Falcons put lid on Cowboys' run Smith, win streak lost in Dallas' 27-14 setback

November 22, 1993|By Kamon Simpson | Kamon Simpson,Knight-Ridder News Service

ATLANTA -- Whatever was in the air this weekend, the magical unpredictability that makes upsets possible was sucked into the Georgia Dome yesterday.

It floated through the rafters, past the crowd that almost evenly was divided between blue and black lines, and onto the field where Troy Aikman was observing, Emmitt Smith was hobbling and Michael Irvin was blanketed by unrelenting defensive pressure.

It settled in around the Dallas Cowboys, the defending Super Bowl champions, who yesterday concluded a wild weekend of football by joining Notre Dame and Miami in the unlikely victim category. It wasn't just that the Cowboys' seven-game winning streak was over, but that it happened at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons.

The Falcons (4-6) continued their recent turnaround by winning for the fourth time in five games, 27-14.

"The defense got all over them and the offense took away the clock," Falcons coach Jerry Glanville said. "A lot of people said we wouldn't be here for this game. We not only showed up, we did a heck of a job.

"We had to make them catch up. They're such a good team that if you get behind them, you're in trouble. We felt like we owed them something from a year ago (41-17 loss on "Monday Night Football") when they came in here and tried to steal our lunch money."

Glanville's idea for getting ahead and staying ahead was fulfilled, but even he was surprised by how well the plan worked in the first half when the Falcons held a 13-0 lead. At halftime the Dallas offense had been on the field for only 13 of the game's 58 plays. The Falcons held a time of possession advantage of 24:13 to 5:47.

On those rare occasions when the Cowboys offense was on the field, it didn't stay there for long. Bernie Kosar, starting his second game since being released from the Cleveland Browns, was so rattled by the Falcons rush that his passes were reduced to quick 5-yard slants and backfield screen dumps. Even those didn't work.

"We were as tight on the receivers in man-to-man coverage as we have been this season," Falcons cornerback Melvin Jenkins said. "But I don't think Bernie had time to read what was happening down field. As much pressure as the guys up front had today, no quarterback in this league could have picked us apart."

The Cowboys (7-3) gained 1 yard in the first quarter on three plays. Kosar's first pass of the second quarter, for 11 yards to Alvin Harper, was the only first down Dallas gained until midway through the third quarter. And Kosar didn't attempt a pass to Irvin, the Cowboys' best receiver, until the Falcons held a 20-0 lead.

These are not the same Falcons who lost their first five games, and there are two good reasons for that: Erric Pegram and the defense.

Pegram continues to provide a rushing attack that makes it possible to play ball-control offense and to use up the clock when the Falcons are ahead and too much time is a concern.

The Falcons haven't allowed a rushing touchdown in 18 quarters, and it took the Cowboys four tries on first-and-goal at the Falcons' 1 to score late in the third quarter to cut the lead to 20-7. After a personal foul on Kosar's 1-yard touchdown pass to Scott Galbraith, the Cowboys tried an onside kick from midfield. When Bill Bates recovered for Dallas it appeared as if the Falcons were finally in trouble.

Instead, the defense held.

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