The Dallas Cowboys have suffered another humiliating loss to an elite quarterback and his better-than-Dallas team. Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints destroyed the Cowboys in four agonizing quarters 49-17 in Week 10’s Sunday Night Football.
Not that Dallas is a bad team. The Cowboys have shown themselves to be more than good. They simply are not a great team, at least, not consistently. The drive is certainly there in wide receiver Dez Bryant. The dedication is there, in Coach Jason Garrett, tight end Jason Witten, and defensive end DeMarcus Ware. The talent is there in all of these men, as well as DeMarco Murray, Cole Beasley, Bruce Carter, Brandon Carr and all the offense and defense that put themselves through the same emotional roller coaster fans endure every week.
There is something missing, something not quite tangible that the Cowboys sometimes have and sometime don’t. They did not have it on Sunday, but they almost had it against the Broncos. Whatever it is, Garrett and Company need to isolate it and pump it into his players before every game.
The Cowboys came to the Superdome 5-4, over .500 for the first time this season, but left New Orleans humbled back to .500 at 5-5. Even with such a close margin between wins and losses, Dallas was sitting in first place of the NFC East. After this blow-out and the Philadelphia Eagles win over a cut-and pasted Packers, they are now tied with Dallas for first place.
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The game began hopefully enough, with the Cowboys D-line holding the Saints to a punt on their first possession. The return of DeMarcus Ware played a large part in the success of that first defensive stand.
Romo took the field and put DeMarco Murray to work. Last week, the Cowboys ran the ball only nine times through four quarters. Murray hit and passed that mark by the first play of the second quarter. On that first drive, the Saints defense held the Cowboys to a 37-yard field goal, giving them the first points of the game.
Of course, Brees took up his first possession and proceeded to pick apart the Cowboys defense. He passed complete to a returned Marques Colston three times, and started running Darren Sproles (fully recovered from last week’s concussion) and Pierre Thomas right through, over and around the Cowboy’s line. The Saints marched 80 yards in nine plays to score the first touchdown of the game, taking the lead 7-3 with 3:23 to go in the first quarter.
Romo responded by going back to the running game, getting Murray and Dwayne Harris the ball. Many Cowboys’ fans hearts stopped as Harris took a hard hit that should have drawn a flag. He did return to the game later, getting those hearts pumping again.
The first quarter ended 7-3, but Romo sent Murray ahead again on 2nd and goal for a touchdown, taking the lead 10-7 in the opening moments of the second quarter. That was the last time Dallas would see the end zone for a while.
While the Saints continued to rack up touchdowns on the next three possessions, the Cowboys stagnated. Ware became increasingly uncomfortable and less mobile as the game wore on and Sean Lee had to leave the game with a hamstring injury after a tackle. Wondering why we have not mentioned Dez Bryant or Jason Witten?
The Saints kept Bryant covered all game, most of the time by at least two defenders. He only broke loose once on bracketed coverage instead of a being draped. Romo went for him, but over threw him, blowing a golden opportunity to reestablish some footing in the game. The score was 35-10 Saints, late into the third quarter before the Cowboys managed to get into the end zone again.
Witten, who was also well-covered most of the game, caught a pass that, under review was called incomplete. Coach Garrett challenged that call and lost. On 2nd and 10, Romo hit Witten for certain this time and gained a first down at the 30-yard line. Saints rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro was shaken up on the play when his helmet colliding with Witten’s knee as he tackled him on the sideline. While Vaccaro took a moment on the bench, Romo finally caught Bryant open on a juggling catch that got a first down at the 21-yard line.
Romo hit Terrance Williams in the end zone for the touchdown. It was Williams’ fifth touchdown catch. The drive was five plays and covered 89 yards in 1:31, bringing the score to 35-17 Saints on the kick.
Garrett got sneaky on the kickoff, calling a surprise on-side kick that rookie Cameron Lawrence recovered for the Cowboys with 37 seconds left in the quarter. That was their last flash of brilliance however, as they ended up punting that gift away. The Saints proceeded to score two more touchdowns to end the game with Brees’ back up Luke McCown-brother to the Bears’ Josh- kneeling the ball down.
The Saints broke an NFL record for most first downs in a single game with 40 (39). Brees threw for 392 yards and four touchdown. The Saints rushed for 292 yards, totaling 625 total yards on offense. The Cowboys simply did not rise to the Saints’ level Sunday night. It was not in the stars.
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This is the only the second time Dallas has entered the fourth quarter behind, however, and they have a bye next week. Hopefully, Lee, Ware, Hatcher and Wilcox will be able to return sooner rather than later to shore up the Cowboys’ ailing defensive line. With the defense healthy or at least intact, Romo may be able to once again run his offense with whatever it is that makes them so –occasionally- dynamic. Destruction at the hands of a far superior team like the Saints can have its upside. Whatever it is.
By Brandi Tasby