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Sunday night wrap-up: Brees, Saints offense rolling

Dallas Cowboys v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

As things stand today, the Saints would eventually have to play on the road in the playoffs.

But they have the ultimate equalizer — a quarterback in sync with his coach and playing at the peak of his abilities.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees was amazing Sunday night, completing 34-of-41 passes for 392 yards and four touchdowns as the Saints improved to 7-2 with a 49-17 win over the Cowboys.

They set a new NFL record with 40 first downs, evidence of how thoroughly they dominated the Cowboys.

At times, it looked like Brees and coach Sean Payton were just toying with Dallas, doing stuff for fun against an overmatched opponent (outgaining them 625-193).

The floundering of the Cowboys only put Brees’ sublime in night in stark relief. While they struggled to get a first down (Tony Romo passed for 128 yards), the Saints were putting on a show.

Brees spread the ball among nine targets, and because of the margin of the game, they even ran it some too.

But he was surgical in the first half, completing 19 straight passes at one point.

That kind of precision in the passing game is going to make them an interesting matchup with the 9-1 Seahawks, and their Dec. 2 game could go a long way toward deciding home field in the NFC playoffs.

Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:

1. Here’s a pro tip: If you’re in the vicinity of Bourbon Street tonight or this morning, and see Rob Ryan, follow him at a discreet distance. Free drinks are bound to flow.

The Saints defensive coordinator tried to downplay things this week, but he was clearly salty about being scapegoated in Dallas.

And he stuck it to his old boss in the best way possible.

Ryan’s never proven to be long-term sustainable as a coordinator, but the difference he’s made in the Saints defense has been profound.

They’re not a particularly talented unit. They don’t have to be. But he’s helped the league’s worst defense ever become respectable at times, and that’s enough considering who they’re playing with.

2. For all the losses the Cowboys have taken on defense this year, it’s easy to overlook the way defensive tackle Jason Hatcher has played.

He had 7.0 sacks entering this week, and has been the foundation of their next-man-up defense all year. To think, the initial plan was for him to play on the nose so Jay Ratliff could be the three-technique tackle Monte Kiffin’s defense is based on. Maybe it’s a good thing Ratliff never showed up.

Unfortunately, last week’s stinger left Hatcher inactive this week, and unable to help.

Without him, the Cowboys had a gaping hole in the middle of their defense, and that was before linebacker Sean Lee left with a hamstring injury.

3. The Saints are not without concerns on offense, no matter what the stat sheet says.

Brees is still getting hit far too often (one-legged DeMarcus Ware got a few shots in during the first half), and the quarterback’s anticipation and quick release can only cover up for middle-of-the-road talent up front for so long. They’ve let several starting linemen leave in recent years (Jermon Bushrod and Carl Nicks in free agency), and so many defections will eventually catch up.

But they’re also close to being dangerously thin at tight end. That was underscored when backup Benjamin Watson hit his head on the turf in the third quarter. He was diagnosed with a concussion, and didn’t return. Watson had three concussions in 2011 with the Browns (the third one landing him on IR), so there’s always going to be a concern there.

Jimmy Graham is getting by despite obvious pain, as his foot injury seems the kind of thing he’s going to have to manage all year.

So as good as they look at the moment, there’s still danger lurking around the corner.

4. Another really understated player for the Cowboys is special teamer Dwayne Harris, who left early in the game with a neck/shoulder injury.

Harris was blasted into a Saints player while well out of bounds, and was slow to get up. He eventually returned, which was a relief.

His contributions transcend his electrifying return ability. His coverage skills make him equally valuable on the other side of special teams, and that unit has been consistently good for the Cowboys this year.

5. The Saints are never going to be much of a running team, as long as that Brees guy is there.

And Mark Ingram may never justify the trade they made to get him.

But it was at least nice to see him productive. Ingram finished with 145 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, one of the few times in his pro career when he looked like a viable option for them.

It was his first career 100-yard game, and it’s good to see that he’s capable of it.

Such that they need it.

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32 Responses to “Sunday night wrap-up: Brees, Saints offense rolling”
  1. whyamiacowboysfanagain says: Nov 10, 2013 11:47 PM

    “Well, being that we held Brees to under 400 yards, I think it was a moral victory!”
    -Jerry Jones

  2. krenshaws says: Nov 10, 2013 11:48 PM

    Where is my special friend natnic75 at? The Cowgirls got blown out! Rob Ryan made you look foolish! What do you have to say now?

