SAINTS 12, COWBOYS 10

Saints vs Cowboys: Good, bad & ugly

Michael C. Hebert, Saints website

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:

The Good

-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.

The Bad

-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 Ugly

-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.

Kevin C Cox/Getty Images

We all love football, especially the NFL. There is a reason it is the most popular sport in the country.

The other sports leagues need gimmicks. Baseball is weighing a really dumb playoff plan. The NBA looked at a possible tournament. Anything to try to be more relevant, to try to close the gap on the NFL.

So why is the one sport with the best postseason thinking about messing it up?

Last week, a report came out that the NFL was looking to add two more playoff teams for the 2021 season. Essentially, each league would have seven playoff teams. There would be byes for the top team in each conference. The second-best team would no longer get a bye. Last season, in the AFC, the Ravens would have had a bye. The Texans would have still faced the Bills, and the Patriots would have also faced the Titans. The Chiefs would have hosted the 8-8 Steelers.

In the NFC, San Francisco would have had the bye. The Saints would have played the Vikings, the Eagles would have faced the Seahawks and the Packers would have hosted the Rams. The results likely would have played out the same.

But did we really need to see a Steelers team with no quarterback? Are the extra games worth it?

On the surface, yes. more meaningful games. More to bet on. Could that really be a bad thing?

Yes. One of the things that makes the NFL unique is that it is not easy to make the playoffs. Basketball and hockey let in half the league or more. Letting in more than 12 out of 32 waters things down. Can the playoffs really improve by adding less quality?

The NFL already has it right. Why change it? More money? More teams staying in the race later in the season?

The NFL barely had enough quality teams last season. The playoffs featured upsets, including the Titans knocking off New England and Baltimore. In the end, we got two quality teams in the Super Bowl. Why mess with it?

Greed. Better TV deals. It is just two games, but that's two more high-profile TV games to sell.

Sometimes, sports leagues can outthink themselves. In this case, the NFL does not need to change. Why mess with something that is working? The NFL playoffs don't need improving. Is that Chiefs-Steelers matchup really worth it? Teams like the Colts, Jets, Broncos and Raiders would have been in the playoff mix until near the end of the season. On the surface, this all sounds great.

But at the risk of sounding like "get off my lawn" guy, sometimes the old ways are the best. The NFL has not changed its playoff format in 30 years. During that time, the sport has seen unprecedented growth and become the dominant sports league in America.

Why change what works just to add more money to a multi-billion dollar industry? Why reward more mediocrity in a league that welcomes too much of it as it is?

The playoff expansion appears inevitable, so complaining will do little good. Still, it is a bad idea. Messing with a playoff format that works can go two ways; it could improve the product, but the more likely result is more bad teams, and more mismatches.

At least it guarantees Bill O'Brien stays employed forever, as the 9-7 train will likely get you to the playoffs from here on out.

That is not a good thing, and this is a change that will not be for the better.

Messing with something that has worked for 30 years is a bad decision. But the NFL will make more money, and two average teams will get a chance to get rolled in the first round.

What could possibly go wrong?


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