The team that blew a 28-3 lead in Super Bowl LI managed to throw away another 20-point lead, and now the winless Atlanta Falcons (0-2) find themselves on the brink of another early-season implosion.
Losing a 40-39 decision to the Dallas Cowboys after jumping out to a 20-0 lead is not going to set well with coach Dan Quinn, who came into the season already on the hot seat after back-to-back 7-9 seasons. Now the Falcons face the prospect of having an all-too-familiar slow start.
This loss will be especially scrutinized because of a questionable decision on special teams where at least three Falcons failed to recover an onside kick. Instead, the Cowboys recovered to set up the 46-yard game-winning field goal.
The Falcons had built on the formula for success throughout most of the game, forcing three early turnovers and showing some balance on offense with the run and pass. But it didn't work in the end.
A number of factors added up for the Falcons outside of the mental mistakes with recovering the onside kick. Atlanta had a chance for a touchdown when wide receiver Russell Gage took a direct snap and threw a perfect ball to star Julio Jones, who dropped it. On the next possession, the Falcons' defense surrendered a 58-yard pass play to Amari Cooper on a spectacular catch, leading to a Dak Prescott touchdown. The Falcons also missed on a 2-point conversion opportunity, which would have come in handy in a one-point loss. Also, the Falcons settled for field goals in the second half when Ryan was cooking on touchdown tosses. And, the Falcons' defense gave up 367 yards and four touchdowns in the second half.
This is the type of loss that could lead to personnel changes, though Quinn says there are no coaching changes on the near horizon.
Quinn did comment on how this loss affects his future with the team: "You just want to attack it a week at a time. Obviously disappointed in the way that the game ended because, as I said, there's a lesson to be learned in the loss to say, 'You have to go finish it out.' I think this is going to be a very good team. We're not there today. But the improvement that we want to make, what we can become, that is all out there for us."
QB breakdown: Matt Ryan, who had never gone 0-2 to start the season in his career, tried to do his part. He threw four touchdown passes and made smart decisions. He completed 11-of-19 for 156 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. He didn't get sacked until the fourth quarter, a credit to the Falcons' offensive line.
Promising trend: Wide receiver Calvin Ridley scoring touchdowns. Ridley had two first-half scores Sunday. That gave him 21 career touchdown receptions in his first three seasons, passing teammate Julio Jones for the second most through three seasons in Falcons history. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Ridley is the fourth player in the past 25 seasons to catch multiple touchdown passes in each of the team's first two games of a season alongside Marvin Harrison (1999), Calvin Johnson (2011), and Eddie Royal (2013). Ridley continues to be an ascending star, including his second consecutive 100-yard game.
Troubling trend: The Falcons got hit hard with injuries, including starting right tackle Kaleb McGary limping off with a knee injury, team captain and safety Ricardo Allen exiting with a elbow injury and defensive end Takk McKinley leaving the game (groin). Foyesade Oluokun (hamstring). Safety Damontae Kazee came out with a shoulder injury after being barrelled over by Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, but Kazee returned. Defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. also appeared to get banged up early but returned to the game.
McGary's injury is one to monitor closely because the Falcons do not have depth at tackle, although unproven Matt Gono stepped in Sunday and did a decent job in McGary's place. Veteran John Wetzel has some playing experience, but Wetzel was inactive against the Cowboys after being signed to the active roster from the practice squad.