X-factor for Falcons-Cowboys: Dallas’ plan for Kyle Pitts

FLOWERY BRANCH -- Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts leads the team in receiving yards with 546 and is second in receptions with 36.

After posting two 100-yard games, Pitts did not hit the century mark in the past two games.

He will be the X-factor when the Falcons (4-4) face the Cowboys (6-2) at 1 p.m. Sunday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Pitts had two catches for 19 yards in the loss to the Panthers two weeks ago. He had seven targets and three catches for 62 yards in the win over the Saints on Sunday.

Pitts and running back/wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson are quarterback Matt Ryan’s most potent weapons.

Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, a former Falcons head coach who was fired by the team five games into last season, had plenty of time to watch SEC games last season.

“So, that was fun,” Quinn said of the unplanned down time. He got to see Pitts torch a lot of SEC defenders with his length and speed.

“When you can throw – say you had leverage on me to this side. and I can throw so far away, that gives a guy like (Falcons quarterback) Matt (Ryan) a good opportunity to know where the leverage is and put the ball far enough away that it can’t get defended,” Quinn said.

He went on to compare Pitts, who’s 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds, to Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper.

“So, when you have speed and length, that’s why with Coop here – here’s a guy who’s got this great length and size,” Quinn said. “When you can throw away from someone’s leverage, you can throw it a little further away and don’t have to have as tight of a throw, whereas someone who’s small and compact, it’s almost 50-50. Having a guy with leverage and real length, that’s a big factor.”

Dallas safety Jayron Kearse, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, will spend some time attempting to defend Pitts.

“One, you better have enough length because there’s going to be enough 50-50 balls,” Quinn said. “That type of player in the NFL is a big piece of how to defend players in the NFL now because whether if it’s Pitts or other tight ends we’re facing around the league, it’s not traditional hand-in-the-dirt tight ends.”

Quinn has noticed that the Falcons move Pitts around.

“They play up in all different spots, and you have to have enough variety and different style of defenders to defend because one week you may have to defend a player like him, and then another week it’s that receiver or running back,” Quinn said. “So each week there’s some funkiness to go and how do you match? That’s one of the best parts of coaching the NFL.”

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Atlanta Falcons schedule and scores

Eagles 32, Falcons 6

Buccaneers 48, Falcons 25

Falcons 17, Giants 14

Washington 34, Falcons 30

Falcons 27, Jets 20

Bye Week

Falcons 30, Dolphins 28

Panthers 19, Falcons 13

Falcons 27, Saints 25

Next four games

Falcons at Cowboys, 1 p.m. Sunday

Patriots at Falcons, 8:20 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18

Falcons at Jacksonville, 1 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 28

Tampa Bay at Atlanta, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 5