Cowboys vs. Falcons: Matt Ryan Outlasts Tony Romo in Defensive Battle

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistNovember 4, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 04:  Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons steps back in the pocket against the Dallas Cowboys at Georgia Dome on November 4, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It wasn't pretty, but the Atlanta Falcons maintained their undefeated record with a 19-13 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night. 

Tony Romo was able to hit Kevin Ogletree to cut the score to 16-13 with just over five minutes left in the game, but it wasn't quite enough to bring Dallas all the way back. Matt Ryan was able to lead a long, excruciating drive into field-goal range, aided by a crucial defensive holding call.

After Matt Bryant's fourth field goal of the night, Tony Romo had less than 20 seconds to work with, and couldn't lead his team all the way back downfield.  

The first half was a tale of two boring quarters. In the first quarter, Dan Bailey hit a field goal, Bryant missed one and Bailey hit another to give Dallas a 6-0 lead at the end of 15 minutes of play. The second quarter was the opposite, with Bryant making two field goals and Bailey missing one, evening the score at 6-6 entering halftime.

Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke tweeted this during the second half, but it could have been applied at any point throughout the game:

"Nothing doing right now." -- Al Michaels, talking about one play, but really summing up the entire game.

— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurke_SI) November 5, 2012

The third quarter wasn't any different. Neither offense could get into a rhythm, and the defenses were stingy. Ryan did get rocked by DeMarcus Ware:

That was about it for the excitement until the very end of the quarter. After Bryant missed his second field-goal try of the night, Atlanta was able to get the ball back. Finally, on the final drive of the third quarter, Ryan was able to lead a breakthrough drive deep into Dallas territory.

On that drive, according to NFL on ESPN, Roddy White reached an impressive milestone:

Congrats to @atlanta_falcons WR @roddywhitetv on his 575th career reception. Most in team history. #DirtyBirdBaller

— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) November 5, 2012

White finished with seven catches and 118 yards, continuing his excellent play as one of the NFL's elite wide receivers. Julio Jones pitched in five catches and 129 yards of support, but White's consistency defined Atlanta's passing attack.

At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Michael Turner was able to break into the end zone for the game's first touchdown, putting Atlanta ahead 13-6. According to the Falcons' Twitter, Turner hit a milestone as well:

That was Michael Turner's 55th overall TD as a Falcon, his 54th rushing, which is a franchise record he builds on each week. #atldal12

— Atlanta_Falcons (@Atlanta_Falcons) November 5, 2012

Turner finished with 102 yards on 20 carries, adding another element to Atlanta's dynamic offense.

Bryant made the score 16-6 with his third field goal of the night with 7:53 remaining in the game, putting the Cowboys in a rough spot considering their offensive struggles.

Romo's late touchdown capped off a solid game for the turnover-prone signal-caller. He didn't throw an interception, going 25-of-35 for 321 yards through four solid quarters. He was given very little help from the run game, making his job that much more difficult.

Tight end Jason Witten wasn't able to give his quarterback much help, but he was able to give us one more milestone on a night that was filled with them, according to NFL on ESPN:

Congratulations to @dallascowboys Tight End Jason Witten passing Michael Irvin to become the all time team leader in receptions

— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) November 5, 2012

The Cowboys put forth a valiant effort in this one, but Atlanta has shown that it's able to win the ugly ones—a necessary quality for a championship contender. 

The Falcons will look to continue their undefeated run when they travel to face New Orleans next week, while the Cowboys look to rebound against NFC East-rival Philadelphia in Week 10.