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3 things we learned about the Falcons

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ARLINGTON, Texas — The Atlanta Falcons found themselves down 14 points early Sunday afternoon to the Dallas Cowboys, but never flinched.

Instead, the Falcons hit back and remained undefeated three weeks into the NFL season.

“They have a lot of resolve to reset, come back out and finish like we did,” Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said of his team. “Clearly, we were punched in the mouth and were looking to respond.”

Wide receiver Julio Jones caught a pair of touchdown passes and backup running back Devonta Freeman scored three times for the Falcons, who finished the game with 25 unanswered points in a 39-28 victory over Dallas at AT&T Stadium.

Quarterback Matt Ryan was firmly in command, thanks to the combo of Freeman and Jones, who now lead the NFL with 34 receptions in three games.

The Cowboys (2-1) knew what to expect out of Jones, who came in with consecutive 100-yard receiving games. Freeman, on the other hand, was filling in for injured rookie back Tevin Coleman (ribs).

“I just believed,” Freeman said. “We all believe in each other.”

Jones finished with 12 catches for 164 yards and two scores, the second putting the game away with 3:09 left in the fourth quarter.

Freeman piled up career highs in yards (141) and touchdowns after totaling just 43 yards in the first two games. The second-year back out of Florida State had just two career scores before Sunday.

“There were demonstrations of toughness all over the field today,” Quinn said. “That’s what we’re looking to be: a team that has great effort, shows out toughness and knows how to finish.”

The Cowboys, in their first full game without injured quarterback Tony Romo and receiver Dez Bryant, had their highest scoring game of the season and several standout performances, but failed to push the ball downfield.

The defense simply failed to slow down Atlanta down the stretch.

Three things we learned about the Falcons:

1. They didn’t quit after falling into a quick 14-0 hole. Atlanta never deviated from its game plan in running the ball and getting it to WR Julio Jones. That’s the mind-set first-year coach Dan Quinn is trying to instill. “We’re willing to go the distance in every fight we take on,” he said.

2. The defense didn’t necessarily need to make major adjustments in the second half. Sticking to the game plan was the key. “We just had to do what we were taught to do,” LB Justin Durant said. “We weren’t playing the way we normally play, missed reads, missed tackles. We just got back to being us.”

3. This could be a bounce-back year for Atlanta. The last two times the Falcons started 3-0, they reached the NFC Championship Game, with 2012 being the latest. There’s still a long way to go, but 3-0 beats the alternative.

Etc.

–RB Devonta Freeman filled in for injured rookie Tevin Coleman with a career games. Freeman gashed Dallas for career highs in yards (141) and touchdowns (three) after totaling just 43 yards rushing in the first two games. “My offensive lineman, those guys blocked their butt off,” Freeman said. “I’m just so proud of them. They just created some huge holes for me.”

–WR Julio Jones caught 12 passes for 164 yards and two scores, the second putting the game away with about three minutes left in the game. Jones leads the NFL with 34 receptions. “Julio just battled for it again, just like we expected,” coach Dan Quinn said. “For him it was the kind of performance that he just keeps racking up. He’s a hard guy to deal with.”

–LB Justin Durant had a team-high nine tackles Sunday. Durant also leads the team in stops through three games with 27. Durant, with the Cowboys the previous two years, was fazed facing his old team. “I didn’t play too well, in my opinion,” he said. “I was just happy to get a win.”


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