NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -Take One: Cowboys defense stymie Saints offense
A complete shutdown of the league’s top offense. That’s the only way to describe what Dallas did to the Saints Thursday night. Their defensive line won the line of scrimmage battle over the vaunted Saints offensive line. Their linebacker duo of Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith look like the next great young tandem in the NFL. Their secondary smothered Saints receivers. The windows to throw the ball for Drew Brees just were not there due to a lack of separation.
The numbers were astounding. They only gained 176 yards, a season low. The Saints only held on to the ball for 23 minutes to the Cowboys’ 37 and only converted three third downs.
It was their worst outing of the season and a lot of it came down to simply Dallas’ dominance.
Take Two: Saints defense battles
13 points. Seven sacks. Two turnovers. That’s usually the recipe for a dominant Saints win. That didn’t happen Thursday, but that doesn’t take away from that group’s overall effort.
They only surrendered one touchdown and played exceptional in the red zone. They also kept Ezekiel Elliot in check on the ground. He only rushed for 76 yards on 23 carries.
Take Three: Challenging situations
It’s didn’t take long for Sean Payton to use both of his challenges. By early in the end second quarter, he was out. His first red flag was the most questionable. It didn’t appear Michael Thomas caught the ball or at least control it enough to overturn the call.
Payton won the second challenge after the officials when Dan Arnold’s catch/ fumble was initially ruled incomplete. It was overturned and the Saints took over inside the ten-yard line after Thomas recovered the fumble.
Not having those challenges cost them later him later in the game when Amari Cooper appeared to drop a third down reception, and Cole Beasley appeared to be down before stretching out for another third down catch.
Take Four: Don’t blame the refs
Yes there were some bad calls and no calls, the no-call on the helmet-to-helmet hit of Alvin Kamara by Jaylon Smith was particularly bad, but in no way did the Saints lose this game because of the penalties.
In fact, the Saints' sole touchdown drive was aided by some flags. The Cowboys were penalized eight times; the Saints were penalized five times.
In general, that crew is one of the most flag-happy in the NFL. They made some crucial calls Thursday but they didn’t determine the winner. The Cowboys did.
Take Five: Other Observations
- Going for it on fourth down after the Saints first takeaway is forgivable. Sean Payton is aggressive by nature and the Saints have reaped a lot of benefits because of it. Still I a three-point loss that decision loomed large in the outcome. My only question is the play call. There’s nothing wrong with giving the ball to Kamara but it was an inside zone handoff which is the type of play Taysom Hill has been running.
- There were moments Thursday where the Saints lacked focus. Kamara didn’t look like his normal self. That pit return where he fumbled the ball out of bounds was the perfect example. Everything was just a bit off on the entire offensive operation. Maybe three games in 11 days contributed to that.
- The atmosphere at Jerry’s World was very good. You could tell that Dallas was the more desperate team and their fan base rallied around them. Still, Saints fans showed out in droves and it made for a fun night in the stands.