Dallas Cowboys kicker Greg Zuerlein laid the oblong pigskin on its flank, preparing for an onside kick to complete one of the most improbable comebacks this side of Super Bowl LI. Apparently, this technique has a name: The Watermelon kick.
"That's what we call it," Cowboys quarterback Prescott told Peter King after the game. "The ball just kind of sits there like a watermelon, not on a tee."
Zuerlein booted that watermelon like a top, spinning the football diagonally across the AT&T Stadium turf. Five Falcons surrounded the ball, none diving on it, while four Cowboys hovered waiting for the spinning rawhide to reach the required 10 yards. Once it breached the barrier, corner C.J. Goodwin pounced. Dallas ball. Life!
Falcons fans continue to scratch their heads, wondering why no one swooped in and snatched the ball. Prescott relayed one possibility to King.
"I asked our punter, Chris Jones, why [the Falcons] wouldn't just dive on it," Prescott said, "and he said the way it spins makes it really hard to do that. They were probably afraid that if they jumped on it, it might get loose and we'd recover."
The alternative was to wait and give the Cowboys a chance to pounce. And they did.
The Falcons had every advantage when Zuerlein initially booted the ball. They had the numbers, the time. Instead of proactively attacking, they huddled around the ball like Boy Scouts at a campfire.
Sure, it's possible one of the Atlanta players dives before it hits 10 yards and the ball squirts free, allowing Dallas to recover. The alternative that seemed to unfold was Falcons players praying the kick simply wouldn't go 10 yards.
Losing teams hope the other side fails. Winners take action.
To the outside world, the Falcons' reaction to the watermelon onside kick was to be perplexed at what was taking place. Coach Dan Quinn assured after the gut-wrenching 40-39 loss that his players did know they could go after the ball before it reached 10 yards.
"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," Quinn said, via the Associated Press.
"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 added. "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."
Maybe they know the rule, but it didn't appear so at the time. At the very least, the players didn't look prepared for this type of onside kick. The collapse, coupled with the embarrassing onside play, doesn't look good for Quinn, who barely hung onto his job after last year's poor start.
Credit Prescott and the Cowboys for overcoming their poor start and making plays after the onside recovery to cash in the golden ticket and steal a win. It takes two to tango, and the Falcons bent over backward to accommodate their host's astounding comeback.