born was one sack shy of ty­ing the NFL record for sacks in a game held by Hall of Famer Der­rick Thomas.

“We couldn’t slow them down,” Cow­boys coach Ja­son Gar­rett said. “They put heat on the quar­ter­back all day long.”

The Cow­boys al­lowed eight sacks, the most since Troy Aik­man, who hap­pened to be calling the game for Fox, was dropped for 11 sacks by the Philadel­phia Ea­gles in 1991.

Prescott rarely saw a clean pocket and got noth­ing done down the field. He com­pleted 19 of 29 passes for 176 yards.

“Over­all, we didn’t pro­tect well enough,” Gar­rett said.

El­liott and Green’s im­por­tance on of­fense is only off­set by Lee’s im­por­tance to the de­fense.

The Cow­boys got an early in­ter­cep­tion off Fal­cons quar­ter­back Matt Ryan. Cor­ner­back An­thony Brown tipped a pass in­tended for Julio Jones that rookie safety Xavier Woods.

It led to an 11-yard touch­down run by Prescott and a 7-0 lead.

But Lee reag­gra­vated a ham­string in­jury late in the first quar­ter. It’s the same ham­string that kept him out of two games early in the sea­son.

“When he’s out, there’s a void,” Gar­rett said of Lee.

The Fal­cons scored 27 unan­swered points.

Ryan com­pleted 22 of 29 passes for 215 yards and two touch­downs with one in­ter­cep­tion. The Fal­cons rushed for 132 yards as a team.

It’s a huge loss for the Cow­boys (5-4), who saw their three-game win­ning streak come to end and fell fur­ther be­hind the Ea­gles (8-1) in the NFC East stand­ings.

While the Cow­boys have two games left against the Ea­gles, the divi­sion race is largely over. What mat­ters now is stay­ing in wild­card con­tention un­til El­liott re­turns.

Fall­ing to the Fal­cons (5-4) means they lost an im­por­tant head-to-head tiebreaker against a team they might be bat­tling for a play­off spot.

The over­all per­for­mance cer­tainly does lit­tle for the team’s con­fi­dence head­ing into next Sun­day’s show­down against the Ea­gles at AT&T Sta­dium.

The Cow­boys talked all week about feel­ing con­fi­dent about their chances of win­ning with­out El­liott.

How about with­out El­liott, Lee and Smith?

And that’s not even in­clud­ing kicker Dan Bai­ley, the most ac­cu­rate kicker in NFL his­tory, who re­mains side­lined with a groin in­jury.

It should be noted that his re­place­ment, Mike Nu­gent, missed a kick in the third quar­ter that would have made the score 17-10.

Fi­nal judg­ment: The Cow­boys have lit­tle like­li­hood of suc­cess with­out El­liott and com­pany.

“We didn’t han­dle the ad­ver­sity of the day very well,” Gar­rett said.


Cow­boys quar­ter­back Dak Prescott takes a mo­ment to gather him­self af­ter one of the eight sacks he en­dured in Sun­day’s 27-7 loss to the Fal­cons in At­lanta. “We couldn’t slow them down,” coach Ja­son Gar­rett said.


Fal­cons de­fen­sive end Adrian Clay­born sacked Dak Prescott six times, one short of the NFL’s sin­gle-game record.

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