Sunday Night wrap-up: Saints win defensive struggle

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We’re not used to the idea that a game featuring the Cowboys and Saints might struggle to reach double digits in scoring.

But either the offenses are listing in the first month of the season, or the defenses on both sides have made significant improvements.

The Saints snuck out a 12-10 win on Sunday, improving to 3-1, without scoring a touchdown.

But it wasn’t easy, or pretty.

It took an interception on a Dallas Hail Mary to seal the game, but the margin was small all night.

The Saints have gradually improved a defense that was dreadful not that many years ago, and the Cowboys have added pass-rush help and suddenly found depth at linebacker (at least during this time in which Sean Lee‘s not injured).

It’s an unusual phenomenon, and perhaps it’s just a combination of Drew Brees‘ thumb injury and some regression to the mean on the Cowboys’ side (Dallas was averaging 32 points per game in the first three).

But it’s not what we expected by any stretch of the imagination.

Between the struggles both teams put on tape Sunday, and a late injury to Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith, both offenses left this game with more questions than answers.

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

1. Maybe it just takes Dak Prescott 30 minutes to get warmed up. And maybe it doesn’t last long.

The Cowboys quarterback is now a perfect 28-of-28 passing, for 457 yards and three touchdowns in third quarters this year.

They’ve also scored a touchdown on their first possession of the second half in all four games.

Whether he’s inspired by Jason Garrett’s speeches, or just needs a bathroom break or something, he needs to keep doing whatever it is that’s working, or perhaps start earlier.

Sunday, he was 6-of-6 for 73 yards in his one drive in the third quarter.

He wasn’t great in the first, second, and fourth, but in minutes 30-45, he was strong.

2. This isn’t exactly breaking news, but Brees is apparently good at football.

While Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is often credited as one of the top backups in the NFL, the drop-off from his starter is noticeable and profound. Brees is still out for several more weeks following thumb surgery.

That’s not necessarily a shot at Bridgewater, but more of an indication of the incredible level Brees and Sean Payton have kept in recent years.

While Brees doesn’t have the same arm strength he used to have, there’s a noticeable shortening of the game plan when Bridgewater’s under center. (There’s also the fact that Brees would have probably gotten rid of the ball late rather than taking a bad sack, which kept them out of field goal range.)

Those limitations are still something the Saints can be effective with, but it’s not Brees.

Few are.

Bridgewater finished 23-of-30 for 193 yards and an interception, which was merely OK, and enough for a night.

3. Yes, Cowboys tight end Jason Witten‘s second-quarter fumble was rare.

In fact, it was just his ninth (seventh lost) in 243 games.

His last fumble was Oct. 8, 2017, against the Packers, and that was the only one of his previous non-broadcasting season.

4. Cowboys pass-rusher Robert Quinn has been a solid addition.

But it’s easier to make highlight reel hits when you’re unblocked.

The Saints had a few protection breakdowns that led to Quinn getting a few free shots at Bridgewater. He’s still a talented pass-rusher at age 29, but the Saints may have made him look better than he actually is.

5. Prescott’s not the only one who started slow Sunday.

Running back Ezekiel Elliott had just 26 yards on 11 carries in the first half, which seems impossible considering his talents and the line in front of him.

Part of that had to do with the improved interior defense of the Saints, which kept him bottled up early.

But he never got on track in the second half, finishing with 18 carries for 35 yards.

64 responses to “Sunday Night wrap-up: Saints win defensive struggle

  1. And da’ Boyz have been exposed! Spanked by a back-up QB! Dak looks like what everyone not drinking the koolaid knew he was— not a franchise QB. Zeke melted against a legitimate defense again. The vaunted OL couldn’t move the trenches an inch. Oh, did I mention a back-up QB torched the Cowboys defense?

    Better pull out those VHS tapes of the last Cowboys Super Bowl and tell your great grandkids about how “The Star” used to mean something before they were born. Thankfully we can all get back to reality knowing the Cowboys are still a second tier team that has no idea how to win when it means something. Good luck not playing the #32, #31 and #30 teams the rest of the way!

  2. Saints played a better and more inspired game. They won. Dallas made errors, some forced, some not. Refs made a usual mess but not game affecting. Though Elliott’s elbow was clearly down, and bogus PI calls hurt both teams. Saints also called a Better game for the most part.

  3. Teddy needs to simply manage these games, which he did. But taking that sack could of cost the Saints that game. Hopefully he gets more confident being 2-0

  4. Cowboys offense didn’t play well and did not deserve to win. Defense set it up for offense at the end but Dak and Co. continued and ended a bad night with sloppy play. Kudos to the Saints for having a good gameplan on defense.
    3-1 and on to the Packers.

