Saints out of play­offs,

An 0-4 start hurt chances for team that has won seven of its last 11 games.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Schuyler Dixon

AR­LING­TON — Drew Brees and the New Or­leans Saints won’t go to the play­offs in their sea­son with­out sus­pended coach Sean Pay­ton.

The Dal­las Cow­boys still have a say in whether they get there.

Play­ing near Pay­ton’s home in a Dal­las sub­urb, Brees threw for 446 yards and three touch­downs and led a drive to Gar­rett Hart­ley’s win­ning 20-yard field goal in over­time, and the Saints briefly took the Cow­boys’ play­off fate out of their hands with a 3431 over­time vic­tory on Sun­day.

The Cow­boys (8-7) re­gained con­trol of their post­sea­son hopes when the New York Giants lost at Baltimore later Sun­day. Dal­las will make the play­offs as the NFC East cham­pion with a vic­tory at Washington next Sun­day night. A wild-card spot is no longer a pos­si­bil­ity for the Cow­boys.

The Saints, who started 0-4 af­ter be­ing stunned by the year­long ban for Pay­ton in the team’s bounty scan­dal, lost their faint play­off hopes when Min­nesota beat Hous­ton, and had to hold off a twotouch­down rally in the fi­nal 3:35 by Dal­las.

Tony Romo had 416 yards pass­ing and four TDs, in­clud­ing a 19-yarder to Miles Austin with 15 sec­onds left in reg­u­la­tion to send the game to over­time.

“Even if we would have won to­day, we would have needed that game next week ob­vi­ously. There’s eas­ier places to go play than New York, Philly and Washington for the di­vi­sion ev­ery year,” Romo said be­fore the Giants lost.

“We’re never go­ing to let any­one tell us we’re not play­ing for some­thing,” Brees said. “We knew there were a lot of things that had to hap­pen. We wanted to worry about the things we could con­trol. What would have been worse is if Min­nesota had lost and we had lost.”

Af­ter New Or­leans (7-8) forced a punt on the first pos­ses­sion of over­time, Brees moved the Saints to the Cow­boys 33. He com­pleted a pass to Mar­ques Col­ston, who took a cou­ple of steps be­fore Mor­ris Clai­borne stripped the ball, send­ing it rolling about 20 yards to the Dal­las 2.

Jimmy Gra­ham, who said he dis­lo­cated a fin­ger on a 26-yard catch to start the drive, won a scrum with Dal­las’ Eric Framp­ton. The com­ple­tion that started the bizarre play was held up on re­view, clear­ing the way for Hart­ley’s kick.

The Cow­boys started the day with their play­off fate in their hands, and ended it the same way thanks to the Ravens, who beat the Giants 33-14. A Dal­las win over the Red­skins would guar­an­tee a tie atop the NFC East, and the Cow­boys hold the tiebreaker edge.

“When you are in this sit­u­a­tion, you have to go forth like you are play­ing for a play­off spot,” Dal­las de­fen­sive end Mar­cus Spears said.

“Try­ing to de­ter­mine what will hap­pen, all of that will get in the way of us pre­par­ing for the Red­skins.”

The Cow­boys pulled within a touch­down on a 16-yard pass from Romo to Dwayne Har­ris and got the ball back with 1:29 re­main­ing. Romo led the Cow­boys 64 yards in seven plays, capped by the ty­ing toss to Austin, who caught the ball on his knees in the end zone. It was Dal­las’ third over­time game in the past five at home.

Romo also had a pair of 58-yard scor­ing passes to Dez Bryant, who had a ca­reer-high 224 yards re­ceiv­ing. Romo was 26 of 43 and broke his own fran­chise record for pass­ing yards in a sea­son. He has 4,685.

ri­Cardo b. brazziell / amer­i­Can-states­man

New Or­leans’ Gar­rett Hart­ley kicks the win­ning field goal in over­time.

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