How the Cowboys Beat the Saints
The first thing head coach Jason Garrett should do before he lets his Cowboys practice for Sunday’s game in New Orleans, is have the entire team watch the Stanford-Oregon game from Thursday night. Stanford was a 10 point underdog against an Oregon team that everyone thought could score at will. All the Cardinal did was out-play and out-smart the Ducks on their way to a relatively easy 26-20 victory.
The Saints are Oregon. They only know one gear and that’s full out for an entire game and put the ball in the end zone as often as possible. New Orleans is a 6 1/2 point favorite Sunday night and Drew Brees is having another spectacular season, but the Cowboys have the fire power to go point for point with the Saints. They proved that to themselves and the world when they almost won the shootout at the Jerry World Corral with the Broncos.
The Saints come into the game with a 6-2 record and first place in the NFC South. The Cowboys are 5-4 and also in first place in the NFC East. While the Cowboys appear to be in the midst of another .500 season here are a few statistics comparing this year’s team to last years. They’ve moved from 22nd to 2nd in Red Zone offense, 15th to 4th in points per game, 27th to 2nd in turnover margin and 24th to 15th in defense points per game.
The Cowboys are considerably better in many key stats from last year, one of which is Red Zone scoring. Last season the Cowboys settled for field goals time and time again inside the 20, but this season they score a touchdown 68% of the time they’re inside the opponents 20. Creating turnovers is crucial and Monte Kiffin’s defense has done that better than all but one team in the league. Those stats show a team that should be better than 5-4. But they don’t seem to come up with the play when they need it most. A statistic that speaks to that this year is 3rd down conversion; the Cowboys were 8th in the NFL last year but have fallen to 24th in the league this year. They have trouble making first downs and staying on the field.
That will be critical Sunday night because former Cowboy defensive coordinator Rob Ryan now parades his 70’s hair on the Saints sideline. He not only wants revenge against Garrett for firing him after last season but he’s turned a Saints defense that set a league record for points allowed last year, into a top 10 defense this year.
Injuries continue to haunt the Cowboys. Jason Hatcher, who grew up in Louisiana, still has trouble raising his left arm and probably won’t play against the Saints, DeMarcus Ware will play after sitting out a couple of weeks. Morris Claiborne and Miles Austin probably won’t see the field but DeMarco Murray should play, but if he only gets the ball 9 times will it really matter?
Shutting down Brees and winning the turnover battle will decide this game. I expect Romo to have a big game as he often does against teams with great quarterbacks. Final score: Cowboys 34 Saints 30.