  5. That’s the difference between handling and throwing trash (Giants, Skins and Pins) into the garbage bin and the Saints that has more wins than those teams mentioned prior, combined. As a Bears fan, I wish Dak good fortune against the Packers next week.

  6. Let’s pay Dak 40 million after that performance.
    Actually finish out this season, franchise him next season. If doesn’t take us to a NFC championship game, why sign him to an extension?

  7. slimglynn says:
    September 22, 2019 at 10:08 pm
    Hope you’re ready for your beat down next Sunday nights Aints.

    ———————-

    What does it say about your team when you lose to the Aints?

    I’ll be the FIRST to admit that Zeke did NOT fumble and it wasn’t even close. You guys got hosed on that one.

  8. Witten fumbled on what was looking like a decent drive and Zeke “fumbled” on another good drive. Saints wouldn’t have even had 12 if not for the Zeke “fumble” so why is everybody throwing this at Dak’s feet? Brees was hurt their D was still intact but of course the “Dak beat my team and I’m not over it yet” butthurt fans are gonna talk trash. They give him no credit for wins yet all blame for losses? Yea goes to show where your heads are at. Up your sorry a**es

  9. @ dfwhawkguy

    “And da’ Boyz have been exposed! Spanked by a back-up QB”. Uhhhhh, right. Bridegwater threw for under 200 yards and had a pick, but coming up short on a 12-10 final is getting “spanked”? Have another wine cooler, Orville.

    @ MortimerInMiami

    “Cowboys FINALLY played a good opponent and were smoked!”

    You and dfwhawkguy must be down in your mom’s basement again getting “smoked”. A 12-10 defensive battle is hardly getting “spanked” or “smoked”. But you keep it classy.

    Haters are gonna hate. It was a close defensive battle, and the Cowboys were on the road. Bad calls on both teams in yet another game, but the Saints grinded out
    a win. Congrats to them.

  10. You knew it was going to happen. As a Cowboys fan the first 3 games left some questions on both sides of the ball. There were struggles against weaker opponents defenses. Green bay next week they will be 3-2

  11. I guess that Cowboy boy wonder OC will have to go back to the drawing board and figure out a way to beat a winning team.

  12. The Cowboys finally played a decent team and Dak showed how average he really is. His value just dropped if I were advising his average butt I’d tell him to sign Dallas’ last offer on the flight back to Dallas. If I were Dallas I’d tell Dak take it or leave it but the number is going DOWN on Tuesday

  13. That’s okay Aints, we’ll give you this one. But you know how your season will end, the refs or a Hail Mary pass. Do you still have that safty on your team? That wasn’t really interference. Bahahaha! Can’t wait to see how your team will blows it this season.

  14. Man…the Seahawks lost by 6 last week after NO got a punt return for a TD, a fumble return for a TD and everything else going wrong for the Hawks all day…things like the NO punter pinning the Hawks at their own 5 yard line two series in a row.

    Like Pete Carroll said “it was just one of those days” where every ball bounced NO’s way all day and Seattle threw out the tape and called it a mulligan. They just turned the page.

    What is Dallas’s excuse? They actually got beat from what I saw. Will they be able to put this loss behind them the same way? I doubt it.

  15. It was evident during the first half last week against Miami, when the Dolphins were surprisingly competitive, this Cowboys team is over-rated. Dallas doesn’t stand a chance against a serious contender, especially one that starts strong.

    Prescott didn’t lose this game, but he couldn’t win it either. Elliott was shut down–35 yards on 18 carries and 1 fumble is pitiful for the highest paid running back in the league. Cooper was shut out, and he didn’t play like an elite receiver looking for a big money contract. Without those two playing at a high level, Dallas doesn’t have any playmakers who can step up and contribute in a tight game. There is Witten, but he’s not the game changer he once was, and he had a fumble. Thus, Prescott was exposed for who he is, an above average but not great quarterback. As the season progresses, his status in contract negotiations will decrease.

    Payton, with a backup quarterback in only his second start in three seasons, outcoached Garrett. Bridgewater is a decent game manager, but his skills are limited. He didn’t lose the game, but he didn’t win it either. The Saints kept hurting themselves with penalties, but the Cowboys couldn’t take advantage, because the New Orleans defense showed up and dominated.

  16. cboys4life2014 says:
    @pulledthegroin 4 FGs and no TDs winning by less than a FG is “shut down”? How much football have you actually watched in your life?
    ———————————————————————
    I’ve been watching the Cowboys since the days of Dandy Don Meredith son, and they were over-hyped choke artists then too. They used to call the Dallas Cowboys “Next Year’s Champions” !!!

