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Cowboys Shock Saints 24-17


Mama said there’d be days like this. Isn’t that how the song goes?

The Saints played one of their worst games of the season and Dallas capitalized to beat the Saints for the first time this season. The win moves the Saints to 13-1, still atop the NFC for best record and home field advantage. The Dallas win puts them at 9-5 to solidify their Wild Card spot.

Drew Brees threw for 298 yards on 29/45 passing with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. The Cowboys used a combination of blitz and coverage to keep Brees off balance all night. The Saints had only a few big plays, as Brees did not complete a pass over 15 yards all game. Coming into the game, he had a 60% completion average on throws longer than 15 yards. Dallas’ physical secondary made it hard for the Saints’ passing game to find a good rhythm all night.

The Cowboys were the ones making big plays early, starting with a 49 yard touchdown pass to Miles Austin on their opening drive. Dallas followed with another solid drive, capping it with a 3 yard Marion Barber touchdown run. The Cowboys ran 19 plays in the first quarter alone, good enough for 195 yards. By comparison, the Saints only ran 10 plays for 35 yards and only held the ball for 5:08 in the first quarter.

The Saints seemed to be getting things back in order in the second quarter, as the defense finally held the Cowboys offense. The Saints countered with a 34 yard Garrett Hartley field goal to cut the Dallas lead to 14-3. However, Dallas forced two turnovers on the Saints final drives of the quarter to squash the rally. Mike Jenkins intercepted an underthrown Brees pass near the goal line to end one drive. DeMarcus Ware, playing after getting carted off the field with a neck injury last week, sacked and forced a Drew Brees fumble on the Saints’ last drive of the half. Nick Folk converted a 44 yard field goal to give the Cowboys a 17-3 lead at the half.

The Cowboys came out roaring again to start the second half, capping a 13 play, 74 yard drive with another short Marion Barber run. The drive, which took seven minutes off the clock, was Dallas’ most effective drive of the night- mixing Felix Jones runs outside the tackles, Barber runs between the tackles, and play action passes which lead to big gains.

Down 24-3, the Saints started a furious rally. Brees engineered the best two Saints drives of the game to start the fourth quarter. A Mike Bell touchdown cut the Dallas lead to 24-10. After forcing a Dallas punt, the Saints stormed back to score again, this time on a 7 yard screen pass to Lance Moore to make it just a 7 point game. And the rally was on!

But Dallas would not go down quietly. The Cowboys strung together a 10 play, 75 yard drive that ended at the Saints 6 yard line. The Cowboys converted several key 3rd downs on the drive which chewed up 5:44 off the clock. However, Nick Folk missed from 24 yards out and gave the Saints and the loud Superdome crowd new hope.

Brees drove the offense down the field once more, converting a fourth down pass to Marques Colston along the way. However, DeMarcus Ware would come up big for the Cowboy once again, forcing another Brees fumble which the Cowboys recovered to end the game.

Tony Romo finished the game with 312 yards passing and one touchdown for the game. The Cowboys running game finished with 145 yards on 36 carries and held the ball for over 36:26, compared to the Saints 23:34.

Injuries once again plagued the Saints on the night. Jabari Greer, Jeremy Shockey, and Sedrick Ellis did not play for the Saints on the evening. Jonathan Vilma and Jermon Bushrod came out of the game with injuries. Perhaps, the biggest loss on the night was Reggie Bush. He appeared to have pulled his hamstring on a short second quarter pass and did not return.

The Saints return Sunday to the Superdome to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.


