Falcons at Cowboys
Kickoff: 3:15 PM
Where: Texas Stadium, Irving
TV: FOX, DirecTV (Ch. 716)
Radio: KTSA-AM 550, KCOR-AM 1350 (Spanish)
2002 records: Cowboys 5-11 (4th NFC East), Falcons 10-7-1 (2nd NFC South)
Spread: Cowboys by 2
Series: Cowboys lead 14-7.
Last meeting: Falcons beat Cowboys 20-13 on November 11th, 2001.
With Mike Vick out with a broken right ankle, the Falcons have just two quarterbacks * Doug Johnson and Kurt Kittner. If they have to go to an emergency quarterbacks, the two candidates are 14-year veteran punter Chris Mohr, who has completed five of six passes in his NFL career for 104 yards, and recently claimed RB Woody Dantzler, who was a quarterback at Clemson. That's if Dantzler is active. "It's been mentioned (that Dantzler might be taught a few plays), but who knows," said the former Cowboy.
The key for Dallas is ball control on offense quarterback Quincy Carter playing mistake free and Troy Hambrick leading the way on the ground. Defensively, they will try to stack the line to stop the run and force backup quarterback Doug Johnson, who is replacing an injured Michael Vick, to beat them through the air.
Given the Cowboys' defensive speed, and the way they're likely to come after passers now, the Falcons know they have to run the ball with some authority, which they did only in their preseason finale. "If we're not running the football against Dallas, We're going to have a tough time," coach Dan Reeves said. "They're too active up front, and do a great job with their blitz scheme if you have to throw the ball a lot."
Likewise, Falcons defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and his players want to keep Cowboys quarterback Quincy Carter from getting out of the pocket; they'll probably play a contained rush with outside blitzes. Perhaps they'll even keep a pseudo-spy in the middle, or sag a defensive linemen to choke down a running lane.
"You watch (Carter) on film, and he doesn't look as comfortable when he's in the pocket, when he plants his feet," said linebacker Keith Brooking. "Our focus from a defensive pass rush is keeping our lanes, and not losing containment."
Matchups to Watch
Falcons LT Bob Whitfield vs. RDE Ebenezer Ekuban. The Cowboys' former first-rounder is coming off a solid, if not spectacular season, and Whitfield is coming off a subpar preseason.
Falcons C Todd McClure and Gs Travis Claridge and Kynan Forney vs. MLB Dat Nguyen. Nguyen's fast, and the Falcons have trouble at times with quick defenders.
Terence Newman and Mario Edwards vs. Falcons WR Peerless Price. In the preseason, Price didn't seen many double teams but the Cowboys will be nuts to try and single him with Newman, a rookie, and Edwards, who has been erratic as a pro.
Darren Woodson and SLB Al Singleton vs. Falcons TE Alge Crumpler. With Price around to draw extra attention, not to mention RB Warrick Dunn in the backfield causing potential mismatch problems in passing situations, the Falcons' talented TE may get some favorable matchups with the Dallas defenders. This is what the Atlanta coaches have been planning for since acquiring Price in March - with or without Vick in the lineup.
INJURY Update: Cowboys
WR Antonio Bryant will play but won't start because of a quad injury. Look for Joey Galloway and Terry Glenn to go first at receiver.
* OG Larry Allen is questionable after straining a hamstring in practice on Tuesday. He did not practice Wednesday. Tyson Walter will go in his place if he's not ready.
* CB Pete Hunter, who missed the entire preseason with a fractured forearm, looked good in practice Tuesday and Wednesday and will be ready for the Falcons game.
INJURY UPDATE: Falcons
LB Artie Ulmer, who led the Falcons in special teams tackles the past two seasons, said again Wednesday that he's, "80 to 85 percent certain," he'll be able to play Sunday at Dallas. He tweaked a nerve in his right lower leg a couple weeks ago, and has had some problems working his foot. He's the backup strong side/inside linebacker behind Chris Draft. If Ulmer doesn't play, the Falcons' only true backup inside linebacker would be Twan Russell, who was troubled in the preseason by a left knee that kept him out of 13 games last season with the Dolphins. Mostly, though, he would be missed on special teams in the big way.
* WR LaTarence Dunbar is out with a fairly serious groin pull. He won't play at Dallas. His absence is not likely to affect anything the Falcons want to do.
* QB Mike Vick, who broke the fibula in his right leg Aug. 16 against the Ravens, may be in a removable cast as soon as Sept. 4 or 5. Vick will miss the Falcons' first four games, and perhaps more.
* SS Cory Hall will miss the Falcons' opener at Dallas Sunday with a partial tear of his right medial collateral knee ligament. Last year's starter, Gerald McBurrows, and second-year pro Kevin McCadam figure to share the job. McBurrows is far more likely to leave the field in passing situations, and rookie free agent safety Travaris Robinson may see some action today.
* NT Ed Jasper, who missed the Falcons' final preseason game because of periodic back spasms and tightness, was comfortable at practice Wednesday after missing practice last week and the Falcons' last preseason game. He had surgery in mid-spring to remove excessive bone growth in his lower back. He expects to start this afternoon.
* WLB Sam Rogers, who suffered a "chondral lesion" in his left knee in the Falcons' final preseason game at Cleveland Aug. 28, not only is doubtful on the injury report for the Dallas game, but it remains to be seen if his knee can get better without surgical intervention. He chipped a piece of cartilage loose in the joint Aug. 28 at Cleveland, and while his swelling problems were better Wednesday than on Monday, it's still a problem. His absence makes Will Overstreet the starter.
* CB Kevin Mathis, who missed the Falcons' final preseason game with a sprained left shoulder, will be the nickel back at Dallas, working almost exclusively in the slot.
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