IRVING, Tex. — Tom Landry is a religious man who has had his share of prayers answered on the football field. Sunday he saw it happen to someone else.
Dave Archer hit Floyd Dixon on a 65-yard pass play to set up Mick Luckhurst's 18-yard field goal with 20 seconds left and give the Atlanta Falcons a 37-35 victory over Landry's Dallas Cowboys.
"It was a Hail Mary throw," Landry said. "He had a lot of time and just threw the ball as hard as he could throw it. If it comes down in your hands, you win. If it doesn't, you don't."
Dixon slipped behind rookie Johnny Holloway, who fell down, to catch the pass from Archer.
"I just looked up and there it was," Dixon said.
Archer, who vowed revenge on the Cowboys (2-1) after a 24-10 defeat last season, said he didn't have any choice but to air it out.
"We didn't have any time outs," Archer said. "We caught Dallas coming on a blitz and Dixon just got behind his man.
"Dallas said some things about the way they intimidated us last year. I didn't like it. I've remembered it for 12 months."
Atlanta Coach Dan Henning admitted things looked hopeless.
"It didn't look good, but Archer came up with the big play," Henning said.
"We looked dead. We overcame a lot of adversity. This would not have been the end of the world had we not beaten Dallas, and it's not the end of the world that we have beaten them."
Dallas quarterback Danny White, who needed acupuncture treatments for a pulled thigh muscle in order to play, threw four touchdown passes, including one of 22-yards to rookie Mike Sherrard with 9:05 left for a 35-27 lead.
Atlanta's Gerald Riggs scored on a two-yard run with 3:28 left to bring the Falcons to within a point.
The Falcons (3-0) were backed up in second and 18 from the Atlanta 12 when Archer got some breathing room with a 21-yard pass to Ken Whisenhunt. Then he connected with Dixon, who carried the ball to the Dallas two.
The ball was moved to the one on a holding call before Luckhurst kicked his third field goal of the day.
The Cowboys weren't through.
White hit Tony Hill on a 60-yard pass play, but the Falcons pushed Hill out of bounds on the Atlanta eight as time ran out.
The Falcons scored twice in 60 seconds to take a 27-21 lead in the third quarter.
Whisenhunt hauled in an 18-yard scoring pass from Archer, and moments later Bobby Butler stepped in front of a pass by White and returned it 33 yards to score.
White struck back on a seven-yard touchdown pass to Hill to give Dallas a 28-27 lead.
Timmy Newsome scored two touchdowns within 22 seconds to give Dallas a 21-13 halftime lead. He scored on a one-yard run with 1:47 left in the half after White's 31-yard pass to Sherrard.
On the next series, Jim Jeffcoat recovered Archer's fumble at the Atlanta two. On the next play, White rolled out and passed to Newsome for the score.
White gave Dallas a 7-0 lead in the first period with a one-yard scoring pass to rookie tight end Thornton Chandler.
Luckhurst had field goals of 47 and 33 yards, and the Falcons took a 13-7 lead when defensive end Mike Pitts caught White's fumble and ran 22 yards for a touchdown.