    If you don’t think Zeke, Amari Cooper, Witten and that “best in the league” offensive line weren’t shut down and had it handed to them tonight, then you’re the one that doesn’t seem to know much football.

  17. @slimglynn
    While those times were bad for the SAINTS, that was 25 years ago. You know, back when the Cowboys were relevant:)

  18. Saints fortunate a bit vs Seattle with turnovers that changed the game, and same goes here, hut full credit to Bridgewater, who’s taking a beating but standing in there.
    Beating the Giants and Skins and Dolphins is more or less expected. Cowboys should be fine because their division is poor and then they play the Afc east teams too..theyre not going to scare anyone in the playoffs.

  19. I think both teams are very good. Dallas speed on D is really good but the Saints were just a little better in the trenches which is surprising because Dallas is good on both sides of the ball. The Saints are a hard-nosed team who are not afraid of anyone and, despite Bridgewater’s limitations, they come ready to play and still expect to win. They won 2 tough games back-to-back against playoff teams with their back-up and are 3-1 after playing four teams in the playoffs last year. Dallas is good, too, and I’ll be surprised if both teams aren’t in the playoffs this year.

  20. I am still shocked that the Saints were able to beat both the Seahawks and Cowboys with Brees out. That is absolutely amazing.

  21. WHO DAT?
    Where are those Cowboyz fan trying to Party on Bourbon Street on Saturday before the game?
    Where is Jerry? HE had the nerve to “strut” on Bourbon Street with His bodyguard in close proximity?

    You don’t come in our House & try to “second-line” with a lousy band to beat the SAINTS!

    REAL RECOGNIZE REAL!

  22. Both the Cowboys and Saints are head and shoulders above the Rams and the Niners this year.. I expect that both Dallas and New Orleans will face each other again in the NFC championship game next January.

  23. pulledthegroin 4 FGs and no TDs winning by less than a FG is “shut down”? How much football have you actually watched in your life?

    8 23 Rate This
    If Shutdown means keeping a teams offense to 10 total points that has been scoring 30 + a game , yeah that is being shutdown. I think that is what people are trying to say. Saints are not even a third of the team they are with Brees but Dallas fans think they went toe to toe with the saints at full strength. Take Dak out and see what that team becomes. Dallas has a really good young team but pump the brakes a little geez 🙃

  24. Who’s getting paid more…Kamara or Zeke? Dallas needed this one, I don’t believe the Saints are the best team on their schedule and they need to win close games like this. That is of course IF they are as good as they think they are, which they could be, but they have to pull off victories in these situations to have the capacity to do anything in the playoffs. Can they recover? Sure. It was very disheartening to see Moore’s gameplan look like a shot for shot match of Linehann’s when playing a decent team. Based on past experience of Garretts team’s this is the start of a slide of losing close games, and then reseting and winning a few close games, but not before missing the playoffs. Hope I’m wrong, but history suggests…

  25. As a fan of Philadelphia, I love the outcome but I’m not trashing Dallas the way some here are. The Saints just played better on both ends last night. Dallas played well on D and the offence wasn’t as sharp for whatever reason. If this was week 3 or 4 where they struggled to move the ball, then I would agree they have issues. But we really don’t know who the good teams will be this season until week 4 through 6. Every year so ans so is gonna be good or suck and by week 7 rolls around we see teams who were supposed to be good playing at a lower level and vice versa. The Cowboys are still 3-1 after the first quarter of the season. And the Saints didn’t have Drew so the outcome most likely would have been the same if he did, but just by way more points. Plenty of season left to see the pendulum swing either way.

  26. Lmao didn’t get to see the game …. but did Dak throw a hail Mary from his 40 yard line to the Saints 20 ? Couldn’t muster enuff on it to get it to the end zone … that’s a 35 million dollar arm ?

  27. cboys4life2014 says:
    @pulledthegroin 4 FGs and no TDs winning by less than a FG is “shut down”? How much football have you actually watched in your life?
    ———————————————————————
    I’ve been watching the Cowboys since the days of Dandy Don Meredith son, and they were over-hyped choke artists then too. They used to call the Dallas Cowboys “Next Year’s Champions” !!!
    If you don’t think Zeke, Amari Cooper, Witten and that “best in the league” offensive line weren’t shut down and had it handed to them tonight, then you’re the one that doesn’t seem to know much football.

  28. The left tackle for the Saints, #72, was absolutely abysmal. One of the most half arsed performances I have ever seen. Every rush you had the feeling that the Cowboys rusher was going to get to Teddy. If I’m not mistaken, it was number 56 (Smith) that smelled blood in the water all night. And if you look closely, Teddy gets all the blame for that sack at the end of the game, but once again the main culprit is #72 nowhere to be seen.

