2014-2015 GAME 4 RECAP: New Orleans vs. Dallas | Dez delivers “We Dat” dagger | Cowboys rout Rob Ryan’s Saints, 38-17 | Gameday videos | NFL Analysis
PHOTO — Dez Bryant wasn’t the Dallas Cowboys’ primary target. Entering the fourth quarter, he only had two catches for 26 yards.
But he delivered the final blow with less than four minutes remaining, catching an 18-yard touchdown on third-and-6.
“Whenever you get the opportunity, you got to take advantage of it,” Bryant said. “That’s exactly what happened. I put the dagger. Boom.”
Bryant was so pleased with Dallas’ 38-17 victory over New Orleans that he ran to the Cowboys locker room yelling, “We Dat!” Bryant was taking a shot at Saints fans and their popular cheer, “Who Dat?”
GAME RECAP – Dallas Cowboys rout Rob Ryan’s Saints, 38-17
COWBOYS VS. SAINTS WRAP-UP: Postgame interviews and NFL video recap | Dallas Cowboys at New Orleans Saints | 2013-2014 NFL Season – Game 10 of 16
Dallas Cowboys vs. New Orleans Saints Highlights and Lowlights – (4:04)
First Take on 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys vs. Saints game from Superdome (2:29)
First impressions of the Dallas Cowboys 49-17 loss at New Orleans in Game 10 of the 2013-2014 NFL season from the Mercedes Benz Superdome. Includes partial locker room interview with Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee and short clip from Jerry Jones. (Watch Video | Play Audio)
INSIDE THE LOCKER ROOM: Jerry Jones postgame reaction to loss (5:07)
Jason Garrett Postgame Press Conference (9:24)
Tony Romo Postgame Press Conference (4:45)
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NEW ORLEANS – It was a given that Dallas Cowboys owner-general manager Jerry Jones would be reminded he fired the man who helped bring down his team last night on NBC’s nationally televised Sunday Night Football.
The Saints vaunted offense lived up to its reputation in a 49-17 demolition of Dallas. But in an equally dominant performance, the New Orleans defense stymied the Cowboys’ offense into a mere 193 total yards and 17 points.
“I thought that we would hang in real good with them, and you might have a game comparable to what we played with Denver,” Jones said. “A game like that, I think we were ready to put some offense out there. But to their credit, they saw to it that we couldn’t.”
As if he needed insult added to injury, Jones was asked how he felt about the decision to replace Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who coached for the Dallas Cowboys at this time last year.
“We thought it was best for us to go in the direction we are, and it doesn’t look good right now,” Jones said. “Hopefully we can make it look good, but I have all the feelings you have any time you look back at a decision, and I realize when some of them work you have to have a few things go along with it.”
Ryan’s extensive makeover of the Saints’ defense has paid dividends for head coach Sean Payton, who hired him after New Orleans finished last in the league in defense last year. The Saints are currently ranked fifth and sixth, respectively, in total defense and scoring defense this season.
“We had our reasons for making our change, and Sean did a good job of getting Rob down here,” Jones said. “He’s as smart as he can be, from an outstanding football bloodline. That’s why we hired him two years ago with the Cowboys.”
The Dallas Cowboys’ defense, now under the management of defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, was gashed for 625 total yards by Drew Brees and an aggressive Saints running game. It was the fourth time the Cowboys have surrendered 500 yards of offense and the second time they have surrendered 600 yards this year, further solidifying their No. 32 ranking in the NFL.
Injury again played a role in that, as Jason Hatcher missed the game and Sean Lee was lost for the night in the second quarter with a hamstring injury. Jones acknowledged the extent of the team’s injury problems, but he said he didn’t want to make an excuse of it.
“I thought we were certainly compromised, relative to our defense, where we are right now with personnel,” he said. “That’s not an excuse, because we still didn’t play as well as they played.”
The Saints allowed the Cowboys to run just 43 plays on the night, and they didn’t give up a third down conversion in nine different attempts. What success the Dallas Cowboys had on the ground, with 89 yards on 16 attempts, was offset by a complete inability to throw.
“I thought Rob’s defense was outstanding. They got after us good,” Jones said. “This is not only a tough place to play, but we know, where we are right now with our personnel on defense, we’ve got to go out and score. We’ve got to get in there and score some points. To their credit, they didn’t let us keep our offense out there.”
Jones remained optimistic, however, despite being handed the most lopsided loss of the year. He said the Dallas Cowboys need to use the bye week to regroup and recuperate.
“It’s embarrassing to lose, it’s embarrassing to not be representative, not be competitive – all of those things. But more importantly, the real issue, can we do something about it,” Jones said. “Can we get in here and use this time off, get some of our guys back, get a little healthier, come up with some ideas of how to go against the rest of the schedule and see if we can have a happier day this year – not next year, but this year.”
COWBOYS VS. SAINTS GUT-CHECK REVIEW: Dallas offense shut down; Saints rip Cowboys defense in 49-17 loss
NEW ORLEANS – Initial thoughts following the 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys’ 49-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Kavner: No one predicted the massacre that occurred Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Dallas Cowboys established a strong running presence early on and took a quick 3-0 lead, but that’s about the only positive thing to say about a team that got smashed the rest of the way. Tony Romo only had three completions for 20 yards at the half, and the Saints offense continued to move the ball at will against the Cowboys defense, particularly after Sean Lee went out with an injury. I thought we’d see a back-and-forth shootout in New Orleans. It turned out this one was over early in the third quarter, when thoughts shifted more to the Cowboys’ immediate future without Lee than it did the game, which was already wrapped up.
