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(Reuters) - Replacement Dallas quarterback Brandon Weeden did not throw a single touchdown pass as the previously unbeaten Cowboys fell 39-28 at home against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
As regular quarterback Tony Romo nursed his broken collarbone on the sidelines -- an injury he suffered last week -- Weeden made a positive start by completing his first 16 passes and the Cowboys ran out to a 14-0 lead.
In the process, Weeden set a franchise record for consecutive completions, stretching back to last season, but an interception late in the second period turned the tide for Atlanta.
When all was said and done, Weeden posted his ninth consecutive loss when he has started and fell to 5-17 for his career, even as Dallas posted their highest score of the season.
Coach Jason Garrett sounded more concerned with his defense than the performance of his quarterback, and with Romo not expected to return until late November, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was not ready to give up on Weeden.
"I thought Weeden played well today," Jones told reporters. "I thought he played within himself. He did some good things but we just didn't get it done. We can get better and we don't have to wait on help to come to get better.
"That interception before the half ... was one we'd like to have back."
Weeden, for his part, preferred to look at the positives.
"I felt it was an efficient day, smart day," he said after completing 22-of-26 passes for 232 yards. "We took what they gave us."
It was not a great afternoon for back-up quarterbacks, as the New Orleans Saints also lost without injured nine-time Pro Bowler Drew Brees.
Luke McGown, just like Weeden, did not complete a touchdown pass as a bad start to the season got even worse for the Saints when they lost their third consecutive game, 27-22 against the unbeaten Carolina Panthers.
The Saints fell to 0-3 and the 2009 Super Bowl champions almost certainly kissed their playoff chances goodbye.
Historically, only two percent of teams have made the postseason after starting 0-3, and nobody has done it since the Buffalo Bills in 1998.
McGown completed 31-of-38 passes for 310 yards, while his opposite number Cam Newton was 20-for-31 for 315 yards. Newton, however, also threw two touchdown passes.
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes