Maher boots FG on final play, Cowboys beat Falcons 22-19

Maher boots FG on final play, Cowboys beat Falcons 22-19
Dallas Cowboys kicker Brett Maher (2) kicks the game-winning field goal against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. The Dallas Cowboys won 22-19. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik) (Danny Karnik)

ATLANTA (AP) — Brett Maher got another shot on the final play of the game.

This time, he made it count.

Maher's 42-yard field goal as time expired Sunday gave Dallas a 22-19 victory over the Atlanta Falcons after the resurgent Cowboys squandered a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter.

A month ago, Maher clanked a 52-yarder off the left upright that would've forced overtime in a 20-17 loss to Washington. And he had to shake off a missed extra point earlier Sunday that gave the Falcons an opening to tie it up.

"I was confident," Maher said. "Every time I step on the field, the goal is to go one for one. Everyone in here is doing so much for our team. For the offense to be able to drive the ball down the field and get us in position again, and L.P. (snapper Louis-Philippe Ladouceur) and Chris (Jones, the holder) coming through like they always do, I was just happy to do my part."

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott reacts to scoring a touchdown on a quarterback keeper past Atlanta Falcons safety Damontae Kazee during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. Dallas won 22-19. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott reacts to scoring a touchdown on a quarterback keeper past Atlanta Falcons safety Damontae Kazee during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. Dallas won 22-19. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP) (AP)

The Cowboys (5-5) have won two straight on the road and trail Washington by only one game in the NFC East after the division leaders lost at home to Houston, 23-21. The teams meet on Thanksgiving Day with first place on the line.

"We've got a big one against as big a rival as there is in sports," Dallas owner Jerry Jones said. "We have a lot at stake there."

Dallas Cowboys kicker Brett Maher and teammates celebrate his field goal for a 22-19 victory over the Atlanta Falcons as time expired in an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. Falcons' Julio Jones lies on the ground after trying to block the attempt. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Dallas Cowboys kicker Brett Maher and teammates celebrate his field goal for a 22-19 victory over the Atlanta Falcons as time expired in an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. Falcons' Julio Jones lies on the ground after trying to block the attempt. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP) (AP)

Atlanta (4-6) dropped its second in a row and now faces long odds to reach the postseason — especially playing in the NFC South, where the Falcons trail New Orleans and Carolina.

"It's aggravating," cornerback Robert Alford said. "We've got to learn to finish games."

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott plows through Atlanta Falcons safety Damontae Kazee on his way to the end zone and a touchdown during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. Dallas won 22-19. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott plows through Atlanta Falcons safety Damontae Kazee on his way to the end zone and a touchdown during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. Dallas won 22-19. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP) (AP)

Ezekiel Elliott had a huge day for the Cowboys in what was a defensive slugfest until a wild fourth quarter, with the teams combining for 26 points over the last 15 minutes. He had 122 yards rushing on 23 carries, including a 23-yard touchdown, and led the team with seven catches for 79 yards.

Matt Ryan threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones for Atlanta's only touchdown with 1:52 remaining to tie the game. But Dallas drove 51 yards in 10 plays, setting up Maher's winning kick as time expired .

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) celebrates his touchdown catch in the end zone against the Dallas Cowboys during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) celebrates his touchdown catch in the end zone against the Dallas Cowboys during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis) (AP)

After a field goal battle between Maher and Atlanta's Matt Bryant left the Falcons with a 9-6 lead heading to the final period, Dak Prescott and Elliott scored on a pair of runs to push the Cowboys to a 19-9 lead.

Grinding for every yard, Dallas needed 14 plays to cover 75 yards leading to Prescott's 4-yard scoring run after the quarterback faked a handoff to Elliott . Prescott had a couple of 17-yard passes — one to Amari Cooper, another to Cole Beasley — but no other play on the possession went for more than 5 yards.

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) is tripped by Atlanta Falcons strong safety Damontae Kazee (27) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) is tripped by Atlanta Falcons strong safety Damontae Kazee (27) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik) (AP)

Maher hooked the extra point, however, leaving the Cowboys with a 12-9 lead.

