Five things to know about Cowboys-Falcons matchup

The Falcons (4-5) are on the fringes of the NFC playoff race and are in a must-win situation against the Cowboys (4-5) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The Falcons would move up in the NFC playoffs race and get the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Cowboys with a victory.

» More: A quick look at the Cowboys

This will be the 26th regular-season meeting between the Falcons and the Cowboys. The Cowboys lead the series 14-11. The Falcons have won the last three games including last season’s 27-7 victory when defensive end Adrian Clayborn had six sacks.

The teams met twice in the playoffs with Dallas winning both times, including the dramatic 30-27 victory when Danny White tossed a touchdown pass to Drew Pearson with 42 seconds to play. The Falcons blew a 24-10 lead in that game. 

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Here are five stats that set up the matchup:

1. Run defense alert: Led by Nick Chubb, the former Cedartown and Georgia standout, the Browns ran through the Falcons defense for 211 rushing yards last week.

The Falcons last gave up more than 200 yards rushing against Carolina on Nov. 4, 2017, when they gave up 201 yards. 

The 211 was the most yards the Falcons have given up since Minnesota rushed for 241 yards in a 41-28 win on Sept. 28, 2014. 

The ravaged run defense will be on the spot against Dallas, which features running back Ezekiel Elliott. He rushed for 151 yards on 19 carries in the Cowboys 27-21 win over the Eagles Sunday night.  

Elliot didn’t play in the meeting last season when the Falcons won 27-7. He was serving a player conduct suspension. 

2. Alabama receivers: The Falcons have Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, while the Cowboys recently traded for Amari Cooper. All of the former Alabama receivers will be on display. 

Last week against Cleveland, Jones became the fastest player in NFL history to reach 10,000 receiving yards, surpassing former Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson's previous record of 115 games.

Jones is 769 yards behind wide receiver Roddy White (10,863) for the most yards receiving in Falcons history.

3. Ryan remains hot: Matt Ryan completed 38 of 52 passes for 330 yards, including two touchdowns, and had a fumble against Cleveland. He finished with 102.2 passer rating. Ryan is 3-1 against the Cowboys. 

4. Hooper is dependable: Tight end Austin Hooper had his fourth 50-yard receiving game this season. He had 10 catches for 56 yards and one touchdown. Hooper has 46 catches for 418 yards and three touchdowns. He’s on pace to catch a career-high 82 passes. 

5. Vander Esch is for real: Seven picks before the Falcons selected Ridley, the Cowboys drafted Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch with the 19th overall pick. 

He had his first career interception in the 27-20 win over the Eagles, made a game-saving tackle for a loss on a key third down and led the team with 13 tackles.

Vander Esch leads the Cowboys with 77 tackles.   

 

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