By Will Martin
Yesterday yours truly was privy to watching Matt Stafford and Nick Foles lead their teams to victory in dramatic fashion. Wining on the road to ensure that both teams would either be in sole possession of or have a share of first place.
Oh yes, both quarterbacks wear the #9 on their jersey.
Sunday night there was what many hoped would be a marquee shootout kind of matchup with the Cowboys and Saints. Tony Romo vs. Drew Brees.
Two guys who also wear the #9 on their jersey. Yes, there was a side angle with Rob Ryan being the ex defensive coordinator of the Cowboys now doing great things in Cajun Country.
Exactly how would the defense of the Cowboys handle the trio of Brees to Sproles to Graham and company?
Pretty poorly on all counts.
It is without a doubt very tough to play on the road in Louisiana. Cowboy fans wanted to see a repeat of what happened in 2009 when Dallas gave the Super Bowl bound champs Saints their last defeat of the regular season. That also didn’t happen. Had the Saints not scored a late touchdown you would have the exact same score New Orleans defeated Dallas by on a Sunday night in 2006 42-17. 49-17 was your final.
Some history was made along the way.
Drew Brees would successfully help his club set a record for total offensive yards in a game. 626 to be precise. In the first half the Saints out produced Dallas 320 to 100 in total yards and a 28-10 halftime lead. 3rd down conversions were a perfect 8 for 8 before the outcome was more than well determined in Bayou country.
Drew Brees threw for 394 yards and four touchdowns on 34 of 41 passing. At one point he completed 19 straight passes in a row. There was no stopping Drew in the air or the Saints running game on the ground.
It didn’t help that both DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee would ultimately be lost to injury. On a night when you hoped that Tony Romo would be in sync with Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, Terrence Williams, and Jason Witten, Rob Ryan’s schemes threw an effective shutout of said players.
Tony Romo was 10 of 24 passing for 128 yards, 1 touchdown and no interceptions. Dallas ran a total of 43 plays while New Orleans amassed 40 first downs, also an NFL record. The game began in the Cowboys favor after a muffed catch of a punt by Darren Sproles that Dwayne Harris recovered deep in Saints territory. That would result in a stalled drive and a Dan Bailey field goal 3-0.
Drew Brees would answer back with a 9 play 80 yard drive that put New Orleans ahead 7-3. The Cowboys would then rediscover their running game-if only for the first half-when DeMarco Murray would knock out a 35-yard run along with six other rushes. The final one being a 7-yard plunge into the end zone for a 10-7 Cowboys lead.
Back and forth we go, or so it seemed.
The Saints and Drew Brees answered back with a 15 play 80 yard drive that took up almost nine minutes and another New Orleans score when Brees found Pierre Thomas in the end zone for a 14-10 lead. Sean Lee was lost on this possession due to a hamstring injury and would not return. As hard as DeMarcus Ware tried he just wasn’t 100% nor effective.
Another three and out by Tony Romo. New Orleans plenty of time with the ball to go downfield and extend their lead to 21-10 on a Darren Sproles 3-yard blast. Brees would hit the end zone one final time with five seconds left in the half when Darren Sproles ran a 28-yard screen pass for a 28-10 halftime lead.
To start the second half Dallas was stopped on their first two possessions. New Orleans continued its ball moving ways. The first Saints drive resulted in a missed field goal while the second second half possession led to another score on a Mark Ingram four yard gallop. 35-10 New Orleans.
Tony Romo and the Cowboys finally got on the board late in the 3rd when Romo was able to find Jason Witten for 19 yards, Dez Bryant for 44, and Terrence Williams for a 21-yard score. The gap narrowed to 35-17. Cowboys fans hearts skipped a beat when their special teams recovered an onside kick, but the Cowboys were unable to do anything offensively.
Courtesy of a 52-yard pass play the Saints upped their lead to 42-17 when Drew Brees found Kenny Stills in the end zone for another score. Pierre Thomas ended the scoring toward the end while running out the clock with a Pierre Thomas 1-yard plunge. 49-17 the final in favor of New Orleans.
Dallas now falls to 5-5 and a tie with the Philadelphia Eagles as they go into the bye. New Orleans improves to 7-2 and a one game lead over the Carolina Panthers who suddenly have a defense after a tough 10-9 win in San Francisco.
In that first half the Saints put up 21 points in five minutes. Dallas had no answers for either side of the ball. Dez Bryant was held to that one catch. One week after all the talk of having no running game DeMarco Murray had 16 touches for 89 yards. Mark Ingram would amass 145 yards on 14 carries while Pierre Thomas had 87 yards on 17 carries. Marques Colston and Darren Sproles each had seven receptions for 107 and 76 yards for the Saints.
Unlike that road game three years and two days ago in Green Bay when Dallas allowed 45 points to be scored, Jason Garrett’s job is not in danger. Only because his team is a banged up bunch. I certainly did not expect to see the passing game be so subpar for Tony Romo this night. Credit Rob Ryan for his constant schemes and loading up the box.
In 54 years of play, the 626 total offensive yards allowed Sunday night were the most ever. 40 first downs allowed also an NFL record. Oh yes, Dallas was also shut out in the 3rd down conversion department. As in 0 for 9. That pretty much sums up this night for the Dallas Cowboys. Don’t look now but on November 24th when the Giants host Dallas in the rematch and Philadelphia loses you could see a four way tie with all teams at 5-6.
The NFC Least continues to shine in its mediocrity. 8-8 looks to be the record to be on December 29th. Back to the drawing board for the Silver and Blue. Since 1999 the Saints are 8-1 against the Cowboys. Impressive stat for nine games. That lone loss was in 2009…when the Saints were 13-0 and Super Bowl championship bound.