First Response: Saints 49, Cowboys 17

First Response: Saints 49, Cowboys 17

Credit: Getty Images

NEW ORLEANS, LA - NOVEMBER 10: Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints congratulates Darren Sproles #43 following a touchdown during a game against the Dallas Cowboys at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 10, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

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by LANDON HAAF

WFAA Sports

Posted on November 11, 2013 at 8:00 AM

Updated Monday, Nov 11 at 1:33 AM

There was nothing close about the contest between the Cowboys and Saints on Sunday night, as New Orleans throttled Dallas in a 32-point route. Drew Brees and Co. scored more points (49) than the Cowboys’ number of plays (43).

It was bad enough that, according to Pro Football Reference’s twitter account, the Saints had a 100 percent win probability at the end of the third quarter. It was only an 18-point game at that point, but it was quite possibly the most insurmountable 18-point lead in the history of American sport.

A breakdown of the massacre, including the positives, the negatives, and a glass-half-full outlook:

The positives

In what appeared to be a change in philosophy, DeMarco Murray ran the ball well early. It took just seven and a half minutes of game play for Murray to match his workload from week 9 (four carries). He gained 11 yards on those first four carries, and followed that with 68 yards on the ground on the next possession, including a seven-yard TD scamper.

Murray was solid, averaging 5.6 yards per carry on the night. Unfortunately for the running game, the passing game was as bad as it has ever been, and the Saints held possession for over 20 minutes in the first half while building a 28-10 halftime lead.

The negatives

Verizon wireless could air a new commercial promoting their nationwide coverage, with the tag line “other companies’ 4G LTE coverage maps look like the Cowboys’ defense.”

The Dallas D was weak in every possible way – and to extend the metaphor, watching it was more frustrating than shoddy cell service. A few stats that explain just how miserable Monte Kiffin’s bunch was far better than my paraphrasing could:

  • New Orleans ran 80 total plays, gaining 40 first downs – a new NFL record
  • The Saints gained 625 yards of offense
  • The Saints tallied more rushing yards (242) than the Cowboys had total yards (193)
  • New Orleans was 9-for-12 on third down
  • Mark Ingram posted his first 100-yard effort since September of 2010 while a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide, and averaged over 10 yards per carry

Besides the final drive of the game – on which New Orleans simply ran out the clock after one first down – the Saints gained at least 31 yards on every single drive of the game, and went 75 or more yards six times. Drew Brees would’ve become the fifth quarterback to throw for 400 yards against Dallas this season, but he didn’t attempt a pass in the final 12:43 of the game and stopped short at 392 yards.

On the offensive side of the ball, it wasn’t much prettier. Tony Romo threw for 20 yards in the first half. The Saints had 21 first downs in that half.

Dez Bryant’s first target of the game came just over three minutes into the third quarter. The first Cowboy reception by a player not named James Hanna didn’t come until the 1:32 mark in the second quarter, when Jason Witten hauled in an eight-yard pass.

It’s becoming a trend for opposing defenses… When Bryant is taken out of the game, the Cowboys offense struggles mightily. Rob Ryan deserves credit for shutting down no. 88, but the Cowboys – whether it’s on Romo or Bill Callahan – have to find a way to get their superstar more than two targets in a game.

With one catch and 44 yards, Bryant was still the Cowboys’ leading receiver.

To add injury to insult, Dallas lost Sean Lee to a hamstring injury in the first quarter Sunday night. Lee, the top playmaker on the Dallas D, is one guy a struggling defense can’t afford to lose. There is no way the Cowboys would’ve won even if Lee played the whole game – Brees carved up the defense early with Lee in the game – but his presence was sorely missed in an ugly second half.

Lee’s injury made a bad situation worse, as Dallas already had a huge hole in the middle of its defense with Jason Hatcher’s absence. Again, the Saints likely would’ve found success in any and every way possible offensively no matter the Cowboys’ personnel, but missing Hatcher didn’t help the run defense.

DeMarcus Ware also appeared to aggravate his quad injury in the game. The ‘Boys simply can’t avoid injuries on the defensive side of the ball, and that was not only a negative in Sunday’s game, but will continue to have a negative effect (moreso than it has up to this point) for the rest of the season.

Glass half-full

The bye week comes at a very opportune time for the Cowboys. Sure, it’s a bummer to have to stew over a 32-point blowout loss for two weeks, but having extra time to nurse injuries is a definite plus. Dallas doesn’t have a difficult schedule in the remaining six games (the six teams combine for a 22-32 overall record through 10 weeks), but getting rest before the home stretch is a welcome advantage.

One positive about Dez Bryant’s complete irrelevance Sunday is that he wasn’t penalized for taking his helmet off and he didn’t show much emotion on the sideline. So maybe, just maybe, we all get to take a break from the Dez Bryant attitude chatter.

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