Helman: The popular saying around this team is that they play to their level of competition, but that was far from the case Sunday night. The offense, aside from one short drive in the third quarter, couldn’t find any rhythm or consistent production. It was nice to see the Cowboys commit to the run and find some early success, but was it worth it at the cost of such a poor passing performance? This team lives and dies with Tony Romo, as far as I’m concerned, and his inability to find even 100 passing yards when the game was still in the balance just wasn’t going to cut it. Once again we saw the defense fall well short of top-notch competition, as the Saints racked up both points and yardage. Obviously, injuries play a role in that, as Jason Hatcher was inactive and Sean Lee left the game early. But that doesn’t excuse the poor tackling or the dozen penalties. The Cowboys have dealt with their fair share of disappointment this season, but this is the first time in 10 weeks we’ve seen them get definitively outplayed.
Eatman: I really thought we’d see an old-fashioned shootout. The Saints were certainly down for it, although Rob Ryan wasn’t having it. The Cowboys just weren’t good enough on any side of the ball to stay with the Saints. Cole Beasley wasn’t really a factor like I thought. Then again neither was Dez Bryant or Jason Witten or anyone Tony Romo was throwing to. To me, the game changed completely when Sean Lee went out with a hamstring injury. That’s when the Saints just ripped the Cowboys’ defense up to no end. Drew Brees did anything he wanted and was rarely challenged. Injuries for this team aren’t excuses anymore, it’s just reality. This team was average before these injuries and now it’s even worse. The bye week just couldn’t come at a better time.
Editors note: This article relates to the pregame predictions made by the Dallas Cowboys writers on Saturday.
NEW ORLEANS – The Saints went marching in … again and again and again.
With injuries continuing to decimate the Cowboys defense and the offense unable to do much of anything, Dallas was simply dominated by New Orleans, losing 49-17 in front of a primetime national audience on Sunday Night Football.
“That did not feel good,” said owner/general manager Jerry Jones. “Anything that would go along with losing that you can say, it’s embarrassing when you lose. It’s embarrassing to not be representative, not be competitive, all of those things.”
The Dallas Cowboys started this game with a slew of injuries already hampering the defensive unit, this time Jason Hatcher, who is having a Pro Bowl-caliber season, unable to go due to a stinger suffered last week against Minnesota.
“It hurt me not being out there tonight,” Hatcher said. “Not that I say things would have been different, but I really think I could have helped my team. It hurt sitting over there just seeing my team get beat on.”
But things would only get worse for the unit, as the last person the team could afford to lose would leave the game. Early in the second quarter, Sean Lee, the quarterback of the defense, was sent to the locker room with a left hamstring injury and did not return, the severity not immediately known.
Lee plans on getting an MRI on Monday to get a better idea of the severity of the injury.
“Don’t know the severity, but obviously it’s not good,” Lee said. “So we’ve got to figure it out, and I’ll do whatever I can to rehab and get back as fast as possible.”
He was followed in the third quarter with fellow starting linebacker Justin Durant also being sidelined with a hamstring injury. And while DeMarcus Ware did come back, he was still hobbled by his right quad injury, obviously not 100 percent.
At some points during the night, especially at the end when Ware was rested, only three of the eleven projected defensive starters going into training camp (safety Barry Church, cornerback Brandon Carr and linebacker Bruce Carter) were actually in the game for the Cowboys.
So, the fact that Drew Brees and the Saints offense basically had their way with the Dallas defense probably shouldn’t have come as any surprise. The Saints finished with 625 yards of total offense, and set a new single-game NFL record with 40 first downs.
“They were able to move the ball both by running it and throwing it,” said head coach Jason Garrett. “It’s well documented we have a lot of different guys playing for us, we understand that, but we didn’t get the job done and they did.”
Brees finished the night with 392 passing yards and four touchdown tosses, narrowly missing out on becoming the fifth quarterback this season to throw for 400 yards against the Cowboys defense. Nine different players caught passes for New Orleans, with Marques Colston leading the way with 107 yards off seven grabs.
Unfortunately, the Saints didn’t just do their damage in the air, as they also rushed for 242 yards, Mark Ingram having a field day against the depleted Cowboys, running for 145 yards on 14 carries.
“There just were very few plays that we stopped,” Garrett said. “They did a lot of different things. They ran the ball when they wanted to run it. I thought Drew Brees did a fantastic job reading the coverage and finding the right guy.”
With the injury issues affecting the Dallas defense, the Cowboys needed a big game from their offense. They didn’t get it.
Facing Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who served in the same capacity for Dallas the previous two seasons, Tony Romo and Co. could do nothing, Ryan getting his revenge on his former team.
The Dallas Cowboys quarterback finished with just 128 yards on 10-of-24 passing, the second time in the last three games that he has failed to complete at least 50 percent of his passes. Backup tight end James Hanna led all Dallas receivers with three catches while Dez Bryant hauled in only one.
“We didn’t do a good enough job just finding the other guys and making them pay with the other guys who were getting isolated,” Garrett said. “We weren’t able to drive the ball the way we wanted to. We didn’t do a very good job on third down to sustain drives.”
Also not helping was a plethora of penalties. The Cowboys rushed for 89 yards, but had 11 penalties for a total of 82 yards. In all, Dallas only totaled 193 yards of offense in the game, running just 43 plays. Again, New Orleans had 40 first downs alone.
