The New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys will meet for the first time since 2010 Sunday. The surging Cowboys (8-6) are in a three-way tie for first place in the NFC East and have won three straight games. The Saints (6-8) snapped a three-game losing streak with a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday. The Saints have had their way with the Cowboys lately, having won six of the last seven meetings. The Saints took the last meeting 30-27 in Cowboys Stadium.
The Cowboys and Saints are both pass-first offenses. The Cowboys’ passing offense is fourth in the NFL and averages 294.8 yards-per-game. The rushing offense is ranked 31st and averages only 80.4 yards a game. They’ve only had two games with more than 100 rushing yards in their last nine matchups. The team’s leading rusher is DeMarco Murray, who has 133 carries for 547 yards and four touchdowns.
Quarterback Tony Romo has completed 379-of-568 passes for 4,269 yards, 22 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. His yardage total ranks third behind Drew Brees (4,335) and Tom Brady (4,276). Romo and the Cowboys have been on a December roll. They’ve won three straight games and Romo has thrown for six touchdowns with just one interception, compiling a 107.4 passer rating.
Romo’s favorite target is Dez Bryant, who has caught a touchdown pass in six straight games despite a broken finger. He has 79 receptions for 1,087 yards and 10 touchdowns. It’s Bryant’s first 1,000-yard receiving season and the first Cowboy to do so since Miles Austin and Jason Witten in 2009.
The Cowboys have struggled with turnovers and have had four games with three or more giveaways. Dallas is tied for 24th with a -9 turnover margin. Romo has thrown 16 interceptions and the Cowboys have fumbled nine times compared to 16 takeaways.
The Cowboys have a middle-of-the-pack defense, which is tied for 14th and allows 340.3 yards-per-game. Their 15th-ranked run defense allows 115.2 yards per game on the ground and their 14th-ranked pass defense allows 225.1 yards.
Their leading tackler is linebacker Anthony Spencer, who has 80 tackles. He and fellow linebacker DeMarcus Ware have combined for 21.5 sacks, an impressive feat considering the Cowboys had to place two starting linebackers on injured reserve earlier this season.
Cornerback Brandon Carr leads the team with three interceptions, two of which came last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Carr has four tackles, two interceptions and four pass deflections in his last two games.
COWBOYS SPECIAL TEAMS
Kicker Dan Bailey has made 27-of-29 attempts this season, missing only on kicks longer than 50 yards. His season-long kick is from 51 yards. Bailey has made all 32 of his PAT attempts.
Punter Brian Moorman was signed by Dallas in October after an ACL tear sent Chris Jones to injured reserve. Moorman has punted 46 times for an average of 44 yards per punt. He has had a shaky season with Dallas, and particularly struggled against the Cincinnati Bengals.
He averaged only 33 yards a punt on five tries against the Bengals, including two shanked punts of 23 and 27 yards. He also had a punt returned 98 yards when the Cowboys played the Eagles on Dec. 2.
LAST TIME THEY MET
Saints 30, Cowboys 27
Nov. 25, 2010 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Cowboys wide receiver Roy Williams looked to be on his way to sealing a Cowboys win in the waning minutes. Williams caught a pass from Romo and took it 45 yards, heading toward the end zone with the Cowboys already up by four. Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins had other ideas.
Jenkins ripped the ball away from Williams’ hands at the Saints’ 11-yard line, giving his offense one more chance. Brees drove the team 89 yards and capped the drive with a 12-yard pass to wide receiver Lance More at the 1:59 mark.
The Saints had to sweat out a 59-yard field goal try by kicker David Buehler, who made a 52-yarder earlier in the game. The kick went wide left and the Saints held on to win the Thanksgiving matchup.
ETC.: The Cowboys lead the series 15-9 and are 52-24 against NFC South teams. … The Saints have won the last three games in Dallas. … Cowboys defensive end Marcus Spears went to high school in Baton Rouge and was teammates with Saints wide receiver Devery Henderson at LSU. … Romo has an 11-13 record as a starter in December.
Courtesy: Katherine Terrell | The Times-Picayune