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2 Responses to “Cowboys Shock Saints 24-17”

  1. haynes says:

    Saturday night it appeared the Saints fell even deeper into the slow-start doldrums that have beset them progressively after the first few games this season and the exception of the big win over the Pats. I think it is no coincidence that the Saints O started hot in all our early dominating wins (and the Pats game) and not so much against the Skins, Falcons, Dolphins and other nailbiters.
    There similarities in the defensive line play and players of the Dallas and Washington where the Saints had so much trouble rushing effectively. Saturday the Saints should have shifted them to the short and fast game after their first two dismal possessions. The Saints are lethally effective in their short to intermediate game. In fact I believe them to be unstoppable. Success there will eventually create so many other opportunities farther downfield.
    Injuries aren’t the only problem with the Saints” D. Will Smith,Grant and the rest haven’t generated consistent heat on QBs thus far this season. These guys are all tremendous talents and, to a man, players that need to be showing up in the highlights every week. The D line and LBs need to make some serious noise as the competition only gets tougher from here on out.
    The secondary certainly has been limited due to injuries but Harper and Sharper aren’t making the plays they have earlier in the season. It’s good to get Porter back and even if Greer makes it back soon it will take some time for the secondary to be back on top of their game.
    It appears to me that the usually solid play calling failed to adjust for the shorter time Brees would likely have to make his throws against Dallas. Adjusting the routes of a good crew of receivers and quickening the passing game tempo could have made for a better outcome. As other teams throughout the regular season and playoffs will try to copy the success Dallas achieved, the same strategy will likely be useful in the near future. Drew is very effective inside and out of the pocket. Move him out more often. Saturday night the Saints could have moved Brees out of the pocket more often and away from the top Cowboy pass rusher. The play action didn’t do much to fool even the casual spectator much less the Dallas D after they had a two possession lead. I can’t help but wonder how the pass protection for Brees would have fared had a back stayed deep in the backfield to protect Drew’s blind side as opposed to a faking a useless dive into a crowded middle. It might have set up an opportunity for that back to chip Ware and slide out for a screen that Ware would eventually have to respect.
    Inconsistent coverage by the special teams continues to show up at a time in the season where it should be and must be better. At least there were no returns for TDs. Coverage speed is good but too often return lanes open too wide because coverage players allow themselves to get tied up and can’t get off a block.
    Perhaps the scariest of all is that the Saints are making too few solid “smackdown” tackles on first contact anywhere on the field. On many opportunities it seems that the defensive scheme is appropriate rarely the first defender (primary) fails to make a clean stop. The “iffy” games for the Saints have been those where the tackling is poor and tackles for loss or minimal gains didn’t happen often enough. Too many potential tackles at or behind the line turned out to be significant positive gains for opponents.
    I don’t think many (if any) NFL teams have much anxiety about getting hammered (legally) by a Saints defender like the hit laid on Kevin Faulk by Sharper in a game we won. It could be a case of too much emphasis on trying to tackle the ball in hopes of a fumble versus vicious tackles that cleanly stop the runner and sometimes liberate the ball in the process. There’s only one way to get that kind of respect.
    In the greater scheme of things this game may mean nothing more than a loss against a hungry, good team that needed the win more than the Saints did provided the Saints break some trends they’ve fallen into. Early in the season the Saints were starting very fast and were relentless throughout. The D and O teams fed off of each other and the effects were delightful to the Saints faithful. As the season progressed stellar play by both the Saints D and O was too often offset by too many sub par performances by coaches and players that very nearly resulted in losses in several games prior to the Dallas loss.
    So where does that leave us? Is this a great team on a slide destined to end a season yet again in bitter disappointment? My bet is an emphatic “no” provided the Saints make the appropriate adjustments as they go forward. Play smart and tackle hard. Never become too predictable. Play so that your opponents fear you more than respect you. Coach smart and play smart. Be more physical than every opponent. Never give the opposing QB the time he needs to hurt your defense badly. Near perfection in pass coverage is not our strongest suit nor will it be for this remainder of this year. Do whatever it takes to put serious heat on opposing QBs to shorten the size of the field they have to defend. Players on the kick and punt return cover teams must find the discipline to get off of blocks from the opposing teams and maintain supreme command of their assigned zone of responsibility.
    I expect the Saints make a few adjustments and play like the champions they can be. I predict the Saints will finish this remarkable season with a tremendous finish.

    • Gilbert says:

      I agree with you. We both know the Saints could have played better, yet still lost by just 7. This team is special.

      I wrote my breakdown of the loss in the most recent post. Let me know what you think!

      Thanks again

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