The Cowboys had the opportunity to make an early statement when Dwayne Harris beat his man on the punt coverage and then recovered a muffed punt by Darren Sproles to set Dallas up at the New Orleans’ 22-yard line. But the offense could muster only three yards, hurting themselves again with a false start penalty. On came Dan Bailey for a 37-yard field goal, the surefooted kicker good on his attempt to stake the Cowboys to an early 3-0 lead.
That didn’t last long, though. Starting at their own 20, the Saints marched right down the field, going 80 yards in nine plays with Breese hitting Colston from 22 yards out for the score and a 7-3 advantage.
Dallas then faced a scary moment when on the ensuing kickoff, Harris broke loose down the left sideline for a nice 34-yard return to the Cowboys 28. But already out of bounds, Harris was then pushed by linebacker Kevin Reddick, falling headfirst into a Saints player who was standing on the sidelines. The play was clearly a late hit, but no flag was thrown.
Harris, perhaps the best special teams player in the NFL, suffered a neck injury and went to the locker room, but did return to the game.
Undaunted, the Cowboys did something they’ve failed to do with any regularity in recent games – run the ball. As the drive pushed into the second quarter, Dallas handed the ball off to Murray seven times during the possession, his biggest gain coming on a 35 run around the left end which set the offense up at the Saints 32.
Murray then capped off the drive with another scamper around the left end from 7 yards out, diving into the end zone to give Dallas back the lead, 10-7.
Again, though, New Orleans had an answer. And this time it came at an even bigger cost to the Cowboys.
With the Saints starting at their own 20, Brees threw a short pass over the middle to running back Pierre Thomas. The linebacker Lee was in on the tackle, but in the process injured his hamstring, lost for the game.
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys have yet to get away from the .500 mark this year, failing on their last three chances to get two games over. 500 this year. Here comes their fourth opportunity but it’ll likely be the toughest challenge to date as they travel to New Orleans to face Drew Brees and the Saints.
Here are the gut feelings for writers Nick Eatman, David Helman and Rowan Kavner.
David Helman: I feel so much better about this game than I did when the week started. The Saints look vulnerable to a good pass rush, and DeMarcus Ware is back in the lineup with intent to disrupt Drew Brees. I also think the Cowboys offense will be able to move the ball against Rob Ryan’s group, which is good but maybe not as good as advertised. Unfortunately, I think the combination of Brees and Jimmy Graham will be too much to contain. I think Ware gets himself back in the sack column, but I also think Graham will bring in a touchdown or two. Much like the Denver game, the Cowboys offense will find a way to get going, but the Saints win a shootout – something like 38-28. I think a big part of that will be because the Cowboys won’t notch a turnover this week, which would be just the second time this season they haven’t produced at least one.
Rowan Kavner: I don’t expect a blowout for either side here, but the Cowboys better make sure they don’t get down in bunches early. The problem for the Cowboys in this one is that the Saints seem to do everything well that the Cowboys have had trouble with. In San Diego, the defense had trouble against Antonio Gates and Danny Woodhead, and the combination of Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles in the passing game is probably even more lethal. Despite the Saints’ improved defense under Rob Ryan, I see both teams still trading points in this one, but the Cowboys don’t have an answer for Graham or the slot threats of the Saints. I think Bruce Carter is active in this one and makes amends for the struggles he had against Woodhead earlier this year, while Jeff Heath gets an interception. Offensively, Cole Beasley ends up with more catches than Terrance Williams and Lance Dunbar finally gets involved in his hometown and has a 20-plus yard play. Eventually, the Saints’ offense is just too much, and they’re the first and last to 30 points.
Nick Eatman: Judging by the pattern of recent history, the Cowboys have a good shot here. Dating back to that 2009 game, these two teams play the opposite of what is expected. Even last year, the Cowboys were supposed to win but couldn’t stop the Saints at the end. So this year, maybe the Cowboys really do have a good shot of going to New Orleans and grabbing a win. I wish I could see it, but I don’t. Beating the Saints to improve to 6-4 heading into the bye week would be just too good for this team. Nothing comes easy for this team, especially in the Big Easy. I see the Cowboys staying with the Saints for a while, but eventually one team runs out of bullets. I think the Saints will win 38-30. I see a big game for Cole Beasley, maybe something like a double-digit catch game. I’m calling for a first career interception by Jeff Heath. But in the end, I see a flight home with a 5-5 team with two weeks to try and figure it out.
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When: Sunday, November 10th, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. (Dallas time)
Where: Superdome | New Orleans, LA
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The Dallas Cowboys got past the hapless Minnesota Vikings last Sunday at home. Now they face a powerful New Orleans team on the road. The subplots in this game are intriguing, particularly the matchup between Dallas’ offense and ex-Cowboys coordinator Rob Ryan’s Saints defense. Ryan figures to want this victory badly after he was canned last January. But even if quarterback Tony Romo gets the better of Ryan’s bunch the Saints’ potent passing game may be too much for Dallas to handle. Here is a look at how the Cowboys and Saints match up:
When the Cowboys run
DeMarco Murray returned last Sunday in the Cowboys’ victory over Minnesota. But his contribution was minimal as Dallas ran the ball only nine times. It was the lowest number of rush attempts in franchise history. The Cowboys don’t have a fearsome ground attack and don’t seem eager to develop one. The Saints may be giving up 4.95 yards per carry – the second-highest average in the NFL – but will the Cowboys try to take advantage of their weak run defense?
When the Cowboys pass
In the last four games, Tony Romo has completed only 59.5 percent of attempts while throwing seven touchdown passes and four interceptions. The Cowboys’ air attack hasn’t looked nearly as proficient as it did in an October loss to Denver, when Romo was at his best. Now they face the Saints, whose pass defense has experienced dramatic improvement under the supervision of ex-Cowboys coordinator Rob Ryan and is allowing 211.9 yards per game.
