Cowboys’ defense overcomes key penalties to dominate Saints
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.