  3. thrillheaux says: Nov 10, 2013 11:49 PM

    “Here’s a pro tip: If you’re in the vicinity of Bourbon Street tonight or this morning, and see Rob Ryan, follow him at a discreet distance. Free drinks are bound to flow.”

    He goes Uptown to Ms. Mae’s after every home game. Buys the place a round, too.

  4. rollinghighwayblues says: Nov 10, 2013 11:49 PM

    Wow, Cowboys were a laughing stock all night.

    A 28-0 run for the Saints, that’s all that needs to be said. When will the Cowboys get a defense that resembles a NFL team? I’m tired of this laughable defense. Jesus. They got ran over ALL night. Absolutely torched. Everyone on the Cowboys defense needs to take a long look in the mirror, I don’t want to hear any crying about injuries, man up and make a stand once this season. Seriously. Second quarter with :54 left, the only job is to keep the Saints out of the end zone and head to the locker room. Nope, nope. Just let the Saints waltz on in…just like Detroit.

    Also, 0-10 on Third down for the Cowboys. Give me a break.

  5. whyamiacowboysfanagain says: Nov 10, 2013 11:50 PM

    Wow! That Saint defense is AWESOME, oh wait, Cowboy offense just sucks!

  6. fan73 says: Nov 10, 2013 11:50 PM

    if Saints get home field for playoffs…its a wrap

  7. nfl4days says: Nov 10, 2013 11:57 PM

    This is exactly what we needed after that embarrassment up in New York. This stretch is gonna show the type of team we are. Niners Falcons Seahawks Panthers. We really need to work on our run defense above anything else.

  8. mp42245 says: Nov 10, 2013 11:59 PM

    Dat was a Who Dat game. Go Saints

  9. snaxdsp says: Nov 10, 2013 11:59 PM

    Needed a win like this

  10. tolan04 says: Nov 11, 2013 12:01 AM

    Same Dallas d different coach

  11. krromero says: Nov 11, 2013 12:03 AM

    This was as embarrassing as it gets for us Cowboys fans. The Saints played a flawless game and dominated us in every facet game. Its becoming painfully obvious just how incapable our coaches are of coming up with a creative and effective game plan. Bill Callahan is terrible at putting his players in positions to succeed. Dez Bryant is as good as its gets at wide receiver and we cant figure out ways to get him the ball, I mean its not like doubling him with man or bracket coverage is a new concept, other competent coaches figure ways out to get their stars involved period. As for the defense its just a mess. Injuries have just left us held together with duct tape and its just atrocious.

  12. hpeters77 says: Nov 11, 2013 12:04 AM

    All I’m saying is who dat

  13. cursedvikings1998 says: Nov 11, 2013 12:04 AM

    Dear Cowboys fans,

    Now you know that last year wasn’t Rob Ryan’s fault. The Saints defense, filled with a lot of backups tonight, absolutely owned Romo and the Cowboys.

    Jerrah always fires the wrong people. That’s the Jerrah way.

  14. 12strikes says: Nov 11, 2013 12:10 AM

    6. Romo’s lack of male genitals will sentence the cowpies to a .500 record for the remainder of his contract.

  15. mrlaloosh says: Nov 11, 2013 12:16 AM

    Hey Big D, Rob Ryan says “Holla”! Ole man Kiffin was dozing in the booth. Only gave the Saints 625 yards of offense. Good job, Monte.

  16. bossbertozzi says: Nov 11, 2013 12:16 AM

    The cowboys deserved this blowout. The way that they have been playing football lately will not work come playoff time, and hopefully this serves as a wake up call. Tony romo is way too conservative. When it’s a 3rd and 8, what good is it to throw 1 yard past the line of scrimmage? It was a very frustrating night for a cowboys fan such as myself. Thank god they have a bye next week, hopefully they can use it to get their crap together.

  17. keylimelight says: Nov 11, 2013 12:28 AM

    Good wrap up Gantt. I think all your points are spot on.

    The Saints needed this win after stumbling so bad vs. the Jets and as they start the 2nd half of the season with a tough stretch ahead: 49ers, @Falcons, and @Seahawks.