When the Saints run
Much like the Cowboys, the Saints treat their ground game like an accessory. They’ve run the ball 191 times – eight more than the Cowboys have. And they average only 79.8 rushing yards per game. The Cowboys, who allowed their first 100-yard rusher this season last Sunday, should be able to limit New Orleans when it goes away from their passing game.
When the Saints pass
Four different quarterbacks have thrown for more than 400 yards against the Cowboys this season. Drew Brees could be the fifth. The Saints have a dynamic passing attack. Their contingent of receivers is a handful. So is tight end Jimmy Graham, who has already caught 10 touchdown passes this season. The Cowboys don’t figure to be able to stop the Saints, who are averaging 317.6 yards per game through the air – the third-highest average in the NFL.
Dan Bailey continues to perform at a high level. The third-year veteran has made his last nine field-goal attempts, including two from beyond 50 yards. Bailey’s steady performance has helped the Cowboys as they’ve played in one close game after the other. Bailey’s counterpart, Southlake Carroll product Garrett Hartley, hasn’t been nearly as consistent. He’s converted only 76.2 of his tries – the sixth-worst average in the NFL.
Rob Ryan will be out for revenge. The Cowboys’ former defensive coordinator, who was fired in January, will want to shut down Dallas in a game that will be played in front of a national television audience. Perhaps no person on the field or the sidelines will be more motivated than Ryan, who will feed off the energy supplied by the boisterous crowd at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Cowboys will face perhaps the toughest road test of the season.
COWBOYS VS. SAINTS GAMEDAY PRIMER: NFL Films Game Preview | Scouting Report on New Orleans key players | Tony Romo game winning drive
NFL Films Preview: New Orleans Saints vs. Dallas Cowboys
NFL Films previews the 2013 Week 10 matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints. (Watch Video)
|Know The Enemy: Film Breakdown and Scouting Report on Saints DE Cameron Jordan||Know The Enemy: Film Breakdown and Scouting Report on New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees|
|(Watch Video | Play Audio)||(Watch Video | Play Audio)|
NFL Sound FX: Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo Mic’d Up
COWBOYS VS. SAINTS GAMEDAY PRIMER: Jason Garrett press conference | Friday practice with Injury Update
Jason Garrett: Dallas Cowboys vs. New Orleans Saints road game (12:02)
- Update on DT gameplan regarding Hatcher, Hayden, and other linemen
- How the team prepares next man up when dealing with injuries
- Thoughts on Everett Brown flexibility along the defensive line
- How 4-3 linemen flex compared to traditional 3-4 scheme
- Long term concern about Dez Bryant’s back issues
- Difference in game planning for a high scoring opponent
- What impacts DeMarcus Ware’s injuries in either the 3-4 or 4-3 scheme
- Familiarity with Saints because of coaches former ties with Dallas Cowboys
- Opinion on Saints draft pick Kenny Vaccaro – Safety
- Bringing injured players to a road game to help coach; sideline presence
- Weathering the Storm approach in hostile road games; adaption
- Thoughts on Dwayne Harris this season
- Need for the bye-week as compared to other seasons
- This weeks contradictions about running the ball more and balance
- How to view stats when comparing balance and wins
DALLAS COWBOYS INJURY AND PRACTICE UPDATE – FRIDAY
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Jason Garrett: Dallas Cowboys vs. New Orleans Saints road game (9:37)
- Dez Bryant’s back issue and status
- Dez Bryant injury similar to Washington game last season
- DeMarcus Ware movement
- Nick Hayden rib update
- DeMarcus Ware pushing and pulling reps
- Last time Cowboys was in New Orleans comparison, record confidence
- Guarding against criticism overcorrections and exterior forces
- Rob Ryan and Monte Kiffin taking game personally because of coaching changes
- Signs that the offense is functioning like it should be
- Jason Hatcher stinger
- Personal feelings about facing Rob Ryan and his Saints defense
- Tony Dorsett’s chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)
- Player safety issues addressed by NFL and Cowboys
- Crash Davis – Bull Durham
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Jason Garrett: Dallas Cowboys vs. New Orleans Saints road game (15:33)
- Comparing Brees to the other prolific passers faced in 2013-2014 season
- Everett Dawkins addition to Marinelli’s Misfits
- Key to stopping New Orleans offense
- Confidence in secondary, after seeing how they’ve covered similar offenses
- DeMarcus Ware’s return to practice; expected game impact
- Familiarity with Rob Ryan vs. Rob Ryan’s familiarity with Cowboys offense
- Comparing the Rob Ryan defense in New Orleans compared to his Dallas scheme
- Relationship he has with Rob Ryan after termination, and now
- Lessons learned from Sean Payton’s style, as an offensive play caller
- Comparing the defensive injuries from this season compared to last year
- Applying lessons from other tight ends this season to game planning Graham
- Will Graham be defended as a tight end or wide receiver
- Evaluating Gavin Escobar production relative to the spot taken in the NFL Draft
- Staying with Jason Witten, even when he’s in catching slumps; overall impact
- How they’ll preparing for uniquely gifted athletes, like Darren Sproles
- Addressing the locker room situations that have developed in Miami
- Simulating and handling stadiums with crowd noise issues
- Weather yards-per-carry is an effective way to grade offensive linemen
- Evaluating run efficiency vs. yards-per-carry; season grade on this line
- Bruce Carter and Ernie Simms competition for starting spot
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IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys are getting exactly what they want out of their new defensive coaching additions, while the defensive mind they let go is excelling elsewhere. Consider that a win through three weeks for both parties.
