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