ARLINGTON, Texas -- Finally, John Abraham thought, as he and Jonathan Babineaux closed in on Tony Romo. At last, a sack.
Or not. Just when it seemed the Falcons defensive line had Romo dead to rights, the Dallas quarterback ducked away from both rushers, took a step forward and gunned a touchdown pass to Patrick Crayton in the waning seconds of the first half in what became the Cowboys' 37-21 victory Sunday.
For Abraham, the Falcons’ premier pass-rusher, as well as the rest of the defensive line, that moment summarized a long, frustrating afternoon. The 10-year veteran and his linemates never got to Romo, who was sacked twice -- but by a blitzing linebacker and a safety.
Without bringing extra rushers, the Falcons applied no pressure on the Dallas passer.
And even when the Atlanta linemen got close, they couldn’t close the deal.
"Their front five outplayed us,’’ Abraham said. "That’s all I can say. We didn’t do anything to get to the quarterback. And when we did, he was able to get out of it and make plays. On the touchdown, we had him wrapped up.
"He’s a very elusive guy, but we’ve got to play better. Those are plays we’ve got to make. If we want to be a good team, it’s got to start with out front four. And our front four didn’t play well enough to win today .’’
That was evident in Romo’s statistics. He completed 21 of 29 passes for 311 yards and three touchdowns -- his passer rating was an eye-popping 141.6 -- and ran for another 31 yards on six scrambles out of trouble.
When the Falcons were forced to blitz, trying anything to create pressure, it exposed Atlanta’s secondary and the result was a string of big plays that included touchdown passes of 59 and 22 yards to Miles Austin.
"When the quarterback can sit back there and look to throw the football on time or past time, it's going to be tough,’’ Falcons coach Mike Smith said.
Tough wasn’t a strong enough word to describe the position the secondary found itself in. Either Romo had all the time he wanted to throw, or one of more defensive backs were called on to rush, leaving the rest without help.
At halftime, safety Thomas DeCoud said, "We decided not necessarily to blitz more, but they told the D-line, `We’ve got to get pressure on him. We’ve got to affect Romo and make him get rid of the ball when he doesn’t want to.’
"We were successful at times. There were spurts where we got him flustered a little bit, but we couldn’t keep it going.’’
And that left the defensive linemen wondering what else they had to do to create a consistent pass rush.
"We put that all on the defensive line’s shoulders,‘’ defensive tackle Jamaal Anderson said. "Getting pressure on the quarterback -- that is on us. That’s what we’re supposed to do. We were inconsistent, especially in the second half. And when we got there, we didn’t finish plays.’’
"For me, it was definitely frustrating,’’ Abraham said. "I didn’t feel like I rushed well enough to help me team win. I did a lot of good things and I got close to him, but I didn’t get him down. And that’s frustrating.’’
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