The Dallas defense resides in the top 10 in the league in sacks and takeaways led by new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, while the coordinator the Cowboys let go has shifted New Orleans’ putrid defense of last year to the No. 5 total defense in the NFL this season.
In the minds of some, former Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan didn’t do a lousy job in Dallas last year. Fact remains, the Cowboys weren’t happy with the lack of pressure and thought they should upgrade.
The front office (Jerry Jones) stressed an emphasis on takeaways after creating just 16 all of last season. They now have seven through three games with Kiffin and Marinelli, due in large part to the havoc created by the defensive line, as the Cowboys sit atop the NFC with 13 sacks. They’re also tied for sixth in turnover differential at plus-3 with a top-10 scoring defense.
Kiffin and Marinelli insisted they didn’t need a defensive lineman in the draft to conjure the kind of pressure they needed on their defense. Even without Jay Ratliff or Anthony Spencer, they’ve been exactly right. DeMarcus Ware is back to his old form and the switch to defensive end may even help him reach the quarterback more often.
The defensive coaches continue to get elite play at defensive tackle out of Jason Hatcher, who’s tallied a sack in each of the team’s first three games, while turning Nick Hayden and George Selvie into legitimate starters.
Selvie said he feels he has a coach in Marinelli who believes in him, and that coach is getting the best out of his group. It’s obvious, and head coach Jason Garrett sees the same thing.
“He’s just an excellent football coach and teaching is a big part of that, inspiring is a big part of that, seeing the real positive traits in people and getting them into situations where they can be successful,” Garrett said. “(Marinelli) helps them be successful by how he teaches them technically, how he teaches them physically, how he teaches them emotionally.”
The Cowboys’ three interceptions may not seem like much, but that’s three times as many as they had through three weeks with Rob Ryan last season.
The colorful, boisterous defensive mind has to be a revered character in New Orleans, demonstrating his worth by changing the culture of the Saints’ defense. New Orleans allowed 440.1 yards per game and 28.4 points per game last season, and those numbers are down to 295.7 yards per game and 12.7 points per game so far.
Both sides are getting exactly what they wanted by fixing the problems of the past. It’s a small sample size, but the Cowboys and Saints are reaping every benefit they could have hoped for with their offseason defensive changes.
This should create quite a buzz (and another comparison) going into week 10 …
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ARLINGTON – It’s obvious that if Jason Witten had a choice, he’d rather have the Cowboys reach the playoffs than accomplish an individual record.
But he wasn’t given that option Sunday. The Cowboys had their playoff hopes removed from their control with a 34-31 loss to the New Orleans Saints in overtime. However, the game proved to be a record-setting one for Witten, who became the NFL’s record holder for receptions in a single season by a tight end.
Witten’s two overtime grabs gave him 103 on the season, one more than Tony Gonzalez achieved in a record-setting 2004 season with the Kansas City Chiefs.
“This is something that’s special, obviously,” Witten said. “There have been a lot of good tight ends play for a long time and I have so much respect for the game. To be in this position and break that it’s special, probably more so this year because of the way the season started for me.”
Witten, a seven-time Pro Bowler, suffered a lacerated spleen during the preseason opener in Oakland. Many thought he would miss the season opener against the New York Giants and, instead, set his sights on playing in Week 2. But Witten played through the injury and caught two passes against the Giants.
As Witten fought to get healthy, his play suffered. During the first three weeks, Witten dropped five passes. But he bounced back in Week 4 against the Chicago Bears, catching 13 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown. Over the last 12 weeks, Witten has had at least six receptions in all but two outings.
“I’m thankful I have him as my tight end,” Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said. “Jason’s had an incredible season, an incredible career and it keeps getting better and better.”
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."
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ARLINGTON, Texas — The Cowboys lost control of their season.
It’s something coach Jason Garrett didn’t want. It’s something Jerry Jones doesn’t want but that’s the reality of things as the Cowboys head into Christmas Day.
New Orleans defeated Dallas, 34-31 in overtime at Cowboys Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The Cowboys playoff hopes are now on life support thanks to this defeat.
What it means?: The Cowboys needed to win their last two regular season games to clinch the NFC East. But the loss, combine with the Washington Redskins victory, keeps the Cowboys on the outside of the playoff picture. Later today, a New York Giants victory will also hurt the Cowboys chances of reaching the postseason. Wins by the Giants and Redskins only hurt the Cowboys. But any loss by the Cowboys’ rivals helps.
DeMarcus Ware’s injury: The Cowboys outside linebacker missed a bulk of the second half with a right shoulder strain. Ware was battling a hyper-extended elbow and a shoulder that was popping out of place. With Ware out of the game, the Cowboys asked Victor Butler and Anthony Spencer to pick up the pass rush in Ware’s absence. Ware did return with 12:05 to play in overtime for one snap then left.
DeMarco Murray’s fumble: With 4:17 to play in the third quarter, Murray fumbled at the Cowboys 5. He was stripped by linebacker Curtis Lofton, who also recovered. Murray lost the ball just before his knee hit the ground. The turnover, with the game tied at 17-17, was costly. Drew Brees found Pierre Thomas for the touchdown to give the Saints a 24-17 lead. It would be a lead the Saints would barely hold onto.
