Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, a six-time Pro Bowler, missed the fourth quarter because of a strained right shoulder and his status is unclear for next week. Ware never has missed a game in his Cowboys’ career.
Ware, already playing with a hyperextended elbow, returned for one play in overtime _ to rush the passer on third-and-3 _ but was not on the field when the Saints gained 31 yards on the pass and recovered fumble play that set up their winning field goal.
Ware, the team’s sack leader (11.5), did not talk after the game. Fellow outside linebacker Anthony Spencer said Ware is “one of the best this game has ever seen” and having him on the sideline “just takes away stuff” from what the Cowboys’ defense can do schematically.
In addition, linebacker Ernie Sims sustained a concussion on the final play of the first quarter and did not return. The departure of Sims, who also sustained a concussion in last week’s game against Pittsburgh, shifted the brunt of playing time at inside linebacker to Dan Connor (12 tackles) and Brady Poppinga (4 tackles) in a game that knocked the Cowboys (8-7) out of a share of first place in the NFC East standings.
Regardless of Ware’s availability in next week’s winner-take-all game against Washington (9-6) for the NFC East title, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he expects his defense to perform.
"I don’t know of a team in the league that’s not filling in," Jones said. "Now, we missed DeMarcus out there for some time today. But still, we’re pretty sound on where our big emphasis is in being sound and having talent. I expect our defense to play."