Cow­boys shut down Brees, Saints to win fourth in row

Dal­las holds New Or­leans, win­ner of 10 straight com­ing in and owner of the NFL’s high­est-scor­ing of­fense, to 27 points un­der its sea­son av­er­age

Star-Telegram - - Front Page - BY CLARENCE E. HILL JR. [email protected]­gram.com

De­fen­sive end DeMar­cus Lawrence called it and the Dal­las Cow­boys backed him with a pro­fanely shock­ing 13-10 vic­tory over the New Or­leans Saints on Thurs­day at AT&T Sta­dium.

The Cow­boys ended the Saints’ 10-game win­ning streak while ex­tend­ing their own streak to four straight games.

But more im­por­tantly, they brought new life to the dream that they can­not only make a push to the play­offs over the last month of the sea­son but pos­si­bly win in the play­offs. (And face New Or­leans again?)

Run­ning back Ezekiel El­liott said the Cow­boys backed up Lawrence, who ex­ple­tively promised to phys­i­cally take the Saints out of their com­fort zone, and shocked the world.

“I think we showed we can com­pete with the best teams in the league,” El­liott said. “No one be­lieved in us. The whole na­tion thought we were go­ing to lose. We came out and shocked the world. The crazy thing is we could have played so much bet­ter. We are go­ing to en­joy this vic­tory and cel­e­brate it. But we got to get back to work. We got a lot more foot­ball left.”

And a lot of added pos­si­bil­ties for a team that was seem­ingly left for dead at 3-5 just four weeks ago.

That’s what hap­pens when you beat the league’s best team and pro­fanely choke out the league’s high­est-scor­ing of­fense, just as Lawrence pre­dicted.

The Saints (10-2), who came in av­er­ag­ing 37 points per game, scored their fewest points since 2015 as Lawrence and the Cow-

boys’ de­fense held quar­ter­back Drew Brees to a dis­mal and seem­ingly im­pos­si­ble 127 yards pass­ing and that of­fense to just 176 yards.

Cor­ner­back Jour­dan Lewis sealed the game with an in­ter­cep­tion with 2:08 left in the game.

The Cow­boys con­trolled the clock and did just enough on of­fense, de­spite two turnovers and al­low­ing whop­ping seven sacks, to nurse this one to vic­tory after tak­ing a 13-0 lead at half­time.

What can’t the Cow­boys do now?

They re­main in first place in the NFC East at 7-5 and now have 10 days off be­fore fac­ing the Philadel­phia Ea­gles in a show­down for first place and con­trol of the di­vi­sion.

Five thoughts from the game:

1. Dak Prescott out­du­eled Saints quar­ter­back Drew Brees in the first half, play­ing a near flaw­less game in com­plet­ing 15 of 17 passes for 194 yards and a touch­down to stake the Cow­boys to a 13-0 lead. He wasn’t per­fect. He was sacked seven times over­all, had a fum­ble that he re­cov­ered and couldn’t get the Cow­boys into the end zone on two drives in the red zone. But he was ef­fi­cient and pa­tient and didn’t do any­thing to lose the game.

And while the Cow­boys had just one first down for 17 yards in the third quar­ter, the game came down to the fourth and Prescott did just enough when it mat­tered most. He took time off the clock on a cru­cial fourth-quar­ter drive that cov­ered nearly seven min­utes with three third-down con­ver­sions, though the Cow­boys couldn’t cash in be­cause of a sack and a forced fum­ble on third down in­side the 10-yard line. The time elapsed was im­por­tant, es­pe­cially when the Saints threw an in­ter­cep­tion on the en­su­ing drive. There was no time left for a come­back. The Cow­boys got the ball back and got a first-and-goal on an in­ter­fer­ence penalty on a pass to Amari Cooper. Prescott then kneeled the game out from the Saints’ 1-yard line. He fin­ished 24 of 28 for 248 yards and a quar­ter­back rat­ing of 115. Cooper had eight catches for 75 yards.

2. Run­ning back Ezekiel El­liott is go­ing need the 10-day lay­off after what his mother called a “blue-col­lar game” against the Saints on Twit­ter. El­liott came into the game nurs­ing a sore hip after record­ing three 100-yard games in 12 days. El­liott had 14 car­ries for a tough 39 yards in the first half and 17 for 43 through three quar­ters. He did have a 16-yard touch­down re­cep­tion on a screen pass in the se­cond quar­ter. El­liott was 19 of 50 be­fore a 21-yard run late in the fourth quar­ter. The Cow­boys con­trolled the ball and the game with El­liott bat­tered and bloody at the end. He fin­ished with 76 yards on 23 car­ries while see­ing his 100-yard game streak come to an end. But he will take the win and the rest.

