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Saints-Cowboys Post Game Analysis

Raise your hand if you saw that loss to the Cowboys coming. Anyone?

After a few close calls the last couple of weeks, the Cowboys put together a complete game against the Saints and gave them their first loss of the season. Why? How did the struggling Cowboys come to the Superdome and beat the mighty Saints?

It basically came down to two things-

1. The injury bug finally caught up with the Saints.
2. Dallas finished what the Redskins and Falcons couldn’t do. All three teams knew how to beat the Saints, but Dallas had the right personnel and finished the job they started.

Of course we all know the Saints have been hit pretty hard by the injury bug all season. This has changed the way the Saints have had to play, especially on defense.

For example, losing Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter has effected the way the Saints have had to play defense completely. Both Porter and Greer are excellent one on one defenders. Malcolm Jenkins, Mike McKenzie, Chris McAlister, Pierson Prioleau, and Randall Gay have been good enough at times, but they all have their faults. Jenkins is a rookie. McKenzie, McAlister, and Prioleau have been slowed by age and injury. Gay is getting back into game shape after losing time with a hamstring injury. To cover up for his battered secondary, Gregg Williams has called for a lot more Cover 2 than he had earlier in the season. What does that mean for the safeties? It means they are no longer allowed to be ball hawks, to run more freely in the secondary, dissect the play and break to the ball. They now have to play more like centerfeilders back there, waiting and watching for the action to come their way before they can make a play. That does not play to Darren Sharpers’ strengths. He can not sit back and watch and make plays like he used to. Is it a coincidence that he only has one interception (against NE) since Greer went down?

Starting DT Sedrick Ellis did not play against the Cowboys Saturday due to the lingering affects of an MCL sprain earlier in the season. The Cowboys ran well between the tackles, or right where Big Sedrick would have lined up. Ellis is by far the Saints’ best run stuffer and athletic tackle. He demands an opposing teams’ attention because he can be a productive blitzer as well. Double teaming Ellis means that there is one less lineman to protect the quarterback, which helps a blitz happy defense like the Saints. Is it a coincidence as well that the Saints run defense has allowed more yards in the five games Ellis has missed this season than in the eight games Ellis finished? In the five games Ellis has sat out, the Saints have allowed 748 yards rushing, or 149.6 per game. In the 8 games Ellis has played (not including the Miami game he got injured in), the Saints have given up 716 yards, or only 89.5 yards per game.

The loss of Jeremy Shockey affected some of the things the Saints could do offensively. A tight end like Shockey who can block and catch can help break down a 3-4 defense like the Cowboys. A 3-4 defense depends on linebackers to create pressure on the quarterback. If the tight end has the ability to run routes and catch the ball effectively, it is often a linebacker who has to cover the tight end. The Saints love running plays out of a two tight end set because they have the personnel to do almost anything with the formation. The tight ends can both be extra blockers on a run or recievers on a pass or one can go for the pass while the other stays in protection. They missed the big physical Shockey in the running game. Once the Saints fell into an early hole, they got away from the running game. This meant the Cowboys could come after Drew Brees with the Saints becoming one-dimensional. Again Shockey was missed in pass protection. He provides help for OT Jermon Bushrod, the weak link on the offensive line. It was Bushrod who was beaten by DeMarcus Ware on Ware’s sacks of Brees.

The other element to the Saints’ loss was the solid game plan and its execution from start to finish by the Cowboys. At this point of the season, every aspect of every team has been looked at and analyzed. By now, we know what every team’s strengths and weaknesses are. The Saints are no different. The Cowboys, Falcons, and Redskins knew how to beat the Saints-keep Brees and the offense off the feild by establishing the run, find the holes in the depleted secondary and keep Brees and the passing game off balance. Only the Cowboys had the personnel to keep the pressure up for the entire sixty minutes.

The Cowboys’ offensive and defensive lines dominated the Saints lines for most of the game. Dallas boasts the biggest offensive line in the NFL and they were able to get a good push in the interior of the Saints’ defensive line. This opened up holes for Marion Barber between the tackles and were able to seal the edges for Felix Jones to run free in the open field.

Often times, Tony Romo looked like the All-Pro quarterback in the Dome. His line’s play allowed him to torch the Saints for 312 yards and time to make several key third down conversions. For the game, the Cowboys converted 8 of 15 third down attempts. By comparison, the Saints only converted 1 of 7 third down conversions on the night.

The Cowboys jumped on the Saints early and forced them to depend on the pass to get back in the game. This allowed for more opportunities for the Cowboys’ rushers to get after Brees. The Cowboys’ secondary did a good job of jamming the Saints’ recievers and disrupting the passing game. By the time the Saints figured out the Cowboys’ secondary by throwing short in the second half, it was too late. Together, the Cowboys defense held the Saints passing attack in check.

