It was a near-perfect result for Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who's unit held the Atlanta Falcons out of the end zone in Dallas' 43-3 blowout victory.
The occasion called for Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy to hand the ex-Falcons coach the game ball, but it wasn't necessarily a revenge game for Quinn. Rather a necessary rebound for a team coming off a loss.
"We just wanted to capture our style and identity," Quinn said after the game. "When you don't have it, you really notice it. Leaving the Minnesota game, our style was back, how we like it. When we have one that you don't, it shows up. That's what we challenged one another on. Let's make sure we capture our style and attitude and how we play. I thought the players did a fantastic job of that. It was definitely complimentary football all the way through tonight."
The Cowboys held the Falcons to 214 yards of total offense in the rout. Matt Ryan was held to just nine completions and was picked-off twice before getting taken out early in the fourth quarter with the game out of hand. Backup quarterback Josh Rosen proceeded to feel the wrath of Quinn's defense, which held the Falcons to just 11 first downs on the day (1 of 11 on third down; 0 of 2 on fourth down) and forced three turnovers.
Dallas provided its best defensive performance of the season in the first game without sack-leader Randy Gregory, who's absence added to a laundry list of injuries sustained by the defense. Stepping up on this Sunday for Quinn's defense was fourth-year defensive end Dorance Armstrong, who wreaked havoc in the trenches with a sack (3 QB hits) and a blocked punt that ended in a touchdown before the half.
"That's the good news when you have a deep roster," Quinn said. "The guys here have done a good job. We trust the players, when their moment comes, and they can deliver. DA [Dorance Armstrong] was a good example of that today, not just on defense but special teams as well. We've played maybe 30, with Trysten [Hill], now 32 guys this season. That's a big amount to play. It pays dividends in moments like now, and you have the experience and you're ready to go. Don't get me wrong, we miss Randy and Tank [Demarcus Lawrence] like crazy, but it's important to know that we keep on rolling."
Quinn coached the Falcons for five full seasons before getting fired after just five games into 2020, ending his tenure with a 43-42 regular-season record. The 51-year-old led Atlanta to Super Bowl LI in just his second season, but Quinn and the Falcons seemed to never really recover from the infamous 28-3 lead they squandered in that big game against the New England Patriots.
At one point on Sunday, the Cowboys were up 28-3 on the Falcons and the memories of his failures were remembered. But Quinn's defense wouldn't allow any collapse against his former team. Instead, the Cowboys defense not only maintained its dominance and gave its coach a performance to remember.
"One, there's a lot of people I care about, a lot. It's good to have that game done and over with," said Quinn about facing Atlanta. "More than anything, when you, like any team that you, a lot of friends you have, you go and battle. It's the fun part of the NFL. There's always good rivalries between coaches and players. There's a lot of guys on that roster and in the building I certainly care about a lot."