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The Journal Gazette

Monday, November 13, 2017 1:00 am

Atlanta 27 Dallas 7

Falcons put down Cowboys

PAUL NEWBERRY | Associated Press

ATLANTA – Adrian Clayborn must've thought he was the one replacing Ezekiel Elliott in the Dallas Cowboys' backfield.

Clayborn spent most of Sunday running around back there, making life miserable for Dak Prescott with one of the best pass-rushing performances in NFL history.

Hardly a star, Clayborn set an Atlanta record with six sacks and forced a pair of fumbles to lead the Falcons past the Cowboys 27-7, a game that showed just how much Dallas missed one of its key offensive players.

No, not Elliott, though that was certainly a blow. After three legal reprieves, the star running back finally began serving a six-game suspension for allegations of domestic abuse .

The Cowboys were also without left tackle Tyron Smith, out with groin and back injuries. Chaz Green stepped into the spot – and had a miserable day trying to stop Clayborn.

Clayborn blew by Green to force two fumbles and surpass the team record of five sacks in a game, held by Chuck Smith and Hall of Famer Claude Humphrey.

“You always envision it,” Clayborn said. “I was finally in my groove.”

He matched the second-most sacks in NFL history. Derrick Thomas, Osi Umenyiora and Fred Dean are the only other players credited with six sacks in a game, while Thomas holds the league record with seven for Kansas City against the Seahawks on Nov. 11, 1990.

Clayborn came into Sunday with two sacks on the season and 22.5 over his seven-year career.

“It just hurts because I feel I let the team down,” Green said. “I've just got to get better. It's on me.”

While Clayborn and the defense dominated the Elliott-less Cowboys, Matt Ryan threw a pair of short touchdown passes.

Ryan hooked up with Justin Hardy on a 3-yard pass for Atlanta's first offensive touchdown in the third quarter this season. Early in the fourth, Ryan put the game away for the Falcons (5-4) by tossing one to Austin Hooper for a 1-yard score.

The Cowboys (5-4) started former Pro Bowler Alfred Morris at running back. he finished with 53 yards on 11 carries. Fort Wayne native Rod Smith ran three times 14 yards.