Cow­boys make Saints’ Brees look like a QB near­ing 40

The Sun Herald (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY BRIAN ALLEE-WALSH

The Dal­las Cow­boys made New Or­leans Saints’ age­less won­der, quar­ter­back Drew Brees, look his age on a na­tional stage Thurs­day night at AT&T Sta­dium and pulled off the most stun­ning up­set of the 2018 NFL sea­son.

Fu­eled by an un­re­lent­ing pass rush and quick, gritty de­fense, the re­ju­ve­nated Cow­boys led wire-to-wire en route to a 13-10 vic­tory and snap­ping the Saints 10-game win­ning streak.

The loss dropped the NFC South-lead­ing Saints (10-2) be­hind the Los An­ge­les Rams (10-1) in the race for home­field ad­van­tage in the NFC. The Saints’ next two games are on the road against di­vi­sional foes Tampa Bay (Dec. 9) and Carolina (Dec. 17).

I was as shocked as much by Thurs­day’ night’s out­come as the man­ner in which the NFC East-lead­ing Cow­boys (7-5) won the game. They dom­i­nated time of posses­sion (36:53-23:07), held the Saints nearly four TDs be­low their sea­son scor­ing av­er­age (37.2 ppg), neu­tral­ized gamechang­ers WR Michael Thomas, RB Alvin Ka­mara and RB Mark In­gram and turned Brees ev­ery which way but loose.

Con­sider:

Brees fin­ished 18 of 28 for 127 yards with one TD and one INT for a sea­son-low 71.6 passer rat­ing. He en­tered the game on pace to shat­ter league records for com­ple­tion per­cent­age and passer rat­ing, com­pil­ing eye­pop­ping num­bers of 76.4 per­cent and 127.3 per­cent with a stel­lar 29-2 TD-to-INT ra­tio.

Prior to the game, Cow­boys coach Ja­son Gar­rett pro­claimed Brees looked like a boy­ish 23year-old play­ing a game he loved. Brees dis­agreed, say­ing, “I feel 25. I don’t feel 23.”

On Thurs­day night, the Cow­boys made Brees look his age — he turns 40 on Jan. 15 — with two sacks, mul­ti­ple hits and hur­ries and forced him to throw

a cru­cial INT with 2:08 re­main­ing that en­abled them to run out the clock.

Mo­ments ear­lier, the Saints forced a turnover at their 15-yard line to thwart a Cow­boys scor­ing at­tempt and give the ball back to Brees. I quickly texted a friend: “My money is on No. 9 to win or force OT.’‘

The kiss of death, I guess. On sec­ond-and-5 from the 20, Brees threw flat-footed un­der pres­sure in the gen­eral di­rec­tion of Ka­mara in the right flat and Cow­boys CB Jor­dan Lewis cupped the ball in both hands be­fore it hit the turf.

After­ward, Brees said the Cow­boys pre­vented him from get­ting com­fort­able in the pocket and the Saints of­fense from find- ing a rhythm. Credit the Cow­boys for ap­ply­ing pres­sure off the edge with ends De­Mar­cus Lawrence and Randy Gre­gory and up the mid­dle with tack­les Maliek Collins and Ant­waun Woods.

The in­te­rior push pre­vented the 5-foot-11 Brees from step­ping up into the pocket and find­ing a free pass­ing lane.

I also thought Saints coach Sean Pay­ton made sev­eral crit­i­cal coach­ing er­rors, us­ing up his two game chal­lenges in the first quar­ter, call­ing his third and fi­nal time­out with 2:03 re­main­ing when he should have waited for the two-minute warn­ing and not uti­liz­ing the multi-tal­ented Taysom Hill more on of­fense (seven snaps).

The Saints cer­tainly played well enough on de­fense, sack­ing Cow­boys quar­ter­back Dak Prescott seven times, forc­ing two turnovers and hold­ing RB Ezekiel El­liott to 76 yards rush­ing on 23 car­ries.

In sum­ma­tion, I thought Lawrence had planted both feet in his mouth with in­flam­ma­tory re­marks ear­lier in the week, sug­gest­ing the Cow­boys would ad­min­is­ter an old fash­ioned butt-whip­ping the likes of which the Saints had not seen this sea­son.

Lawrence proved to be a prophet.

The mo­ral to this story? It ain’t brag­ging if you can do it.

MICHAEL AINSWORTH AP

New Or­leans Saints quar­ter­back Drew Brees walks off of the field dur­ing Thurs­day’s game against the Cow­boys in Ar­ling­ton, Texas.

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