Dez Bryant’s big day: Dez Bryant finished with nine catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns. He’s scored a touchdown in his last seven games and continues to be a big play threat for the Cowboys. However, after a solid first half effort by Bryant, he didn’t make a catch until the fourth quarter.
The fumble or was it a catch?: The game turned in overtime when Drew Brees completed a pass to Marques Colston. Morris Claiborne striped Colston of the ball and the ball rolled down the field where Jimmy Graham and Eric Frampton gave chase. Graham recovered at the Cowboys 2. After a review to see if Colston gained possession of the ball before he lost it, the play was confirmed. Kicker Garrett Hartley booted a 20-yarder to clinch the victory.
Jason Witten sets single-season record: Tight end Jason Witten finished with six catches for 60 yards. He now has 103 catches on the season setting the NFL single-season record for catches by a tight end, breaking the mark set by Tony Gonzalez. Witten caught a five-yard pass in overtime to break the record.
Who’s next?: The Redskins host the Cowboys in the regular season finale and a victory by the home team clinches the NFC East. But the Cowboys need help to reach the postseason, like a Giants loss.
The Cowboys are making December one to remember for all the right reasons. They’ve won three games this month and five of their last six. Now, they face New Orleans, a 6-8 team that is on the verge of missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2008 season. The Saints have been damaged by the penalties stemming from the bounty scandal that rocked the NFL in the off-season. But they still have one of the most prolific offenses in the league, producing more points on average than every other team except New England. Here is a look at how both the Cowboys and Saints match up:
When the Cowboys run
DeMarco Murray has rushed for more than 100 yards in a game once this season. But his impact is far greater than his output. His presence is vital to the Cowboys’ success. Since entering the league in 2011, Dallas is 10-1 when Murray has 14 or more carries. Murray should get plenty of opportunities Sunday against a New Orleans team allowing 146.3 rushing yards per game – the second-highest average in the NFL this season.
When the Cowboys pass
In the last seven games, Tony Romo has revived a season that seemed headed for disaster. Since Nov. 1, he has thrown 13 touchdowns passes and only three interceptions. He has also passed for 300 or more yards five times. Romo’s strong performance has coincided with the most productive stretch of Dez Bryant’s career. Bryant has collected eight touchdown receptions in the last six games and has a good chance to find the end zone again against a Saints team giving up 287 yards per game through the air – the second-highest average in the NFL this season.
When the Saints run
New Orleans’ commitment to its ground game can be questioned. This season, the Saints have rushed the ball 314 times – the second-lowest total in the NFL this season. But when New Orleans has turned to its running backs, they have been successful, averaging 4.45 yards per carry. Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and Chris Ivory form a strong backfield that will test a Cowboys defense featuring a patchwork front. But Dallas held strong against Pittsburgh last week, limiting the Steelers to 69 yards on the ground.
When the Saints pass
Drew Brees has become one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history directing a high-powered offense. Even in this season of disappointment, Brees has excelled. He leads the league in passing yards, throwing for 4,335 in 14 games. But his record has been blighted by 18 interceptions – the highest total in the league. Brees commands an air attack that Dallas’ secondary will be challenged to stop. Four Saints players are among the 50 NFL players with the most receptions. The Cowboys, meanwhile, have allowed opposing quarterbacks to throw for more than 250 yards in three of their last four games.
In less than two seasons, Dan Bailey has emerged as one of the NFL’s most consistent kickers and a key contributor for the Cowboys. In an overtime victory over Pittsburgh last Sunday, Bailey made his seventh game-winning field goal, tying a franchise record. This season, he has connected on 27 of 29 attempts and every kick inside of 50 yards. Bailey has been considerably more successful than Southlake’s own Garrett Hartley. Hartley has made only 15 of 18 field-goal tries and his conversion rate is ranked in the bottom half of the league.
The New Orleans Saints haven’t been eliminated from playoff contention. But with eight losses their chances of qualifying for the postseason are extremely slim. The Cowboys, on the other hand, have a very realistic shot of playing beyond the regular season. Their confidence is high after their recent stretch of success and they will be motivated to earn their sixth victory in their last seven games. A rejuvenated home crowd should help them.
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IRVING, Texas – All hands saddle up. A Texas sized shootout is about to commence.
Think about it. That is exactly how these Dallas Cowboys have turned a 3-5 start to this 2012 season into an encouraging 8-6 with two games to go and a potential playoff berth emerging out of the blue.
And it’s the exact same old Texas cattle drive toughness needed this Sunday at Cowboys Stadium. It’s this suddenly surging Cowboys team, winner of three straight games this late in a season (for only the second time since they swept the final five in the 1993 Super Bowl campaign), meets head on with those 6-8 New Orleans Saints.
Everyone, that is. All 92 hands comprising the 46-man, game-day roster, along with every one of those coaches and staff personnel, from head coach Jason Garrett to defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, all the way down to little-known but hardworking Ben Bloom and Dave Borgonzi.
For this injury-riddled team, possibly growing up before our very, and for some, quite unsuspecting eyes, they have needed and will continue to need the village that has been the impetus for a second-half surge, winning five of the past six games to vault into a three-way tie for first place in the NFC East with Washington and New York.
That is why so many of you are having significant problems trying to figure out what happened between 3-5 and 8-6. Why a team that lost three of those first eight games by an eyelash suddenly has won four of these five by the equal breath of that same eyelash.
Oh, it’s been the red-hot play of Tony Romo, you say, the Cowboys quarterback completing 168-of-250 passing attempts in the past six games for 1,875 yards, 12 touchdowns and just three interceptions, factoring out to a 100.3 passer rating.
