clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Cowboys vs. Saints: 10 thoughts including a dominating performance by the Cowboys defense

There was total domination when the Saints offense had the ball, but it wasn’t by the guys we expected.

The Dallas Cowboys did the unthinkable. They upset the best team in the league, ending the New Orleans Saints 10-game winning streak. What’s even more unimaginable is how they kept Drew Brees to just 127 yards passing. The Cowboys needed this win to keep atop the NFC East, but many people weren’t expecting it to happen against the Saints. But it did, and we’re ecstatic! Victory Friday is going to be one super-fantastic day!

Here are 10 thoughts on the Cowboys big Thursday night victory over the Saints.

1. Wasting drives

The Cowboys offense was quick out the gate with a nice opening drive. It was just how they needed to start considering many expected this team was going to need to score a lot of points to keep up with the Saints. But as good as it started, it didn’t end well as the Cowboys failed to finish the drive.

It is so puzzling why the Cowboys offense struggles so much when they get deep in their opponent’s territory. For the fourth game over the last five contests, the Cowboys have had a 1st-and-goal at the five-yard line or less and haven’t been able to get a touchdown.

Against the Tennessee Titans, Dak Prescott threw an interception in the end zone. Against the Atlanta Falcons, Cole Beasley dropped a sure-touchdown. And last week, Prescott took a costly sack that killed the drive. The Cowboys offense started out great against the Saints with a drive assisted by two nice catches by rookie receiver Michael Gallup, but once again - they couldn’t punch it in. It just felt like those squandered opportunities were going to rear their ugly head later in the game.

2. Dominating defense

The Cowboys defense came out fired up. It started out wonderful after the Saints offense went three-and-out on their first two possessions. The defense kept the pressure on as the Saints only had 59 total yards of offense in the first half. That was ama-za-zing. The Saints were 0-5 on third downs after 30 minutes of football. Of course, the wheels would eventually come off, right?


The defense was lights out from start to finish. They were swarming to the ball, hands flying everywhere, and hitting everything they could. The Saints finished with 176 yards of offense as the Cowboys defense sent a message to all those watching that they are legit. Those are not words to be thrown around lightly. The Cowboys entered the game third-best in points allowed with 19.4 per contest, but what they did on Thursday was nothing short of outstanding. They held the top scoring offense (37.2 pts/game) to just 13 points.

The performance Thursday night cannot be overstated.

3. Shut down the big three

Dak Prescott completed 85% of his his passes and had 248 yards passing. Ezekiel Elliott had 136 scrimmage yards and a touchdown. Amari Cooper had 75 yards receiving on eight catches. It was a solid performance by the Cowboys offensive triplets.

But solid usually doesn’t cut it when you have to face off against the Saints triplets of Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, and Michael Thomas. Those guys are are special players having big years, but Thursday night they were non-existent. The Cowboys defense shut everyone down, including the Saints biggest stars.

4. What a goal line stand

The Saints had a golden opportunity to get back in the game in the first half after an Amari Cooper fumble set them up in Cowboys territory. The Saints were driving, but the Dallas D buckled down at the goal line. After a great third-down tackle on Alvin Kamara by Jaylon Smith, Sean Payton opted to go for it on fourth down. The Saints ran Kamara up the middle, but DeMarcus Lawrence was able to get around the edge to take him down.

The defense set the tone early and they wouldn’t let up.

5. Gregory gives second chances

What is really impressive about the Cowboys defensive performance is that they were able to shut the Saints down despite giving them extra opportunities. It’s hard enough to beat the Saints period, but all these extra chances the Cowboys were giving them looked like they were going to come back to bite them. And nobody gave them more chances than Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory.

Gregory would get hit with three costly penalties. First, he got called for hitting Brees in the facemask that gave the Saints a new set of downs. Then, after the Cowboys forced the Saints to punt, he ran into the punter, giving the Saints offense new life.

But no mistake was as costly as when Gregory got called for lining up in the neutral zone. The penalty negated a great sack/strip fumble that was recovered by Tyrone Crawford.

That was real close and I can’t believe they called that, but man did that one sting. Gregory was constantly getting pressure and really played well if you don’t take into account the mental gaffes, but those mistakes really hurt the team. It was so frustrating to watch.

6. Bad bounces

There were plenty of balls bouncing around on the turf, but none of them went into the arms of Cowboys players. Amari Cooper had a fumble in the first half that was just sitting right in his arms. All he had to do was grip it. But he seemed disorientated and by the time he realized what was going on, a Saints defender was all over it. Then, after Xavier Woods hit Saints tight end Dan Arnold to knock the ball out, it rolled right to Michael Thomas. Brees gets stripped, Brees falls right on it. It just felt like any time there was a ball on the ground, the Saints were on it.

There were six total fumbles in the game (three by each team), but only once did the Cowboys recover it (Dak recovered his own fumble once).

7. Roller-coaster Prescott

Man, it’s such an emotional ride watching Prescott lead this offense. He can make you so angry on one play, but then redeem himself on the next one. Prescott really took us on a journey this game. He made some great passes to Michael Gallup, who seemed to hook up early in games only to never be heard from again. Completing 24 of 28 passes, he really didn’t miss that much, although he did lay up short at times. I’ll never understand why he dumps off short passes on 3rd-and-12 plays. You just don’t have a shot to convert when you do that.

Just in the fourth quarter alone, he was all over the grid. First, he missed a wide open Michael Gallup that would’ve locked up the game. Then he muscled out a great third-down run and lunge to keep the chains moving. But then he had a costly fumble near the goal line that erased an opportunity to get points.

It was frustrating, but Dak is a playmaker and this comes with the territory. If feels great to win that game, but take a hard look at the 13 points the offense scored and think about how that would’ve made you feel if someone told you that was going to be their total before the game started. You’d be disgusted and for good reason so that factor can’t be ignored.

8. Blown calls

I like to channel my inner-Garrett and not complain about the officiating, but they really missed some calls on Thursday. And it wasn’t one-sided. They were missing calls for both teams. The Cowboys got lucky when Jaylon Smith didn’t get flagged for hitting Kamara in the head with his helmet. But then they weren’t so lucky when the refs missed an obvious facemask on Prescott.

The Saints only touchdown came when Anthony Brown got pushed off his man in the end zone. And then I don’t even want to think about that neutral zone call against Gregory.

9. Out of challenges

The Saints used their second and last challenge of the game early in the second quarter in order to get some extra yardage after tight end Dan Arnold fumbled at the Cowboys seven-yard line. The Saints won the challenge, but they were then out challenges for the rest of the game. Would it come back to haunt them?

On the ensuing drive, it appeared as if Amari Cooper stepped out of bounds as he was running down the sideline. Then, the Saints defenders were arguing that a Cooper reception was incomplete (replay showed that he actually caught it and the ball was punched out after the catch). In either case, the Saints were at the mercy of the call on the field.

But where it really hurt was when Cole Beasley was short of the first-down marker in the fourth quarter. The referees gave him enough yards for the first down, but you could see that his knee was down before the ball had crossed the marker.

Unfortunately for the Saints, they could not challenge the play.

10. Who do you want to win between Eagles/Redskins?

Regardless on what happens on Monday night, the Cowboys will finish the week leading the NFC East. Next weeks matchup against the Eagles will be the biggest game of the year. The Cowboys have a great opportunity to essentially push the Eagles in a big hole with a win, but hope big of a hole that is depends on what happens in their game against the Redskins this week.

Which team will you be rooting for on Monday night?

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Blogging The Boys Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your Dallas Cowboys news from Blogging The Boys