Cow­boys’ de­fense over­comes key penal­ties to dom­i­nate Saints

Star-Telegram - - Sports - BY STE­FAN STEVEN­SON ssteven­[email protected]­gram.com

The Dal­las Cow­boys’ de­fense was up to the chal­lenge.

The Cow­boys held the NFL’s high­est-scor­ing of­fense to a sea­son-low 176 yards and held on for a 13-10 sea­son-defin­ing win over the New Or­leans Saints at AT&T Sta­dium.

It’s the Cow­boys’ fourth con­sec­u­tive win, which also snapped the Saints’ 10-game win streak.

And most of the credit goes to the Cow­boys’ de­fense.

But in the se­cond half, the de­fense, specif­i­cally de­fen­sive tackle Randy Gre­gory, nearly tor­pe­doed the Cow­boys’ chances.

Gre­gory was called for two cru­cial penal­ties in the se­cond half. Both times, in­stead of the Cow­boys claim­ing pos­ses­sion, the Saints kept con­trol.

A rough­ing the kicker penalty on Gre­gory re­versed a punt and Cow­boys’ pos­ses­sion and put the Saints on the Dal­las’ 33-yard line. Gre­gory ran into the legs of punter Thomas Morstead after los­ing his bal­ance.

New Or­leans re­tained pos­ses­sion and three plays later cut its deficit to three points with a 30-yard touch­down pass to Keith Kirk­wood with 1:08 left in the third quar­ter.

It was one of six penal­ties for the Cow­boys. The same New Or­leans drive in­cluded three other penal­ties, in­clud­ing two by cor­ner­back By­ron Jones. But Dal­las had made the stop on third-and-2 when Leighton Van­der Esch met run­ning back Mark In­gram at the line of scrim­mage and knocked him for a 1-yard loss to force a punt.

On Kirk­wood’s touch­down, it ap­peared he pushed off of de­fen­sive back An­thony Brown, who fell down on the play. But noth­ing was called and the score stood.

The Cow­boys held the Saints score­less in the first half, the first time since Week 4 in 2014 against the Cow­boys, a span of 71 games. New Or­leans en­tered the game with a league-high 409 points.

Dal­las held New Or­leans to 59 yards and three first downs. Drew Brees started the game 0 for 4 for the first time in his ca­reer and in the first half was 7 of 13 for 39 yards. That’s the fewest yards pass­ing for Brees in the first half since 2004.

Gre­gory was called for off­sides on the Saints’ next pos­ses­sion on a play where DeMar­cus Lawrence had a strip sack and Ty­rone Craw­ford re­cov­ered. But the play and the fum­ble were negated by the pre-snap penalty.

Jour­dan Lewis’ in­ter­cep­tion in the fi­nal two min­utes sealed the win for the Cow­boys. It’s only the third in­ter­cep­tion thrown by Drew Brees this sea­son. He was held to 18 of 28 pass­ing for 127 yards, his se­cond fewest yards in 2018.

Randy Gre­gory

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