Or it’s been Dez Bryant, putting together a Pro Bowl-push of consistency in the same six games, grabbing 37 passes for 584 yards and eight of his 10 touchdowns, as many scores in 14 games as any No. 88 in Cowboys history has ever caught in a 16-game season, not even giving quarter to a fractured left index finger.
Or it’s been the return of DeMarco Murray, the lead runner who has come back to gain 213 yards and score three rushing touchdowns on 213 carries since missing six and a half straight games with torn foot ligaments.
Or the steady hand of Jason Witten, leading the team with 97 catches, just six shy of becoming the NFL’s all-time leader in single-season receptions by a tight end.
Or the emergence of play-making receiver/returner Dwayne Harris, seven catches for 79 yards these past two games, along with a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 39-yarder this past Sunday.
Or this rookie tight end James Hanna, three catches for 48 yards these past two games and a mismatch for any linebacker trying to run cross-field with him while their defensive partners are preoccupied doubling Witten.
Or cornerback Brandon Carr, two picks in the past two games, the second this past Sunday setting up Dan Bailey’s game-winning 21-yard field goal in overtime. And oh, Bailey is a candidate too, since that kick means he has made 12-of-12 field goals in this six-game stretch.
Or Anthony Spencer, whose seven sacks in the last six has spurred on a defense that seemingly loses a starter a week (seven total from the nickel defense this past Sunday) and has compensated for fellow outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware essentially playing with his right arm (injured elbow and shoulder) tied behind his back.
Or defensive coordinator Rob Ryan using spit and duct tape to piece together a defense littered with guys signed off their couches to replace the five defensive starters now on injured reserve if you count nickel back Orlando Scandrick in that total, and then also nose tackle Jay Ratliff (out for the remainder of the regular season at least) and his backup Josh Brent on NFI following the tragic accident two weeks ago.
My gosh, this team even lost its punter. They lassoed another from the Buffalo Bills.
If they just lose one more … look, they haven’t exactly slammed the door shut on the past four opponents, but with the exception of the 38-31 loss to Washington, they have come up with key stops or plays to close out the final three games, the last in overtime.
And even some insist the tragic accident killing practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown and charging Brent, the driver, with intoxication manslaughter, coupled with Brown’s mother, Stacey Jackson, expression of uncommon compassion for Brent, has galvanized this team, as if suddenly playing for a bigger cause.
Who am I to say that is a corny take, since there has been a noticeable focus and determination in these guys’ eyes ever since, along with a noticeable budding confidence that no matter what – a broken finger, lost comrade, 10-point fourth-quarter deficit, the inability to score more than 10 points in any first half this season, and injured teammates. As many as 16 guys signed to this roster since the start of the season and having to play the unknown likes of Sterling Moore, Michael Coe, Brady Poppinga, Ernie Sims, Bryan Schaefering, Charlie Peprah and Eric Frampton – they shall overcome.
“Really, it’s just we’ve gotten to a point where we’re a mentally tough football team,” Romo said during a conference call with New Orleans reporters. “In saying that, I believe when I step on the field in the fourth quarter, if we’re within 10-14 points, we’re going to find a way to win the ballgame.”
So as you see, there have been beaucoup factors and Ranch hands elevating their play in this turnaround for the Cowboys, if indeed you want to call it a turnaround, since they lost the Baltimore game by a foot or two when Bailey experienced his last field-goal miss (from 51) at the buzzer and lost the second Giants game by a fingertip (Bryant’s landing out the back of the end zone, nullifying what was initially ruled a winning touchdown in the final seconds).
And while the quarterback’s influence on a game normally is overwhelming, as you can see there have been so, so many other factors in the Cowboys’ recent success. Sunday against the Saints won’t be any different, if you factor in that the Cowboys’ banged up defense has to go up against the league’s third-ranked offense, powered by the league’s second-ranked passing offense.
You know what that means, right? Drew Brees, Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Jimmy Graham, Mark Ingram and especially Darren Sproles, the Saints’ nickel running back who is second on the team with seven touchdowns – six of those receptions – and is as dangerous a kick returner as Dallas has faced all season long.
That also means the Cowboys better score some points, which they have been doing, an offense aided by some defensive plays and touchdowns, along with a few plays on special teams. Just look, the Cowboys have scored at least 27 points in four of the past six games and more than 30 in half of those games.
Plus, anything they can get on special teams would be dandy, whether it be a Harris kick return or a Victor Butler forced fumble recovered in enemy territory, and for sure for Bailey to continue on his six-game streak of perfection.
When you look at these Cowboys like this, you need not have been on the actual cattle drive to understand the meaning of all hands saddle up. Get ready for a shootout. Those varmints from The Bayou face The Boys in Dallas. Be at the Cowboys Corral, at high noon.
Courtesy: Mickey Spagnola; edited by Robert D Knight
Editors note: Mentioned in this article … Ben Bloom (quality control), Dave Borgonzi (volunteer assistant)
Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
The Dallas Cowboys are right in the thick of things after a big win over Pittsburgh. But an 8-6 record can only take you so far, and the Cowboys must now win against a high flying Saints team to keep the momentum going. So before the Cowboys host New Orleans this weekend, here’s a look at 10 Saints you ought to know before kickoff.
Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images
QB Drew Brees – One of the greatest players to ever play the position, Brees is in the midst of another great statistical year despite the Saints’ struggles. In Week 5, he broke Johnny Unitas’ record for consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass, which had stood over 50 years. Brees has passed for 4,335 yards and 36 touchdowns this season but has thrown 18 interceptions including five against the Falcons a few weeks ago. He did bounce back and threw for 307 yards and 4 TD’s with no interceptions against Tampa Bay last week so the Cowboys secondary must be ready a tough challenge.