The Saints did not execute well in all three phases of the game. The Saints completed 0 of 8 passes of 15 or more yards, including several dropped balls. They committed more penalties than usual. The defense missed to many tackles or were just a step out of position. However, despite all the mistakes the Saints had made, they still had a chance to tie at the end.

Should we worry about this loss? Not really. True, the Cowboys have developed a gameplan to beat the Saints, which will no doubt be copied by other teams around the league. But I don’t think any other team in the NFC has the team the Cowboys has.

At least now, the pressure of going undefeated is off the team’s shoulders. Often times I felt the Saints played not to lose last night. Now, the team can refocus on the next game and not worry about the media circus surrounding the pursuit of perfection.

And I feel pretty good about our team if it can get healthy. The healthy team we saw at the start of the season is a championship caliber team. A Saints win next week assures them of home field advantage throught the NFC playoffs, which means the Saints might be able to rest more players earlier to get them fully healthy for the playoff run.

Next up for the Saints..the Tampa Bay Bucanneers..and that just may be what the doctor ordered.

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6 Responses to “Saints-Cowboys Post Game Analysis”

  1. Rev. Dan Lay, Jr. says:

    Being a Saints fan since the late 70’s, one has learned to never talk trash and to never be too disappointed in the outcome of a game. This season has been an incredible gift from God to Saints fans and the state of Louisiana.

    While disappointed in the loss to Dallas, my hope is that the team and the fans have learned a few things. My prayer is that we can go forward and win out through the playoffs. Praying for the health of our players and their families is of the upmost importance.

    One final challenge to Saints Fans everywhere: Give up on the use of “Breesus.” Even Drew doesn’t like it and calls it sacriligious. While I am sure that fans have not meant to offend, sayings such as “Breesus is Da Reason for the season” and “What Would Breesus Do?” are just not appropriate. As a Christ Follower, I am shocked at the play on words. Drew Brees is an awesome quarterback, but he is not the Lord & Savior of the World.

    Lets ask the LORD to bless our team and give Him the Glory…Not Men. GUEAX SAINTS

    • Gilbert says:


      Thanks for your dedication to your team, but more importantly your people.

      I agree with your point on using the Breesus analaogy, and the Sacradome, and the WWBD?. I agree with Brees in saying it is sacriligous. I know he doesn’t like it so Saints fans, please stop too.

      Thanks for your prayers for the team and it’s health and to the city and keeping everything in perspective. Your post was a breath of fresh air.

  2. Chef Dat says:

    While war, starvation, murder still happen in the world it is funny to me how much religion comes up in football.
    God Bless and excuse the confusion.
    Seperation of church and state went down a while ago. Now we deal with seperation of church and foot ball?
    My head hurts.
    Cheers and enjoy the freedom of speach

  3. Chef Dat says:

    Ohh PS
    Well written and informative piece. I think if you could analize the next team we play in such great detail the Saints coaching staf may start paying attention to what YOU have to say
    Mr. Torres
    Did I black out or did you not mention Bush as part of the Saints game plan at all. Do you feel his roll will deminish in preperation for the end of his contract with us or is he used sparingly due to his previous performance (fumbles,loss of yards due to out juking himself, injuries) ?
    Also Is Eckle on the injured list. Giving Bushrod help was something Coach mentioned being his fault. Do we not have faith in Eckle. Mike Karnie did great things as a full back, Heath Evans was very faluable to us. I feel as though we abandoned the position on this past game when i feel we needed it MOST. Breese doesn’t need an infinante amount of recievers too chose from he can make anyone catch UNLESS he is on his ass due to lacking protection. You mentioned the gameplan that other teams will try on us. I think sacking him would be the number two vital part of the plan (number one: keeping him on the bench) Either way what can the Saints do to keep his ass off the bench and off the ground?
    Thanks for your time GT

    • Gilbert says:

      So we meet again!

      Thanks. Glad you like the insight.

      As for Bush, I did not mention how his loss played a role in the game. You’re eright it did hurt us on offense. Always a bad thing when you lose your fastest playmaker in a game. I think if you saw the Atlanta game, Sean Payton did a good job of using Bush..10 touches, 102 yards, and 2 TDs. Has Payton finally found a niche for Bush in the offense? Reggie’s role won’t change despite the contract or performance issues. The Saints got away from the run against the Cowboys and Bush was a part of that.

      Eckel was cut from the Saints Dec. 10th, but they signed him back this week. Eckel will help. He’s a smart player. Def. something missing at fullback.

      I think Payton will start making adjustments in protection to start. If the line continues to struggle and protect Brees, expect a lot of short dump offs and quick passes, which the Saints did well last week late against the Cowboys. Maybe Strief plays in place of Bushrod? Maybe some more help from a TE or FB in blocking on that side. Payton and Co. now face some adversity and have to figure out how to protect Brees better. They will (and i think they will)figure out how to fix their flaws. That’s what championship teams do.

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