Cowboys fear Falcons’ potent passing attack
The Atlanta Falcons added running back Todd Gurley in the offseason, but Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said the focus heading into their Sunday game in Arlington, Texas, is on slowing down the Falcons’ passing game.
In a Week 1 loss to Seattle, Matt Ryan threw for 450 yards, with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley combining for 287 receiving yards. Atlanta had three receivers over 100 yards.
McCarthy said the focus will be on containing Jones and Ridley.
“Their ability to make big plays is all over the tape — last year and obviously the Seattle game,” McCarthy said. “They push the ball up top. It’s a complete opposite challenge than we just faced this last week with the Rams.”
Barring a tie, one team will reach a milestone it hasn’t reached in quite awhile.
Neither team has started 0-2 for at least a decade. The Cowboys haven’t lost their first two games since 2010, the season Jason Garrett replaced Wade Phillips as head coach following a 1-7 start. Garrett coached the Cowboys until this offseason, when McCarthy replaced him.
The Falcons haven’t started 0-2 since 2007.
Sunday’s game could be important for Dan Quinn’s future with the Falcons, who have sputtered out of the gate in each of the last two seasons en route to back-to-back 7-9 campaigns.
Last week, the Falcons struggled to contain Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and defensive coordinator Raheem Morris said Wednesday he went into the game focusing on clowning Seattle’s run game instead of worrying much about Wilson.
With Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield and Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb at receiver for the Cowboys, Morris strives to find a better balance this week.
“When Zeke gets the ball in space, he’s a problem. When all these receivers get the ball in space, they’re a problem,” Morris said. “You’ve got to limit space, get some tackles and get some population to the ball.”
The Cowboys suffered a spate of long-term injuries in their opening loss. Tight end Blake Jarwin is out for the season after tearing his ACL while inside linebacker Leighton Vander Esch fractured his collarbone and backup offensive tackle Cam Erving sprained an MCL.
Vander Esch and Erving figure to return later this season. Erving is out four to six weeks while Vander Esch is expected to miss six to eight weeks.
The game figures to have the biggest crowd of at least the early part of this NFL season.
McCarthy said Wednesday that the Cowboys would have 25 percent attendance. Based on the listed capacity of AT&T Stadium, that would put the crowd at 20,000 or more.
The Cowboys are one of eight teams who have announced plans to have fans in attendance at some point this season.
McCarthy said it was strange playing in front of no fans in Week 1.
“It was an experience I don’t think any of us ever was expecting,” McCarthy said. “I knew it was going to be empty, I just didn’t know it was going to be that quiet. I think it’ll be a lot different at AT&T (Stadium) Sunday. We’ll have some live energy in the building.”
Gurley could help keep the crowd hushed. He had 14 carries for 56 yards and a touchdown in his Atlanta debut last week. The Falcons were forced to turn away from the running game in the second half.
“There’s just an energy level that you feel from him when it’s time to go,” Ryan said. “The great players that I’ve been around in my career have that ability to do it. You see it. You feel it. He gives off that kind of vibe when you’re around him.”
–Field Level Media