Breaking News
More () »

Cowboys come back in final seconds to win 40-39 against Falcons in roller-coaster home opener

Quarterback Dak Prescott became the first QB in NFL history on Sunday to have 400+ passing yards and three rushing touchdowns in a single game.
Credit: AP
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup (13) goes up to make a catch for a long gain in front of Atlanta Falcons' Isaiah Oliver (26) in the second half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

The Dallas Cowboys struggled at the beginning of the home opener against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, but that struggle gave way to a victory for the home team in the final seconds of the game, 40-39.  

With the score 37-39, Cowboys Kicker Greg Zuerlein took to the field with four seconds left to see if he could score a 46-yard field goal, and he did, securing a win for the Cowboys. 

But it didn't come easy, nor pretty. 

The Cowboys let the visiting team garner a lead of 20-0 over the Cowboys before the first 15 minutes were up. 

They were able to get on the board in the second quarter, and the scores rose for both teams, with the home team still down 29-10 by the end of the first half. 

Dallas then quickly drove down the field at the start of the second half, scoring a second touchdown with the first three minutes of the third quarter, before making another big touchdown. 

But Atlanta responded in kind for the start of the fourth quarter, scoring another touchdown in the first minute and then later a field goal. The Cowboys fought back with another touchdown, but couldn't make an attempted two-point conversion. 

They came back again though, with another touchdown as the clock ticked below two minutes and it became a 2-point game with Atlanta in the lead, 39-37. 

Dallas then gained possession of the ball with an onside kick to attempt to score one last time in the final minute of the game. 

And Zuerlein got the field goal.

Zuerlein wasn't the only star of the game. 

Quarterback Dak Prescott became the first QB in NFL history on Sunday to have 400+ passing yards and three rushing touchdowns in a single game.

Here's what happened inside AT&T Stadium:

First Quarter

The Cowboys defense forced consecutive 3 & outs to start the game right before Prescott was sacked and fumbled the football, leading to a turnover for Atlanta. 

One play later and Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan turned that fumble into the game's first touchdown with WR Calvin Ridley, bringing the game 7-0 for the Falcons with a little less than 11 minutes left in the first quarter. 

Just one minute further into play, and the Cowboys had another fumble, though they were able to recover it. 

But again, seconds later, the ball was punched out of RB Ezekiel Elliott's hands, forcing a third fumble, this time in a turnover to Atlanta.  

Atlanta quickly scored a 42-yard touchdown with a wide-open field. The game was 14-0 with 7:37 left in the first quarter.

Prescott was without either starting tackle for the game after LT Tyron Smith was ruled out for the team following a neck injury and RT La’el Collins was put on the injured reserve list ahead of Week 1 with a hip injury.   

RELATED: Injuries, pass rush among concerns for Cowboys ahead of Week 2 home opener

The last time the Cowboys played the Falcons without Smith, DE Adrian Clayborn collected six sacks against the Cowboys in a 27-7 win for Atlanta in 2017, setting a franchise record for his team. Prescott was sacked a total of eight times that game.

The Cowboys were already hurting on the injury front after losing two starters during the Week 1 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

Blake Jarwin is done for the season with a knee injury. Leighton Vander Esch will miss seven more weeks for a collarbone injury. Sean Lee was out Sunday with a sports hernia, Anthony Brown for a ribs injury and Cam Erving and Ventrell Bryant were both out for knee issues. 

The Cowboys quickly gave Atlanta another short field after a fake punt attempt in the first quarter led to a failed throw that put the Falcons near the 30-yard line. Defense was able to prevent a third touchdown, but the visiting team was still able to bring the score up to 17-0 with a field goal. 

And a fourth fumble came quickly thereafter for the Cowboys, forced by a punch from Foye Oloukon of the Falcons, leading to another turnover in just 10 minutes and 50 seconds of football.

With 1:06 left to go in the first-quarter, Atlanta scored another field goal, raising their lead to 20-0 over Dallas.

Cowboys fans were not pleased, to say the least.

AT&T Stadium did have fans in attendance for the game, although it appeared rather sparsely filled just minutes before kickoff. By the fourth quarter, though, game officials announced there were 21,708 fans in attendance at the 80,000-seat stadium.

Dontari Poe was again the lone player on the Cowboys to kneel during the national anthem ahead of the game in protest of social injustice. Poe kneeled during the anthem for the team's Week 1 game as well. 

RELATED: Cowboys defensive lineman Dontari Poe kneels in protest of social injustice  

Second Quarter

Could the 'Boys be able to turn this game around? Within seconds of the second-quarter start, they got on the board as Elliott bulldozed into the end zone.

The touchdown brought the score to 7-20 for the Cowboys.

But with a little less than six minutes to go, the Falcons scored another touchdown as Ryan's pass met Ridley in the end zone. Atlanta wasn't able to get the conversion, so they only got 6. 

The Cowboys drove down the field in response, and with two minutes left to go in the first half, they were able to kick a field goal, bringing the score to a 10-26 game for the home team.

But the Falcons met them in kind, heading back down the field to get another field goal, raising their lead over the Cowboys 29-10 with seconds left in the first half. 

Fans were not happy with the team's performance in the first half.

Third Quarter

Prescott saw an opportunity early into the second half and took it, going deep 37 yards to rookie WR CeeDee Lamb to bring the Cowboys to the 23-yard line before they brought it within 10 and then scored a touchdown within the first three minutes of the quarter.

Dallas cut the Falcons' lead down 29-17.

The Falcons then almost added another touchdown to their lead, but the ball now slipped through the fingers of one of Atlanta's players as Julio Jones dropped it in the end zone.

The Cowboys continued to build on that momentum as Prescott sent a 58-yard pass to WR Amari Cooper to get them into the red zone.

But then Prescott was walked off the field to the blue medical tent following a roughing the passer penalty against him as tight end Dalton Schultz got the team 1 yard from the end zone. 

Prescott was cleared, though, and came back on the field to get the ball that singe yard forward for a third touchdown. 

Dallas turned the game around, down just five points 29-24.

The game becomes Prescott's first with two rushing touchdowns.

Fourth Quarter

The Falcons didn't let the Cowboys stay close for long though, scoring another touchdown to raise their lead to 12 points over Dallas less than one minute into the fourth quarter.

The Cowboys then went for a second fake punt in the game, and again, it failed.

Atlanta was able to score a field goal, bringing their lead up 15 points over Dallas. The score was 39-24 for the Falcons with about 8 minutes left to go in the game.

But the Cowboys made a drive to keep themselves in the game, and Schultz caught the ball in the end zone to make it a 9-point game. 

The Cowboys went for a two-point conversion, but couldn't make it, and with less than 5 minutes to go, the score became 39-30 with the Falcons holding onto the lead.

The Cowboys drove down the field again with a big pass to WR Michael Gallup to get the team into the red zone with 2 minutes left to go. The team scored, bringing the game to a close 37-39 for Dallas with 1:49 left on the clock. 

Dallas then somehow gained possession of the football with an onside kick to attempt to score one last time in the final minute of the game. 

And then Zuerlein got the 46-yard field goal with four seconds left to go in a roller-coaster of a home opener for Cowboys fans. 

WFAA Digital Producer Jennifer Prohov contributed to this report.

Before You Leave, Check This Out