Pokes pluck Falcons
Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch who stole the speaker’s podium with an interception, eight tackles and multiple passes defensed. It was a sorely needed performance from a roster with an ominously long list of starters on injured reserve.
By Kelly Bell/ETR
In the National Football League, the National Football Conference’s Eastern Division is defensively oriented. The offenses are barely adequate. The Washington Redskins have the division’s top-ranked offense, and theirs ranks just 22nd out of the league’s 32 franchises. These four teams win or lose according to defensive performances, solidifying the old axion that offense sells tickets, but defense wins games. This was the case November 17 when the Dallas Cowboys traveled to Georgia for a pivotal game with the Atlanta Falcons.
The first half of the 2018 regular season was a trial for the Pokes when they were the visitors. They lost all four of their away games and failed to win two games in a row as they stumbled to a 3-5 record. With desperation setting in, they flew to the City of Brotherly Love and decisioned the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles 27-20. A week later, it was time to face the Falcons, who had earlier done Dallas a favor by dumping division rival Washington 38-14. The Atlanta game was a showcase of rotgut drama.
Although Cowboy running back Ezekiel Elliot managed to put on a sterling performance through the stingy Atlanta defense with 201 yards gained from scrimmage, it was rookie number one draft selection linebacker Leighton Vander Esch who stole the speaker’s podium with an interception, eight tackles and multiple passes defensed. It was a sorely needed performance from a roster with an ominously long list of starters on injured reserve.
In a field goal-glutted game (seven by both teams) Cowboy kicker Brett Mahrer missed what could have been a crucial extra point, resulting in the teams being tied at nineteen as time dwindled. Mahrer redeemed himself with a last-second 42-yard placement to beat the Falcons 22-19. These back-to-back road victories raise Dallas to a 5-5 record and perhaps will establish a degree of momentum. These wins also mean Dallas’ playoff hopes are still alive providing they finish the regular season significantly stronger than they started it. On this same day Washington and Philadelphia suffered pivotal losses, meaning the NFC East is still up for grabs.
The coming, Thanksgiving Day game versus the Redskins (who just lost starting quarterback Alex Smith to a season-ending broken leg) will be key, especially considering the Cowboys lost earlier at Washington. The Skins’ offense is now led by former Longhorn quarterback, Colt McCoy and 33-year-old runner Adrian Peterson—an East Texan from Palestine native. Neutralizing these two Texans is the next, vital assignment for the battered but game Cowboy defense.