Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints provided another indication of just how things are going in the wrong direction this season.
They can't even get a boost playing the Dallas Cowboys.
A year after piling up an NFL-record 40 first downs and a team-record 625 total yards against the Cowboys at home, New Orleans trailed by 28 points and was without a touchdown into the fourth quarter Sunday night in a 38-17 loss at Dallas.
"We struggled offensively, defensively, kicking game, coaching," coach Sean Payton said. "There's not going to much good to see in this film. We're 1-3 right now, and that's about how we're playing."
Brees wound up throwing for a season-high 340 yards on 32-of-44 passing, but his two touchdown passes came on consecutive drives in the fourth quarter after the Saints were already down 31-3.
"At the end of the day when you look at this game, the entire game, we got beat," Brees said. "We got beat in every facet of it."
All three of the Saints' losses have been on the road - they opened with an overtime loss at Atlanta, then Cleveland kicked a winning field goal with 3 seconds left.
They were coming off a win over Minnesota in their home opener, not allowing a touchdown in that game, but followed that with a Sunday night dud - and far different than the prime-time dominance over Dallas 10 months ago.
"It's challenging. It's disappointing. It's frustrating," Payton said. "But it's on all of us now. It's on me. It's on our staff. It's on the team. Obviously, it's not where you want to be one quarter through the season. We've got to look closely at the reasons why we're not winning."
The Saints had won eight of the previous nine games in the series, the lone loss in that span coming at home in 2009 when the Cowboys won 24-17 after New Orleans had started that season 13-0.
Brees had led them to three consecutive wins against Dallas since then. He was especially good in the last two, completing a combined 71 of 94 passes for 838 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions.
This time, Brees' pass was picked off when Bruce Carter tipped a ball that was grabbed by fellow linebacker Justin Durant with about 5 minutes left in the first half.
Two plays later, DeMarco Murray ran 15 yards for a touchdown to give the Cowboys a 17-0 lead. Tony Romo's second TD pass to Terrance Williams, a 23-yarder with 19 seconds left, made it 24-0 at halftime.
"All of a sudden instead of going in at halftime down 10-0 or even, hey, if we can march that down and at least get some points, then momentum's on our side coming out the second half," Brees said.
Murray, the NFL's leading rusher, joined Emmitt Smith as the only Dallas running backs with 100 yards in the first four games of a season, and he didn't fumble in the first quarter for the first time this season. He ran 24 times for 149 yards.
Brees had only 84 yards passing, and the Saints 114 total, at halftime.
But the former Texas high school star got going in the second half at the $1.2 billion home of the Cowboys, about 200 miles from his high school home in Austin.
Brees had 256 of his 340 yards passing after halftime, but it was 31-3 before his TDs of 12 yards to Josh Hill and 13 yards to Jimmy Graham in the fourth quarter.
With a chance to get even closer than 31-17, a drive stalled midway through the fourth quarter. Punter Thomas Morstead was then tackled for a 2-yard loss while trying to throw a pass on a fake punt, and the Cowboys took advantage when Romo threw an 18-yard TD to Dez Bryant six plays later.
"I think we're a different team than we were last year," Romo said. "What you find is you forget it's the Saints and Drew Brees and just go play."
Notes: Saints starting left tackle Terron Armstead didn't return after sustaining a concussion in the first half. ... Dallas had 445 yards against former Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who directed the scheme that led to one of the franchise's worst offensive performances in years last season, about 10 months after they fired him.
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