We all saw this game coming, right? The Dallas Cowboys opened with an almost flawless first half in all phases of the game. It was probably the best half of football the team has played under Jason Garrett, and they were able to play well enough in the second half to get a 38-17 win that was a thorough beating of the New Orleans Saints.
They opened with a marvelously efficient 80-yard drive for a touchdown, burning 7:10 off the clock before the Saints ever got to touch the ball. The defense came up with stops on third down and an interception. Bruce Carter looked like the star we all hoped he could become. Tony Romo completed passes to eight different receivers, with Terrance Williams grabbing four of them, including two touchdowns. DeMarco Murray had some big runs despite the best attempts by Rob Ryan and the Nawlins defense to stop him. He had 87 yards and a touchdown.
And that was all in the first half, as the Cowboys built a stunning 24-0 lead. It was one of the most complete halves of football dominance ever, and showed not only superb play all over the roster, but some truly masterful work by Scott Linehan and Rod Marinelli.
Oh, and despite a contingent of Saints fans, at least early in the game, the noise was all for the home team in AT&T Stadium.
The great play continued in the second half. The Saints tried to come out and get something going on the opening possession of the second half, but after gaining some yards, the defense stiffened in the red zone and Nick Hayden got a hand on Drew Brees to force an incompletion on third down limiting them to a field goal. Dallas then answered right back, with Romo running for a first down, followed immediately by Murray's second touchdown of the night. The offensive line was simply blowing holes in the Saints' defense.
The defense had an outstanding night for the most part, although both Morris Claiborne and Bruce Carter both went out with injuries during the game. Anthony Spencer saw his first action in a year, playing well and more important providing an emotional boost that seemed evident in the inspired play on defense. Offensively, Murray became only the fourth running back in league history to run for at least 100 yards and a touchdown in four games to start a season, finishing with 149 yards and two touchdowns for the game. Terrance Williams had a bit of a breakout game with a total of six catches for 77 yards and his own two touchdowns.
There would be a bit of a scare from the Saints in the fourth quarter as they cut the lead to 31-17 with 9:49 left in the game. Dallas went three and out after one of the few offensive miscues by Dallas on a bad exchange between center Travis Frederick and Romo, allowing Brees to drive for a quick touchdown. Dallas then went three and out again, but the Cowboys forced the Saints to do the same, and an unsuccessful fake punt, alertly covered by the special teams (despite not having 11 men on the field), pretty much sealed the deal with 6:47 left and Dallas having the ball at the Saints' 39. A little bit of clutch Jason Witten and a vintage Dez Bryant touchdown on the ensuing possession put any threat of a Nawlins comeback to rest. There would be no Cowboys collapse this time.
Despite the late rally by the Saints, this was a total and complete domination by Dallas. They built a 28 point lead going into the fourth quarter and it was simply too much for New Orleans to overcome. Dallas won the turnover battle with an interception and two fumbles, the last coming late and allowing Dallas to run out the clock (It was also the second fumble in the season where an early whistle stopped a potential touchdown return.) The Cowboys did not let up, and they have a team now that can protect a lead.
This was revenge for the embarrassment of last season. It gives the Cowboys a rare three game winning streak in the Jason Garrett era. It puts the Cowboys at 3-1 and tied with the Philadelphia Eagles for the lead in the NFC East. It was far and away the best performance by Dallas so far this season.