SAINTS 12, COWBOYS 10
Saints vs Cowboys: Good, bad & ugly
The Saints and Cowboys had another classic game. It came down to the wire, but the Saints pulled out a 12-10 victory. Here are my observations from game two and a half of the Brees-less era:
-Two turnovers (fumble recoveries) in the first half turned things in favor of the Saints. They took a 9-3 lead going into halftime. AJ Klein and Vonn Bell caused them, but it was Bell who recovered both on back to back Cowboy drives. This defense has been, at times, woefully bad, but they deserve their props here for keeping the team in the game.
-Speaking of the defense, what a job they did with Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper. Those guys are two of the best at their respective positions and the Saints defense managed to hold them to a combined 113 yards was impressive. Dennis Allen, take a bow sir. He's been maligned as the Saints defensive coordinator. This performance should quiet the haters for a while. Allen put together a great gameplan and his guys executed.
-If Michael Thomas isn't in your top five receivers in the league, you're crazy. Thomas consistently gets open and makes difficult catches seem routine. He caught all nine targets thrown to him for 95 yards. Guys like Thomas are a quarterback's best friend and a coach's saving grace.
-Midway through the 1st quarter, Teddy Bridgewater scrambled out the pocket and found Ted Ginn Jr. Ginn bobbled the ball and it was picked off. While Bridgewater will get an interception to his credit and Ginn will have a drop on his, it'll look worse on Bridgewater than Ginn. Ginn has had his hands questioned in the past. Here's another example of why a real number two WR opposite of Thomas is a priority in the offseason.
-The offensive line, and Bridgewater, gave up five sacks. Sure the Cowboys pass rush has been strengthened with the addition of Robert Quinn opposite Demarcus Lawrence, but something has to give. Terron Armstead gave up a crucial one midway through the fourth quarter when Quinn came free after Armstead appeared not to react to the snap as if he didn't know the snap count. Could've gotten Bridegwater hurt there. The worst was yet to come...
-Never has a Sean Payton Saints team gone a whole home game wiythout scoring a touchdown. They were in position a few times to score one, but failed to produce. Winning ugly is a necessity for great teams, but so is scoring and taking advantage of every scoring opportunity.
-The Saints are addicted to penalties like Pookie from New Jack City. "It just keep calling me!" And the refs keep throwing flags to feed their addiction. Six for 60 yards in the 1st half, and 9 for 80 yards for the entire game. My buddy Jeff on Twitter saw the same thing. It's become downright infuriating.
-Dak Prescott looked a little too good for my liking despite losing the game. He went 22/32 for 223 yards, only sacked once, and didn't get intercepted until the final play of the game. Sure he didn't throw for 300+ yards or have a touchdown, but giving up a 66.7% completion rate isn't ideal. The Saints have to do better if they expect to contend for a title this year.
-With less than two minutes left in the game, ball on the Cowboy 31 yard line in field goal range, and nursing a 12-10 lead, Bridgewater got sacked on 3rd & 8 forcing a 4th & 24 punt. Plays like this can cost a team a game. Fortunately, it didn't. Pocket awareness is critical at the quarterback position. Bridgewater needs to regain his form from his 2015 Pro Bowl form.
These two teams are both expected to be in the NFC playoff picture. With only one touchdown being scored in the game, it was ugly. One would think the Saints would lose a game in which the opposing team scores the only touchdown, but that wasn't the case. Handing the Cowboys their first defeat in this fashion was impressive. Perhaps when Brees gets back, this team will be in great shape. If they keep winning, Brees will come back to a contender instead of a failure.