Whenever the Dallas Cowboys face New Orleans, it’s usually the Saints’ high-scoring offense that strikes fear. That hasn’t been the case recently.
On Sunday night the Dallas Cowboys defense will again engage New Orleans offensive guru Sean Payton’s notoriously dangerous scoring offense. Even without future Hall of Fame passer Drew Brees, the versatile Saints are a challenge.
However, one hidden statistic suggests the current threat isn’t nearly as daunting as its reputation. Since Teddy Bridgewater replaced Brees early in the second game of the season, New Orleans has only scored three touchdowns on 15 drives.
WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE
Bridgewater has led the Saints to 30 total points (three field goals, three touchdowns). However, the 20 percent rate of drives ending in seven points is pedestrian, especially for a normally explosive offense.
When analyzing drives, I omitted those with no apparent attempt to score by sitting on the ball to end a half or game. New Orleans had one of these, Dallas had three. Of the Cowboys 26 legitimate drives, 13 resulted in a touchdown.
Dallas’ 50 percent touchdown rate absolutely dwarfs the New Orleans (with Bridgewater) 20 percent conversion rate of the same feat. Taking it a step further, the Cowboys offense has scored 97 points, while the Saints offense recorded 58.
Admittedly New Orleans has faced tougher defensive competition, yet the Cowboys defense is of equally high caliber. Despite allowing bulky yard totals, Dallas has the fourth-ranked scoring defense in football.
If Bridgewater continues to lag at converting drives into touchdowns, Dallas should hold a valuable scoring advantage. For all the focus placed on the worrisome Saints offense, their defense has yet to hold an opponent under 27 points.
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott should be able to exploit a vulnerable pass defense in New Orleans. If the Dallas defense continues to tighten on third down (20 percent conversions) and in the red zone, limiting touchdowns clears a path to victory.