Rob Ryan had his revenge as the New Orleans Saints slaughtered the Dallas Cowboys 49-17 on Sunday Night Football to take a 7-2 lead in the NFC South. The Dallas Cowboys fall to 5-5 tied for first with the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East.
If two statistics could tell the whole game, it would be New Orleans’ number of first downs — 40 — and Dallas’ third down conversion rate of 0/9.
Dallas jumped out to a 3-0 lead after a muffed New Orleans punt midway through the fourth quarter. New Orleans would answer the points off of a turnover with quarterback Drew Brees’ 22-yard strike to receiver Marques Colston to take a 7-3 lead.
Runningback DeMarco Murray concluded Dallas’ ensuing 8-play drive with a 7-yard touchdown run to make it 10-7 Dallas. Those were the last Dallas points until late in the third quarter. New Orleans rattled off 28 unanswered points.
The first was a 1-yard touchdown run by runningback Pierre Thomas to cap off a 15-play, 80-yard drive to go up 14-10.
The next was a 3-yard run by runningback Darren Sproles to take a 21-10 lead.
When Dallas couldn’t get any points in the final two minutes of the half, Sproles caught a 28-yard swing pass and turned it into a touchdown to make it 28-10.
Late in the third quarter, to conclude a 92-yard drive that went six plays, runningback Mark Ingram ran a 4-yard touchdown to make it 35-10.
Dallas appeared to mount a comeback when Tony Romo hit rookie receiver Terrance Williams on a 21-yard touchdown and then Dallas recovered an onside kick. But they would immediately go three-and-out and give the ball right back to New Orleans, who would score two additional touchdowns — 52-yard reception to rookie receiver Kenny Stills and another 1-yard Pierre Thomas run — to make it 49-17, the game’s final score.
Dallas’ postage headlines will include linebacker Sean Lee’s injury that forced him to leave the game, defensive end DeMarcus Ware’s injury that kept him from playing at full strength, and defensive tackle Jason Hatcher’s game time decision to not play.
Tony Romo went 10/24 for 128 yards and 1 touchdown. Comparatively, Drew Brees went 34/41 for 392 and 4 touchdowns.
Three different New Orleans runningbacks had rushing touchdowns. DeMarco Murray had 16 carries for 89 yards and 1 touchdown.
Dallas’ leading receiver was reserve tight end James Hanna with 3 receptions for a total of 11 yards. Receiver Dez Bryant led all receivers with 44 yards, which he earned on his lone catch of the night. Terrance Williams had a touchdown, and tight end Jason Witten had 2 catches for 27 yards.
Marques Colston and Darren Sproles each had 7 receptions. Colston finished with 107 yards receiving. Tight end Jimmy Graham finished with 5 receptions for 59 yards.
New Orleans kicker Garrett Hartley missed a field goal try of 37 yards, while Dallas kicker Dan Bailey booted in a 37-yarder and successfully executed an onside kick.
Knotted up at 5-5, the Dallas Cowboys do hold the tiebreaker over the Philadelphia Eagles for the division lead, but not for long. With Dallas heading into their bye this week, Philadelphia has a chance at home to beat a 3-6 Washington club and take sole possession of the NFC East.
The good news is 4/6 of Dallas’ games after the bye week are against teams with losing records. The bad news is three of those games are divisional, 2/3 of them are on the road, and all of their road games are up north in the cold. At 5-5 with the rest of the division surging, winning the NFC East is starting to become more challenging for the Dallas Cowboys.