NEW ORLEANS — The Cowboys have a history of thrilling games with the New Orleans Saints. This wasn't one of them - Dallas got dominated in every conceivable way en route to a miserable 49-17 defeat.
Let's play with numbers. 40. 49. 39. Are those yardage totals? No. They're the hilarious, astonishing milestones achieved by the Saints offense. 40 first downs, an NFL record. 49 points, more than double what the Cowboys had given up per game before this matchup. Over 39 minutes of ball-control - nearly two-thirds the allotted time.
The Saints dominated the line of scrimmage, dominated the the airspace, dominated everything about this game - more or less from start to finish.
Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett did not appear anywhere near as beaten-down or beleaguered as most of his team's fans appear to be, sticking with form answers in his postgame presser.
"You have to give New Orleans credit… they did a great job in all phases of the game tonight," Garrett said. "They made a lot of little plays in the game, they made big plays, they were very good on third down… they were able to do whatever they wanted to do."
This year's Cowboys defense is the product of renowned coordinator Monte Kiffin, who joined the team after owner Jerry Jones fired Rob Ryan in January. Kiffin's unit allowed the Saints to amass 625 yards and 49 points. Ryan, who is now New Orleans' defensive coordinator, held the Cowboys attack to 193 yards and 19 points. Point, Ryan.
And Jones knows it.
'“We thought that it was best for us to go in the direction that we are and that doesn’t look good right now. Hopefully we can make it look good,' said the Cowboys' owner and general manager.
The Cowboys' offense looked promising at first, as DeMarco Murray kicked things off with a huge first half - 81 yards and a touchdown. But the passing game was virtually nonexistent.
Tony Romo completed three passes in the first half - to tight ends Jason Witten and James Hanna. No wide receiver caught a pass until the third quarter, when Dez Bryant came up with a long reception and Terrance Williams followed it with a long touchdown grab. Overall, Tony Romo was 10-for-24 on the day with 128 yards and a touchdown.
The quarterback hasn't played particularly well since a record-breaking Week 5 matchup against Denver. He knows he needs to play better, and that it extends to the rest of the team - but he's not going to linger on this disappointing performance.
"I think you try to forget about everything else other than what happened in this football game… We’ve got to evaluate and get better. We did not play a good football game tonight, in all facets,’ Romo said.
Perhaps the greatest disappointment didn't come in the stat sheet or standings.
Sean Lee strained his hamstring on a second-quarter tackle attempt and had to leave the game. The superstar linebacker is the backbone of the Cowboys defense, and without both him and star defensive tackle Jason Hatcher, the Saints had free rein to decimate the Cowboys defense Sunday night.
Lee's status for the future is unknown, but if he's out for an extended stretch, there's little reason to believe the Cowboys can stop the bleeding.
The best selling point for a potential Cowboys playoff berth was the weak NFC East, but Dallas is part of the problem -- and with a win over Green Bay today, the Philadelphia Eagles have pulled even in the standings.
The 5-5 Cowboys now take a much-needed bye week before traveling to New York to face the 3-6 Giants Nov. 24.