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Cowboys Vs Saints Goes To Overtime, But Dallas Falls 26-20

The Cowboys continued to suffer injuries to all the wrong people, but still managed to send the game into overtime. Then one long catch and run ended it badly for Dallas.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The theme of the Dallas Cowboys season so far has been the continuing string of injuries, often to the most key players. That just kept going against the New Orleans Saints. Add in another less than dominating performance by the offensive line, the defense having to stay on the field far too long in the second half, and Drew Brees looking very sharp in the short passing game while Brandon Weeden was, well Brandon Weeden. But Weeden finally started hitting receivers on the final drive by the Cowboys in regulation, when he started moving the ball down the field. At the two minute warning, he had the Cowboys in the red zone with a third and seven at the 17. After missing a pass to Terrance Williams on the left side of the end zone, he came back to the opposite side and Williams made a tremendous catch to tie the game at 20-20. It was a Tony Romo worthy 91 yard to tie the game.

But the Cowboys defense, without their best player, were unable to stop Brees from that point. An exhausted defensive line could not get any pressure, New Orleans marched down to field goal range, and kicked - a ball that rebounded off the left upright. The game went into overtime.

And the defense, which was becoming increasingly overmatched, failed spectacularly, letting the Saints score a touchdown in two plays. It was a dismaying end for a team that fought so gamely for so much of the game.

The Cowboys had a good if imperfect start to the game. Once again, they got off to a quick start running the ball, with Lance Dunbar getting half of the team's 90 yards before intermission on the second Dallas play from scrimmage. That drive stalled with a Dan Bailey field goal, but the Cowboys would come back with a long drive for a touchdown in the second quarter, capped by a dangerous dive from the one yard line by Joseph Randle when he almost had the ball punched loose for a turnover, but replay showed he had broken the play just before losing the football. That drive was helped by Saints penalties. New Orleans had six flags for 44 yards, which helped Dallas a lot. The only first half penalty on the Cowboys was a costly one, nullifying an interception on a perfectly designed defensive play.

The defense was very solid before halftime except for the one long scoring drive by the Saints. They forced three punts and got two sacks of Brees, including the first regular season sack of DeMarcus Lawrence's carreer. Andrew Gachkar looked very good, and Anthony Hitchens was also active. Byron Jones had some solid stops.  However, the injury curse struck again, with Sean Lee leaving the game because of a concussion. Hopefully he will be able to return soon.

And the hits just kept coming, with Lance Dunbar suffering an apparent knee injury returning the opening kickoff of the second half. Given the large role he has played so far in the offense, it could be a huge loss for the team going forward. Tyrone Crawford would go off the field in fourth quarter, although he would return. Every week, the makeup of the team has been changed by players going down. While Jason Garrett keeps preaching the "next man up" mantra, it is getting to the level of ridiculousness.

Dallas had a very costly penalty after going three and out to open the second half. They stopped the Saints just out of field goal range, but were flagged for too many men on the field, putting the Saints in field goal range and allowing them to tie the game at 10 apiece.

The penalty woes continued for the Saints, as they gave the Cowboys their sixth first down via penalty on their second drive of the second half. That would set up Weeden's finest moment of the game to that moment, as he completed a deep ball to Brice Butler, to the left no less, getting the ball to the 9 yard line with the 67 yard gain. But the Cowboys could not do anything with it, Weeden throwing two incompletions and then getting sacked. Bailey was again money and Dallas regained a slim three point lead. Additionally, Butler had a hamstring injury on the long pass for yet another blow to the team. And on the play before the winning touchdown, Gachkar was hurt and had to leave the field, on a pick play that, as usual in the NFL, was not called. Damien Wilson was not sure of his assignment, which may have been the main factor in the failure to stop the touchdown.

The penalty pendulum swung the other way as the Cowboys were called twice for defensive holding on the next Saints series. Then Brees began to find his rhythm again. Dallas continued to have bad luck on turnovers, with a near fumble being overturned after they had three dropped interceptions earlier in the game. It marred a defensive job filled with swarming tackles. But with the reprieve from instant replay, Brees was able to get the ball into field goal range despite the third sack of the game when Jack Crawford just barely grabbed Brees by the ankle.

It set up a fourth quarter with the game tied 13-13. Dallas was unable to keep the drive going after getting out to near midfield, only to be pushed back by a penalty and a sack of the always less-than-nimble Weeden. Brees strted going to quick passes and pushed the ball down the field, with the drive being capped by a touchdown run by Khiry Robinson. The Cowboys were unable to move the ball on their next possession. They did manage to get New Orleans to punt from midfield, with their punter out with an injury, but it left Dallas on their own nine yard line with 4:05 to go. That was too much to ask of Weeden - except it wasn't. He had the best drive by far of his Cowboys tenure.

But it all was not enough. Too many injuries, too many mistakes, and now Dallas is tied with Washington and the New York Giants. The season is not over, but it is going to be very, very hard from here on.

Follow me @TomRyleBTB


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