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Dallas sloppy in Parcells' debut

9/8/2003

IRVING, Texas (AP) -- Not even Bill Parcells can keep the Dallas
Cowboys from making the kind of mistakes that lead to losses.

Despite vowing to be more disciplined and to play smarter, the
Cowboys were as sloppy as they were under coaches Dave Campo, Chan
Gailey and Barry Switzer in losing 27-13 to the Atlanta Falcons on
Sunday in their first game for Parcells.

Quincy Carter offset some big plays with a fumble and an
ill-advised pass that was intercepted, while the rest of the
offense made silly penalties. The defense went from a good first
half to a porous second half. And kicker Billy Cundiff missed a
short field goal and an extra point.

"That's a recipe for disaster," Parcells said.

Atlanta wasn't great in its first game without Michael Vick, but
replacement Doug Johnson was good enough. He drove the Falcons to
17 unanswered points, then responded to a late Dallas touchdown
with a 14-play, 75-yard drive that he capped with a 1-yard plunge.

Winning with Vick watching from a coaches box with a broken leg
was a huge relief for Atlanta. Owner Arthur Blank celebrated by
hugging players on the sideline, the kind of display usually seen
on the other sideline at Texas Stadium by Cowboys owner Jerry
Jones.

"It is nice to start out the season 1-0 when everyone thought
that we couldn't," said Falcons coach Dan Reeves. "I think my
players are more confident with Doug now and this win has given us,
as a team, more confidence for the rest of the season."

Johnson overcame a 1-for-11 stretch to finish 16-of-27 for 228
yards with one interception and two touchdowns. The receivers made
him look good on both scores.

Warrick Dunn dived to catch a low 7-yard pass near the goal line
and flopped into the end zone, then Alge Crumpler rumbled 41 yards
after Johnson drew the defense right and threw back to his left to
the uncovered tight end.

As much as Parcells hated seeing his defense break down on those
third-quarter scores, he kept his emotions in check. While coaching
his first game since 1999, he mostly stood with his hands on his
hips or behind his back, or crossed his arms after good plays and
bad.

Mostly bad.

"I was a little surprised with the way we played," said
Parcells, hired in January to turn around a team that's gone 5-11
for three straight seasons. "We've got a lot of work to do. We'll
see where we go from here."

The Cowboys started strong for their new boss, getting a 63-yard
touchdown run from newcomer Aveion Cason to lead 7-3 midway through
the first quarter. After intercepting a pass by Johnson, Dallas
reached the Atlanta 8 on a 48-yard pass from Carter to Joey
Galloway.

Then the problems began.

Will Johnson keep them afloat until Vick returns?
Yes, Johnson will continue to do a good job until Vick returns from his injury. But he won't be the only reason this team stays afloat. Their defense is going to be relied on to control the game.

How long before Parcells turns to Hutchinson?
I don't think Parcells will be quick to yank Quincy Carter. He'll give Carter a chance to prove himself and won't yank him until this sort of game becomes a pattern. Also, I don't think Hutchinson would've fared much better today.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

A penalty wiped out that play, and Carter later threw an
interception on the kind of impulse decision Parcells detests.
Cundiff's missed field goal left Dallas up only four at halftime.

The Falcons' recovery was aided by great field position. They
started three of their first four drives in the second half in
Dallas territory, and scored on each to go ahead 20-7.

Carter lost a fumble on the third snap of the third quarter,
then failed to get a first down until early in the fourth. On their
final four drives, three started with penalties that pushed the
Cowboys deep inside the 20.

Even after Carter hit Galloway for a 49-yard touchdown to make
it 20-13 early in the fourth, Cundiff's extra-point kick was
blocked. Johnson answered with the long, slow, game-sealing
touchdown drive.

"I'm just trying to hold it down and keep us in contention,"
Johnson said. "I understand that role and I'm doing everything I
can to keep us in playoff position."

Carter's final series reached the 2, but ended with a sack and
two incompletions. He finished 15-of-32 for a career-high 268
yards.

How will Parcells respond?

"We don't know what happens now," said Galloway, who caught
seven passes for 139 yards. "We watch film tomorrow and we'll find
out."

Notes: Peerless Price had only two catches for 30 yards in his
Atlanta debut, one in the first quarter, then a spectacular 22-yard
grab that set up the final touchdown. ... Dallas lost its fourth
straight opener. ... Brian Finneran, the Falcons' leading receiver
last year, broke two bones in his left hand in the third quarter and will
be out at least a month.
... Dallas' Troy Hambrick ran out for pregame introductions wearing
a black cowboy hat, but backed it up with only 53 yards on 14
carries in his debut as Emmitt Smith's replacement. ... Cason's run
was the longest by a Cowboy in 30 games.