ROB RYAN RADIO NETWORK: Anthony Spencer will relay defensive plays, Gerald Sensabaugh the backup signal caller
Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan opted to have linebacker Ernie Sims call the signals last week, but Sims was sidelined after only five plays with a concussion. Teams can designate only two defensive players to wear a radio helmet, and that left Anthony Spencer to go back to having Ryan in his ear.
"I think last week he started hearing other voices in his head, so we took him out of the game," Ryan joked Friday. "That was the problem. And he started to listening to them, too. That was really bad when he started listening to the other guy."
Spencer will return to play-calling duties this week, with Gerald Sensabaugh serving as the backup signal-caller. Sean Lee had the radio helmet until he was lost for the season with a toe injury in the Carolina game. Spencer had it after that except for the five plays last week.
"These guys [the Saints] are famous for getting you caught with too many men on the field and all that," Ryan said. "We’ve seen that a few times. We’ve got to work on that, but they do punk teams. Try to substitute a lot, you’ve got to be careful; you’ve got to pick our spots on that, and it’s important to make sure we have a guy out there that is on everything so you can call your game. It’s really difficult signaling nowadays, and it’d be tough to go back to how we used to do it. We’d do it, but it is tough."
The Dallas Cowboys were able to get by in pass coverage last week without Morris Claiborne against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
They’ll need him this week against the New Orleans Saints.
Ben Roethlisberger was still showing the effects of a rib injury that kept him sidelined for three weeks over the Thanksgiving holiday. His passes lacked their usual crispness against the Cowboys, sailing high, low and behind his receivers a good portion of the afternoon.
That’s never been a problem for Saints quarterback Drew Brees, one of the most accurate passers ever to play the game. He has completed 65.57 percent of his career throws, second best in NFL history. He hits his receivers in stride, which allows them to add yardage after the catch.
The Saints rank second in the NFL in passing, and Brees leads all quarterbacks with 4,335 yards. All four of his primary targets at wide receiver — Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Lance Moore and Joseph Morgan — have 100-yard receiving games this season, as does tight end Jimmy Graham.
In addition, Darren Sproles leads NFL running backs with 60 receptions, and fellow halfback Pierre Thomas ranks third in the NFL in yards after the catch at 10.1.
The Saints force defenses to cover every patch of earth on the football field. Brees has Henderson deep, Graham on seam routes and Colston and Moore on slants and outs all day.
If a defense elects to sit back in zones, Brees will feed Sproles and Thomas with screens and swings — so even your defensive ends need to be involved in pass coverage.
The way to beat the Saints is to keep Brees and this explosive passing attack off the field, and opponents have done a superb job of that this season.
New Orleans has only played offense an average of 28 minutes per game this season, which explains why they are out of the playoff hunt at 6-8.
But for those 28 minutes, the Cowboys are going to need Claiborne, Brandon Carr, Mike Jenkins, Sterling Moore and Michael Coe on their A games. The Saints are going to give them a workout.
Brees has thrown 50 passes in a game three times this season. He has a 400-yard passing game and seven 300-yard games. His 36 touchdown passes lead the league, and he’s been sacked only 24 times.
Bring your track shoes.
RELATED: Claiborne expects to play Sunday against Saints
Morris Claiborne said that as of Wednesday, he feels fine and he expects to play on Sunday against the Saints. He said he passed his concussion tests and was cleared.
He knows the Cowboys will need every defensive back they can get against Drew Brees and his five big-play targets, although he was encouraged by the secondary’s showing without him against the Steelers last week.
“I feel like it’s way better the depth that we have, and the guys that are behind someone, they’re still playing,” said Claiborne, who practiced Wednesday. “So if someone were to happen to get out – for instance, I didn’t play last week, but we had a guy who could step in, and we didn’t lose anything.”
Claiborne said he is impressed by the way the team continues to find players who can come in and play. Cornerbacks Michael Coe and Sterling Moore each played days after arriving, and safety Eric Frampton has taken on a big role since originally being signed to help the special teams depth.
“Everybody comes in with some football smarts,” Claiborne said. “To get in here and to focus, to be able to learn this defense, you see guys staying after, just trying to get help and learn their position. It lets us know that it’s important to them because it’s important to us.”
On top of that, Claiborne said the new players have fit in personality-wise.
“Everybody that comes in here, it seems like he connects with us right like that,” Claiborne said. “I think the coaching staff does a great job of the guys they select to be in the locker room.”
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.
With just two weeks left to play in the season, the drama only continues to build in the NFC East, as three teams are tied for the division lead.
Washington Redskins 8-6
Dallas Cowboys 8-6
New York Giants 8-6
Philadelphia Eagles 4-10
The NFL is thinking about flexing the Dallas Cowboys INTO another Sunday Night Football game.
The Cowboys currently have one more NBC Sunday night game on the schedule,, Dec. 2 when the Philadelphia Eagles visit. That would be their fourth prime time game this season. The NFL allows six.
The fifth could come Sunday Dec. 23 when the New Orleans Saints come to Cowboys Stadium. Currently penciled in for NBC that night is the disappointing San Diego Chargers at the horrible New York Jets. The NFL and NBC would like to get out of that mess.
I know the Cowboys and Saints are both 4-5 but they have upsides. The Cowboys have a four winnable games coming and the Saints have Drew Brees who can carry a team. Not saying it’s a lock but it’s a definite maybe.