  29. “Cowboys FINALLY played a good opponent and were smoked!”

    They lost, yes…..which makes many of us Cowboy haters happy, but I wouldn’t exactly call 12-10 being “smoked”.

  30. So apparently as an OL if you tackle the DL who is coming for a sack and throw him to the ground in a really fast motion that is ok but if said DL then from the ground tackles your QB low you because he’s on the freaking ground that is unsportsmanlike penalty. Are you kidding me?

  31. As a Cowboys fan I don’t even have to guess what the comments are going to be before I come here and torture myself after a game like last night.

    Anyone who hates the Cowboys is crowing that they were “exposed” by a legit team, but if the Cowboys had pulled out the win the complaint would be that they could only beat the Saints without Brees.

    Everyone who watched the game saw the same thing. Cowboys struggled with the noise and had a lot more ball control issues than normal. Did you all forget how they looked on the first drive of the second half?

    Yesterday, everyone’s darling Tom went 18 of 39 for 150 and a pick. His team held on to beat the Bills.

    Dak went 22 of 33 for 223 and threw a pick on the final play of the game on a Hail Mary. They lost by 2 points. But Dak has been “exposed as the fraud he is”.

    I am not saying Dak is the 30 Million Dollar Man, but he has what it takes to win in this league and that is all that matters. Wins. No matter what team you are lined up against.

  32. The noise in the dome definitely caused a lot of issues for the Cowboys’ offense but this will serve as a wake-up call. The Saints played more aggressive and made “safe”’plays on offense to keep the clock rolling. The Cowboys will make adjustments and be fine. No need to ring the alarm going into week 5 of the season. Good game Saints.

  33. chastain00 says:
    September 30, 2019 at 7:24 am
    Lmao didn’t get to see the game …. but did Dak throw a hail Mary from his 40 yard line to the Saints 20 ? Couldn’t muster enuff on it to get it to the end zone … that’s a 35 million dollar arm ?
    ******************************************
    Look, I’m no Cowboys fan, but on that last “Hail Mary” pass, Dak had a safety, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, bearing down on him at high speed. Dak had to get rid of the ball before his receivers could get downfield, and he threw somewhat off his back foot, so it came up way short. Personally, as a Saints fan, I was glad for the result of that play, but Dak is a Louisiana boy who played at Miss. State, where I personally watched him sling it deep when he wanted to. Just keeping it real here…….

  34. I watched the entire game last night and here are a couple of observations:

    The calls absolutely went against the Saints. There were a lot of ticky tack holding calls against the Saints O-line that similar plays weren’t flagged on the Dallas O-line. The non-penalty on the hit against Teddy’s slide in the second half looked an awful lot like the slide Dak had that was flagged as 15 yards – I thought both were penalties and picking up that flag should even be possible if that play is a zero tolerance like the NFL has stated. The offensive pass interference calls were a joke against both teams and came at a pretty critical time against Dallas in the 4th quarter.

    The Saints LT looked like a turnstile at the NYC subway, there were multiple plays in which he literally didn’t even touch the defensive end that was his assignment. This made the defensive line of the Cowboys look a lot stronger then I believe they are. Having said that, the Cowboys linebacker core is the absolute best in football and that group is going to continue to reek havoc on offenses . . . they are very difficult to run against.

    Even though the Cowboys were very hard to run against Peyton stuck with the run and it paid dividends in the 4th quarter, as it looked like the Cowboys defense become a little winded from being on the field so much and battling so hard.

    Anyone who is saying but if not for the Witten and Elliot fumbles, doesn’t know football, as turnovers are part of the game. Also those saying Elliot didn’t fumble, the strip is coming and the ball was moving at what looked like a split second before his elbow hit the ground . . . so I think it was a legit fumble.

    Finally, Dak is a good quarterback, probably top 20, not top 10 maybe in the mid teens. The problem for Dallas is that they are a good football team with a lot of talent, so Dak benefits from that and I believe he will be able to demand near top dollar deals and one that rival the Rams deal with Goff, but I don’t think he delivers that much value . . . not sure if Goff does either.

  35. For everyone saying Cowboys got “smoked” and “torched” by a backup qb dont know much about football…. Cowboys gave up 12 points. That same team with Brees scored 10.

    Cowboys didnt lose the game on defense…

  36. atlantablewa28-3lead says:

    September 30, 2019 at 9:15 am

    When was the last time you could say the Saints’ defense would win them the game?

    Last week.

  37. For those saying the Cowboys LBs are hard to run against … good running teams last year gashed them with middle runs , they haven’t faced a good running team yet this year … but you know let’s just focus on the first 4 games this year where Dallas played 3 of the worst teams this season so far.

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