ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons could only watch as they lost on a game-ending field goal.
They might not have been in that situation if their hands team hadn’t just watched the trickling onside kick that put the Dallas Cowboys in position to pull off a 40-39 win — after being down by 20 points in the first quarter Sunday.
With three Atlanta players surrounding him and curiously watching the slow-rolling ball, cornerback C.J. Goodwin pounced on it just as it got to the 10 yards needed for the Cowboys to recover when they still trailed in the final two minutes.
“We’ve just got to learn that we’ve got to attack that ball and things like,” said receiver Julio Jones, who was on the field, but not one of the players in the immediate vicinity of the ball.
Greg Zuerlein’s game-winning 46-yard field goal came six plays after his onside kick — a slow roller, instead of one of the high bouncers that usually come in those situations.
“We’ve got to go capture it when the moment comes. ... From where I saw, it was a slow roller and one that we should make the aggressive move to go get it,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said.
Except receiver Olamide Zaccheaus, safety Sharrod Neasman and tight end Hayden Hurst appeared to be waiting for the ball to go 10 yards — though they could have gone after it any time before then. And that was after Goodwin ran around Jaeden Graham, another tight end.
“The front three are usually blocking as the high bouncers go to the second side, so the front line, generally on an onside kick, they’re looking to get a block first, then the high hop goes to the next player,” Quinn said. “So when that instance happens and it’s not one that’s a high hopper you transfer in and you go to your ball. ... They definitely know the rule.”
Asked if any coaching changes could be upcoming, Quinn responded, “No,” later adding that it’s a situation that the Falcons often work on.
“To lose one today when we do spend a good bit of time on, that certainly hurt,” he said.
The Falcons are 0-2 for the first time in six seasons after their largest blown lead since giving up a 28-3 advantage against New England in the Super Bowl four seasons ago — about four hours away in Houston. It was only the fourth time they have lost after leading a game by at least 20 points.
Dallas had three lost fumbles, including one each by Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, and a failed fake punt in the first quarter as the Falcons jumped ahead 20-0. It was only the second time since 2008 that the Cowboys had three lost fumbles in an entire game.
To make this one even tougher for the Falcons, they became the first team since turnovers were first tracked in 1933 to lose when scoring 39 points and having no turnovers. Other teams to do that had been 440-0.
“A great kick and credit to them for executing in that situation. I think the message — there’s nothing you can say today,” said Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who threw for 273 yards and four touchdowns. “This one stings and it sucks. ... We’ve got a lot of football to play. We’ve got to change the outcome of this and the only way to do that is to work.”