“We are def­i­nitely go­ing to ap­pre­ci­ate it,” El­liott said of the rest. “We have had a tough stretch. We han­dled it well. We have to take care of our bod­ies, get back to work and build on this foun­da­tion we laid.”

3. De­fen­sive end DeMar­cus Lawrence may have just etched him­self in Cow­boys lore for­ever. His pre-game quote about be­ing phys­i­cal against the Saints’ of­fense, get­ting them out of their com­fort zone and then chok­ing them out, went vi­ral. Lawrence backed his tough talk up, though, es­pe­cially in the first half with a sack and a forced fum­ble on Brees, and a tackle for no gain on fourth down from the 1. Lawrence was part of a de­fense that held the Saints score­less in the first half for the first time since 2014, which also came against the Cow­boys at AT&T Sta­dium; a span of 71 games. Brees was 7 for 13 for 39 yards in the first half, his low­est pass­ing to­tal in the first half since 2004.

And the Saints run­ning backs com­bined for 28 yards on seven car­ries in the first half. Lawrence and the de­fense fin­ished it off in the se­cond half de­spite some har­row­ing mo­ments. Brees passes for 127 yards and had a 71.6 quar­ter­back rat­ing. The Cow­boys de­fense made plays all night with Lewis com­ing up the big­gest with a game-seal­ing in­ter­cep­tion. But that was caused by a fierce pass rush by Maliek Collins, who forced a hur­ried throw. Lineback­ers Jay­lon Smith and Leighton Van­der Esch came up with big stops and cor­ner­back By­ron Jones lived up to his billing as the league’s top-rated cor­ner­back by all but shut­ting down Saints elite re­ceiver Michael Thomas. Jones was flagged twice for hold­ing and pass in­ter­fer­ence but he had three pass de­flec­tions and held Thomas to five catches for 40 yards.

4. The Cow­boys sur­vived them­selves in the third and fourth quar­ters thanks to mis­cues that could have turned the game. The Saints got three first downs via penalty on the fi­nal drive of the third quar­ter. Two were on Jones for hold­ing and pass in­ter­fer­ence. The killer was a rough­ing the punter on Randy Gre­gory after the Cow­boys had stopped the Saints on third down when Van­der Esch blasted Mark In­gram for a loss. The Saints fin­ished the drive with a 30-yard touch­down pass from Brees to Keith Kirk­wood to make the score 13-10 with 1:08 left in the third quar­ter in what proved to be the turn­ing point of the game. It hap­pened again on the Saints en­su­ing drive after a Cow­boys punt. DeMar­cus Lawrence got the Saints off the field and forced a turnover with a sack and a fum­ble that was re­cov­ered by Ty­rone Craw­ford. But the play was nul­li­fied by an off­side penalty on Gre­gory. The Cow­boys, how­ever, got off the field and sur­vived thanks to huge third downs stop by Smith.

5. The Cow­boys have a 10-day lay­off be­fore they re­turn to play the Ea­gles on Dec. 9 to be­gin what will be a four-game stretch to the play­offs. It’s a good time to rest, re­fuel and get some re­in­force­ments back, in­clud­ing line­backer Sean Lee, re­ceiver Tavon Austin and pos­si­bly de­fen­sive tackle David Irv­ing. The Cow­boys host the Ea­gles, then they play at the In­di­anapo­lis Colts, host the Tampa Bay Buc­ca­neers and end the sea­son at the New York Gi­ants. No mat­ter how the Cow­boys fared against the Saints, the De­cem­ber stretch was go­ing to de­cide their fate. But the con­fi­dence gained from Thurs­day’s shock­ing vic­tory should prove in­valu­able.

“This game, when you win a game like this, now it took all we had, when you win a game like this it changes you,” owner Jerry Joens said. “You know you can do it. This is a young, im­pres­sion­able bunch, so they know now that they can go out there and they can play our game and they can play it in a way to beat an of­fen­sive ma­chine and you do it if you play your game and you keep the ball and play de­fense. I just am so proud for them be­cause they’re not go­ing to be the same cats that looked in the mir­ror this morn­ing tonight.”

RON JENK­INS AP

Cow­boys cor­ner­back Jour­dan Lewis (27) cel­e­brates his in­ter­cep­tion of a pass by Saints quar­ter­back Drew Brees that wrapped up the game in the fourth quar­ter.

RON JENK­INS AP

Saints quar­ter­back Drew Brees is pres­sured by Cow­boys de­fen­sive tackle Ty­rone Craw­ford as he passes dur­ing the se­cond half.

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