Here are the Falcons’ grades for the 19-13 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
A — Quarterbacks: Matt Ryan passed for 342 yards and had a passer rating of 102.8. It marked the sixth time this season that he’s had a rating over 100. The Falcons are now 29-0 when he has a passer rating of 100 or more. Ryan also improved to 30-4 at home as a starter which is the best home record by a starting quarterback since 1970 (minimum 20 starts). Over the last five seasons, Ryan’s .882 winning percentage is the second-best in the NFL behind New England quarterback Tom Brady (.929). With his 342-yard performance, Ryan broke Steve Bartkowski’s franchise record for career 300-yard games, surpassing the milestone for the 13th time in his career.
B- plus — Running backs: Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers kept plugging away until they came up with some big plays in the second half. Turner, who finished with 102 yards on 20 carries, had the big 43-yard run and the 3-yard touchdown run to help the Falcons take control. On the Falcons’ final drive, Rodgers made two big catches to help convert third downs. He finished with four catches for 53 yards. He had 31-yard reception on third-and-6 from the Falcon’s 24 to kick start the key drive. Overall, the Falcons rushed for 123 yards on 26 carries for a 4.7 average per carry.
A — Receivers: Roddy White became the team’s all-team receptions leader. He finished with seven catches for 118 yards. Julio Jones was spectacular. He had five catches for a season-high129 yards. Tony Gonzalez made two big grabs on the key drive right before the half that helped the Falcons tie the game 6-6. With a 26-yard catch on Atlanta’s first possession of the second half, White broke wide receiver Terance Mathis’ franchise record for career receptions with his 574th career catch. Gonzalez finished the game with four catches for 36 yards. He joined Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice as the only players in NFL history to record 50-or-more receptions for 15 straight seasons.
B-minus — Offensive line: Ryan was under duress by Dallas’ athletic defensive front. He took the blame for sliding his protection the wrong way on the big hit he took from Dallas outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware. Ryan was sacked three times and hit six times. The line continued to bang away in the run game and finally were able to pop some big runs. Rookie Peter Konz made his second NFL start at right guard for Garrett Reynolds (balky back injury) and held his own.
A — Defensive line: The Falcons used their “Big Tackle Three” alignment again and Jonathan Babineaux is starting to look real comfortable at defensive end. He led the Falcons with seven tackles, had a sack, a quarterback hit and tipped pass. Peria Jerry left the game and Vance Walker and Corey Peters had to close it out at tackle. The defense held the Cowboys to 65 yards on 18 carries. It marked the second straight game that they’ve held the opponent under 100 yards.
B — Linebackers: The Falcons opened in their base defense with Mike Peterson filling in for the injured Sean Weatherspoon (ankle). Akeem Dent took over Weatherspoon’s snaps in the nickel package. Dent tied Babineaux for the team lead with seven tackles and Nicholas was strong in the passing game against Dallas tight end Jason Witten. Peterson had a touchdown-saving tackle on Dallas punt returner Dwayne Harris in the first quarter.
C — Defensive backs: Asante Samuel lost Kevin Oglethorpe on a 20-yard touchdown when Dallas quarterback Tony Romo made a nice throw while scrambling. Dunta Robinson had a rough start. He gave up a deep ball on a third-and-20, but he bounced back and continued to play. Robert McClain and Christopher Owens were solid. Owens got some action while Samuel was getting treated for a neck injury on the sideline. He returned to the game.
D — Special teams: Matt Bryant missed two field goals of 37 and 43 yards. Both were wide right. The punt coverage unit allowed a 37-yard return.
A — Coaching: Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan dialed up some pressure on Dallas quarterback Tony Romo late in the second half and during the third quarter. The Falcons were able to force four straight punts and that allowed the offense a chance to forge a 10-point lead. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has to get credit for sticking with the run.
NEXT UP: The Falcons (8-0) face the New Orleans Saints (2-5) at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome
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