I remember that cold December night in 2009 right before the Dallas Cowboys would play the New Orleans Saints for a chance to stay alive in the playoff race. Before then, the Cowboys lost to the San Diego Chargers, putting their chances in jeopardy and they also lost defensive end DeMarcus Ware to a scary neck injury. He was carted off the field and people were worried he might not play again. The Saints were unbeaten at the time, 13-0, and were deemed unbeatable at home. It was a national prime time game, putting up two high-powered teams for a match that would surely bring in the ratings. The Cowboys were the underdogs, it was all but certain that the night would end with a Saints victory. 24-17, Dallas over New Orleans was the final score. The victory alone would propel the team to a playoff berth and the division title. It is 2013 now and it maybe November, but a lot is on the line with this highly-anticipated matchup between NFC opponents.
Dec 23, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) recovers a fumble in overtime against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium. The Saints beat the Cowboys 34-31 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
After the Cowboys narrowly escaped the Minnesota Vikings, a lot of fans and media pundits are not too impressed with the Cowboys. The injuries along the defensive line seem to get larger by the minute and the offense is stuck in a slump that seems to be miles away from the performance we saw against the Denver Broncos. So naturally, the game against the Saints this week has to be a certain loss for the Cowboys right? This is the type of game the Cowboys love to win and do it quite often. When their backs are against the wall, they always seem to pull it out and upset some quality teams. They continue to always play up to the level of their opponent.
The prime example I used in the opening paragraph was the 2009 matchup between the two teams. I remember no one gave the Cowboys any chance to win; especially since DeMarcus Ware was seemingly unable to play that week. Miraculously, he returned and delivered the sack and forced fumble on Saints quarterback Drew Brees that helped sealed the win. The offense also broke out and took the game over with huge plays by Dallas quarterback Tony Romo and the passing game. The game helped create momentum large enough to steal the division and help the Cowboys get the first playoff win in over 15 years.
To ensure that history repeats itself, the Cowboys will need a big game by Romo and this offense and DeMarcus Ware has to return from injury and play the game of his life. The offensive line needs to get better blocks in the run; game and the coaches need to commit to the run as well. The players need to play with emotion, but it has to be checked as well. The team needs to have a cutthroat mentality and put away a game when the opportunity presents itself. These are the small things that separate the Cowboys from the upper-tier teams.
I am not saying these things will happen, because I am predicting a Cowboys loss this week. As a sports writer, I am calling it how I see it, but as a fan I am hoping the fighter mentality shows up this week and proves my prediction wrong. A shocking win over the Saints might just help repeat history and lead the Cowboys back to the playoffs this year, just like in 2009.