Go back 24 days and remember when the season for the Dallas Cowboys was ending. They had just lost to the Titans in embarrassing fashion, after a bye week, at home, and fell to 3-5 on the year. The defense couldn’t get off the field on third downs and things looked bleak.
Fast forward to the here and now, the Cowboys just beat one of the league’s best teams and took control of the NFC East at 7-5.
It was one of the weirder games the Cowboys have played in quite some time, which is saying something for this team. The Cowboys came out in the first half and controlled the ball for over 21 minutes and took a 13-0 lead into halftime.
The first 30 minutes included a goal-line stand from the Dallas defense, which led to a shutout of the vaunted Saints offense. It was the first time in 72 games that Drew Brees and the Sean Payton had been shutout in the first half. The Cowboys had opportunities to make the score much worse in the first-half but still dominated the game.
It was in the second half where things got really weird. The Saints had their only touchdown drive aided by three costly penalties. Byron Jones was called for two pass interference penalties and after allowing the drive to continue, the defense finally got the stop needed to get off the field. Randy Gregory then committed a brutal roughing the kicker penalty that allowed the Saints to score their only touchdown. It was a score that only happened because Keith Kirkwood pushed off on Anthony Brown for the catch.
On their next possession, the Saints got another gift when Gregory was called for a questionable off-sides penalty that negated a strip sack and turnover. However, the defense once again got a stop and forced a punt, even though Jaylon Smith should’ve been called for a helmet to helmet penalty.
The next crazy sequence came with the Cowboys about to add to their lead late in the game, only to have Dak Prescott fumble away the chance to put more points on the board. It was an inexplicable sack to take and Prescott needs to have better awareness to not lose the ball in such an important moment in the game.
Most Cowboys fans figured that Brees would march the Saints down the field to tie or win the game outright, only to watch the defense pressure the Hall of Fame quarterback into throwing an interception to give the Cowboys another chance to seal the game. Dallas responded with one of the smartest play calls they’ve had all season long.
With the Saints out of timeouts and 2:03 left on the clock, Scott Linehan and Jason Garrett dialed up a pass to the end zone. The clock would’ve stopped no matter what happened and it was an aggressive call we usually don’t see from this staff. A touchdown seals the game, an incompletion doesn’t hurt them because the clock stops anyway and a penalty also ends the game. The Cowboys got the pass interference call and it was over.
It was an ugly second half that was marred by bad officiating and boneheaded mistakes from the Cowboys. However, they held New Orleans to season lows in points scored and total yards (176). There is no reason to poke holes in this win, as putrid as it looked in the second half. A win over one of the league’s best teams is always celebrated.
The Dallas Cowboys got their best win of the season and now control their destiny on the NFC East. What a great way to end a brutal stretch of the season, the Cowboys have now won four straight games and look like serious playoff contenders on the backs of a defense that keeps getting better.
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