    After watching the 49ers vs the Panthers today only roll up a score of 19 points between them, I’m not so pessimistic about Saints’ chances for these games.

  18. ndrocks2 says: Nov 11, 2013 12:29 AM

    I dream of the day when I wake up and read that Jerry Jones lost it and cleaned house with coaches and players instead of condoning or defending their actions. This team is a mess from top to bottom and while I realize Jones is problem number one as a GM he isn’t going anywhere but really how bad does it have to get to realize major changes are needed?

  19. jr4real says: Nov 11, 2013 12:38 AM

    Hard to decide who to root for here… Rob Ryan or Jerry Jones??!!

  20. romosrevenge says: Nov 11, 2013 12:41 AM

    Beating a bad Cowboy team tonite doesn’t put Brees in the NFC final , not by a long shot. I seem to recall them losing to the Jets last week. And throwing for a bazillion yds. vs a team who gave up 600yds to Detroit isn’t saying much. Moreover, Romo has thrown for over 500 in a game this year.

  21. wyntyrmute says: Nov 11, 2013 12:55 AM

    Drew Brees went off after that nasty hit he took from Ware.

    Dallas D started playing dirty with some cheap shots, hands to the face, etc and New Orleans responded by pouring on score after score and then set and NFL record for first downs.

  22. filmex2000 says: Nov 11, 2013 1:12 AM

    Ahhh, the genius that is Jerry Jones.

    Last year, although half the Cowboys defense was in the ICU, it was Ryan who was thrown under the bus for yet another underachieving season.

    Jones looked around and decided Monte Kiffin, who had just spent a couple of years coaching for his boy Lane at USC, was the guy to replace him. Monte Kiffin, who spent his time at USC proving he couldn’t stop Pac-12 offenses.

    Genius, pure genius. The glory days of Jimmy Johnson when SOMEBODY actually knew what they were doing must seem like a wisp of a memory at this point.

  23. slammincamnewton says: Nov 11, 2013 1:32 AM

    I can’t wait for Carolina’s front 7 to bruise the otherside of Brees’ face.

  24. daviddmsvcp says: Nov 11, 2013 1:57 AM

    Geez, give the back up QB some snaps.

  25. akasaintsbaby says: Nov 11, 2013 2:39 AM

    Put the Cowboys in the NFC South so we can beat them twice a year. Move the Bucs to the NFC East. Both teams would be where they belong.

    Left out in the article was that the Saints got 626 total yards and that is the most yards allowed in the history of the Cowboys.

  26. omniscient48 says: Nov 11, 2013 2:44 AM

    Mark Ingram? MARK INGRAM??? Was that really him? He looked as good as T.Y. Yeldon!! To paraphrase Denny Green, tonight Mark Ingram was who they thought he was.

  27. Eli on Injured Reserve says: Nov 11, 2013 8:24 AM

    What’s up with the Dallas Cowboys? While playing of the National Anthem, almost all of them didn’t hold their hand over their hearts, while every member of the New Orleans Saints did. America’s Team My Ass. They don’t like our country, move them to London; the NFL wants a team there, take them.

  28. justintuckrule says: Nov 11, 2013 9:53 AM

    Who dis, where dem, who dey, where dat……

    Who cares! N.O. Is simply the intended byproduct of goodells ruined league. Leave the dome and they can’t even beat the jets

  29. mzfitz1215 says: Nov 11, 2013 10:51 AM

    As a cowboys fan I was expecting a loss last night, but OH MY GOD, WTH WAS THAT??? I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I’m thankful we finally have our bye week and have a chance to get healthy, last night was just embarrassing.

    Congrats to the Saints.

    JJ- I freekin told you getting rid of Ryan was a stupid idea!! One day you will finally die and we will be rid of you, hopefully your idiot son won’t be taking over.

  30. footballchic777 says: Nov 11, 2013 12:33 PM

    Mark Ingram was in to save Thomas and Sproles from injury when they were up a ton of points. The Dallas D was totally gassed when he entered the game, so I think it actually made him look better than he is.

  31. charleypattonsguitar says: Nov 11, 2013 1:07 PM

    Awesome break down of last night’s game! Very detailed, and this is one pleased reader…keep it up!

  32. charleypattonsguitar says: Nov 11, 2013 3:43 PM

    Theory proved.

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