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Rocky Start for the Parcells Era

September 08, 2003|From Associated Press

IRVING, Texas — 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, 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 drew 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 one-yard plunge.

Winning with Vick watching from a coaches box because of 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 Cowboy owner Jerry Jones.

"It is nice to start out the season 1-0 when everyone thought that we couldn't," Falcon Coach Dan Reeves said.

"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 one-of-11 stretch to finish 16 of 27 for 228 yards with one interception and two touchdowns.

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 seasons in a row.

"We've got a lot of work to do. We'll see where we go from here."

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