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Was the Dallas Cowboys’ loss merely a defensive struggle?

Was the Cowboys’ offense exposed after a 10 point game against the Saints? Jerry Jones thinks Dallas just ended up in a defensive battle against another good team.
Credit: AP
A.J. Klein, linebacker de los Saints de Nueva Orleáns, derriba a Ezekiel Elliott, corredor de los Cowboys de Dallas, en el encuentro del domingo 29 de septiembre de 2019 (AP Foto/Butch Dill)

DALLAS — The story line coming out of the Dallas Cowboys' 12-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints was how the Dallas offense that was averaging 32.3 got exposed in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. However, it could be that the Saints defense is a lot better than spectators and commentators have given them credit.

On his weekly radio appearance with "Shan & RJ" on 105.3 "The Fan" [KRLD-FM] in Dallas-Fort Worth, Cowboys owner, president, and general manager Jerry Jones pointed out that in the team's last two contests, the two sides have tallied a combined 45 points.

"I saw a stat this morning where the last three times we played them it's like 22 points to 23 points with us having the 23," Jones said. "This is a good defense that they're playing and they're going to be a challenge for us no matter if we play them down there or play them at our place."

In 2018, New Orleans visited Dallas at AT&T Stadium on Nov. 29. Winners of 10 in a row, the Saints also boasted an offense that averaged 37.2 points per game. Like the Cowboys on Sunday night, the Saints walked away losers with just 10 points scored.

Jones' comments Tuesday aren't exactly spin to make a poor offensive performance look better, or to possibly protect his rookie offensive coordinator in Kellen Moore from feeling the warmth of local and national criticism. 

In Jones' pregame interview on the Cowboys Radio Network with sideline reporter Kristi Scales an hour before kickoff, Jones was worried about the Saints defense. While answering questions about his own defense, Jones segued into some remarks about New Orleans' defense.

"I'm more worried about New Orleans' defense, and I think that's legitimately should be a concern for us," Jones said Sunday night. "You look at their personnel. They're really capable of matching up against us well. And, so, we're really going to have to take what they give us our here."

The fact is they didn't give much. The Cowboys had tremendous success running the ball behind center Travis Frederick with nine of Ezekiel Elliot’s first down rushes coming behind center, the most on that particular down. On second down, 34 of Elliott's 82 second-down rushing yards also came behind Frederick, the most through three weeks.

"They did a real good job of any time we have three guys, guy over the guard, guy over the center, guy over the guard," Jones explained. "Any time they're in there, and in this case good ones, then that's a bigger challenge for us running the ball."

In a defensive struggle, the game typically comes down to a handful of plays. The Cowboys had two drives end in fumbles before halftime, and they attempted a Hail Mary from midfield instead of sending kicker Brett Maher out for a long-range field goal.

In 2018, the Saints failed to cash in on any of the Cowboys' two turnovers, which would have made a difference in a game decided by a field goal.

"The last possession in the NFL is usually a big one and usually if all you need is three points, the team with the ball at the end, the way we were, has got the best chance of winning the game," said Jones. "It was disappointing we didn't get that last drive in place and get down there in at least a position to kick a field goal. You're going to have to do that to win, and do that in a place with a hostile crowd, a place like Superdome there, then you've got a challenge."

The Cowboys have another challenge on their hands in Week 5 as they prepare for the Green Bay Packers led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has a career 3-0 record at AT&T Stadium, including postseason. 

Do you feel like the Cowboys just got caught up in a defensive battle in New Orleans or has the offense been revealed to be suspect? Share your opinions on Week 4 with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.

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