They quickly extended the margin. On Atlanta's next possession, Ryan threw a short pass to Calvin Ridley cutting over the middle. The ball was thrown a bit too hard, the rookie couldn't hang on and it ricocheted into the arms of Dallas linebacker Leighton Vander Esch . He returned his second interception in as many weeks 28 yards to the Atlanta 31.

Dallas Cowboys kicker Brett Maher (2) speaks with Atlanta Falcons defensive back Justin Bethel (28) after an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. The Dallas Cowboys won 22-19. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)
Dallas Cowboys kicker Brett Maher (2) speaks with Atlanta Falcons defensive back Justin Bethel (28) after an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. The Dallas Cowboys won 22-19. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik) (AP)

"Some things happen so quick, just bang-bang plays, and you've got to be ready for them," said Vander Esch, a first-round pick of the Cowboys. "Sometimes, the ball bounces the right way."

Two plays later, Elliott darted through a big hole up the middle, shook off Falcons safety Damontae Kazee at the 15 and powered in for the touchdown . Maher connected on this extra point, giving the Cowboys a 10-point lead with 12:26 remaining.

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) signifies a first down against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) signifies a first down against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis) (AP)

It didn't hold up.

Suddenly coming to life offensively, the Falcons quickly drove to the Dallas 3 before settling for Bryant's fourth field goal, a chip shot from 21 yards. The defense forced a punt, and Atlanta finally made it all the way to the end zone.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) runs into the end zone for a touchdown against Atlanta Falcons strong safety Damontae Kazee (27) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) runs into the end zone for a touchdown against Atlanta Falcons strong safety Damontae Kazee (27) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) (AP)

Ryan lofted a pass to Jones, who somehow managed to come down with the ball despite tight coverage from Chidobe Awuzie . When Jones held the ball aloft to celebrate, Awuzie swatted it away in disgust.

In the end, it was the Cowboys who celebrated.

Atlanta Falcons running back Tevin Coleman (26) runs past Dallas Cowboys free safety Xavier Woods (25) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Atlanta Falcons running back Tevin Coleman (26) runs past Dallas Cowboys free safety Xavier Woods (25) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis) (AP)

MONEY MATT RETURNS

Bryant resumed his duties as Atlanta's kicker after missing three games with a strained right hamstring.

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett watches play against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett watches play against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis) (AP)

The 43-year-old looked as good as new, connecting on field goals of 41, 45, 53 and 21 yards.

He is 13 of 13 for the season, including four kicks of at least 50 yards.

Atlanta Falcons defensive end Vic Beasley (44) celebrates with Atlanta Falcons defensive back Keith Tandy (35) after Beasley sacked Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Atlanta Falcons defensive end Vic Beasley (44) celebrates with Atlanta Falcons defensive back Keith Tandy (35) after Beasley sacked Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis) (AP)

"I got through everything OK," Bryant said. "Obviously, I'd rather have the win."

INJURY REPORT

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper (19) makes the catch against Atlanta Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant (21) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper (19) makes the catch against Atlanta Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant (21) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik) (AP)

There appeared to be no serious injuries.

Three Atlanta players went down with minor ailments: cornerback Desmond Trufant (thigh), Kazee (shoulder) and linebacker Duke Riley (neck). All were able to return.

Dallas Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence (90) pressures Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)
Dallas Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence (90) pressures Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik) (AP)

Dallas also had at least three players shaken up. Tackles La'el Collins and Tyron both left the game briefly, as did defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford.

UP NEXT

Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory (94) tackles Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory (94) tackles Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis) (AP)

Cowboys: This will be the second time in the past three years that Dallas has hosted Washington on Thanksgiving Day. In 2016, the Cowboys prevailed 31-26. Overall, Dallas leads the series 70-45-2.

Falcons: Also have a short turnaround before playing Thursday night at division-leading New Orleans. Atlanta likely needs to win out to have any shot at making its third straight playoff appearance.

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley (11) works for the ball against Atlanta Falcons free safety Isaiah Oliver (20) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley (11) works for the ball against Atlanta Falcons free safety Isaiah Oliver (20) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis) (AP)

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry

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