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Jason Garrett Process Earns First Signature Win For Dallas Cowboys

Fans of head coach Jason Garrett believe in his frequently mentioned process, but all Dallas Cowboys fans finally managed to witness the benefits as the team dominated the New Orleans Saints in this signature win for the Garrett Era.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

It has certainly taken longer than any fan would want, but the Jason Garrett process has finally rewarded the team with their first signature win of his era. This is not to say the Dallas Cowboys had yet to win a big game, but never had a Garrett led team beat a previous year's playoff qualifier by 21 points. As head coach, Garrett does have three 21-point (or more) victories on his resume (two versus the St. Louis Rams - 2011 and 2013, and one versus the Buffalo Bills 2011). But the last time Dallas beat a former playoff team by such a margin was back in the 2009 season when the Cowboys ran over the Philadelphia Eagles 24-0 in the regular season finale before beating them again in the playoffs a week later. That's right, the last time Dallas beat a former playoff team by such a wide margin, they went on to win their only playoff game in recent history.

Dallas has also struggled to put together win streaks in the past few years. The team managed to win four in a row during a great November stretch in 2011, and three in a row in the strong December showing of 2012. But a contender must have more than just one such win streak every year or two. And in 2014, the Cowboys answered the call, and their critics, by managing an early-season win-streak with a punctuated victory against a tough opponent. But such examples of historic relevancy are not the only reasons Sunday night's game should be considered a signature win.

When was the last time the Cowboys played an almost flawless game? There is no denying Dallas has some shortcomings, as does New Orleans, but every aspect of the team played well on Sunday night. The Cowboys offense was expected to score points against a poor Saints defense, but they did that and more, managing to control the momentum, line of scrimmage, and the scoreboard throughout the entire game.

  • Virtually mistake-free football
  • No turnovers
  • 57% third-down conversion rate
  • 100% red-zone efficiency
  • 5.4 yard rushing average
  • 76% passing completion percentage

And it was not only the dominant performance of the offense that helped make this such a signature win. When Jason Garrett took over as the Cowboys head coach, there was one aspect of the offense that had quickly deteriorated and was keeping a dangerous quarterback and group of skill players from excelling...the offensive line. One of the reasons this was such a signature win for the Garrett era is that his o-line rebuild was on full display for a nationally televised audience. The Cowboys linemen owned the Saints defensive front seven all night and were the driving force for an offense that was finally firing on all cylinders. It was a signature performance by an offense that should head deeper into the season knowing they have the talent and ability to provide an overwhelming, yet balanced attack. An offense that finally displayed how dangerous it can be if it executes consistently and avoids shooting itself in the foot. It was a signature win for a Garrett team led by the most potent unit of the team, heralding a promise for playoff contention if they manage such repeat performances. The Cowboys offense currently ranks 4th in the league in points per game (28.8), 6th in the league in passing average (7.9 yards), and 3rd in the league in rushing average (5.1 yards).

But perhaps no aspect of the team made a greater statement Sunday night than the underdog unit known as the Dallas defense. Rightfully questioned for their ability to hold up against top tier offenses, this was going to be a true test for a defense that had shown some promising efforts in their previous three games, but were finally about to be challenged by a dangerous offense.  Facing the tougher job, the Cowboys defenders made a name for themselves as they made life difficult for a potent Saints offense led by quarterback Drew Brees and head coach Sean Payton. New Orleans was averaging 26 points per game heading into their matchup with Dallas...and it wasn't until 10minutes left in the game that they finally managed to find the endzone.

  • Three turnovers
  • 40% third-down efficiency
  • 66% red-zone efficiency
  • Two sacks with consistent pressure

The Cowboys defense wasn't spectacular, but everyone did their job. No single player dominated the game, but there was rarely a breakdown in communication or blown assignment, and as a group they swarmed to the ball. It was this impressive team effort that led to three turnovers as good plays by one player (tipped pass or forced fumble) provided opportunities for others to capitalize on with an interception or fumble recovery. The rushmen created pressure and made Brees uncomfortable; the linebackers were in position to make plays and improved on their coverage abilities; the secondary was contesting catches and knocking down passes and receivers. Rod Marinelli will find it difficult to pass out game balls to specific players, for the entire unit deserves credit for playing well as a group.

The much maligned Dallas defense is still allowing a lot of yards each game. Part of that is the defensive philosophy that drives the bend-but-don't break approach passed down from the Tampa Two ideologies that have shaped coach Marinelli (and Monte Kiffin). This defense is predicated on stopping big plays while attempting to create and capitalize on mistakes as they force offenses to sustain drives. So, when it comes to yards, this defense does not look good. They are ranked 24th in yards allowed per game, 21st in allowed passing average, and 26th in allowed rushing average. However, they rank 10th in points allowed. A lot of that has to do with their ability to create turnovers. The Dallas defense currently ranks 7th in fumbles recovered and 5th in interceptions.

The defense is still getting healthier (though still losing players to injuries) and must continue to improve each week, but they certainly responded to the challenge Sunday night. Marinelli's mob is still the weakest unit on this team, but their efforts certainly warrant recognition and played a big role in this signature win. If the Dallas Cowboys hope to make the playoffs (or fans dare to hope for a playoff victory,) the team will need to continue to mirror this signature win. The offense will have to lead the effort with these kinds of mistake-free, dominant performances. The special teams will need to continue their solid efforts led by the infallible Dan Bailey and ST ace Dwayne Harris. And the defense must continue to rely on each player to do their job while being ready to capitalize on opponents' mistakes. This is the identity of the Dallas Cowboys...and it was never more apparent than in their signature win over the New Orleans Saints.

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