ARLINGTON, Texas — Back in 2009, when the New Orleans Saints' epic season-opening 13-game winning streak finally fizzled out, it was the Dallas Cowboys who were there to douse the flame.
“Who dat?” then Cowboys and former LSU linebacker Bradie James mockingly asked in the Dallas locker room that night. “We dat!”
They left the AT&T Stadium roof open Thursday on a mild, clear night by late November standards in North Texas. Perhaps it was to invite the football gods to rain on the Saints’ parade, the team that with its 10-game winning streak had second-lined to being touted as the NFL’s No. 1 team.
The Cowboys needed no help from the elements. They played like it was 2009 and delivered a slap of sobering late-season reality to the Saints with a 13-10 victory.
It is by no means a mortal blow to the Saints’ hopes of returning to the Super Bowl for the first time since nine years ago. But it certainly punched a big hole in New Orleans’ overhyped cocoon of invincibility, knocking it down about 20 PSI.
“It’s a humbling experience,” Saints tackle Jermon Bushrod said, “when you’re not doing the things you’re supposed to do. We left a lot out there.”
This is not necessarily all bad in the long run for the Saints. Cockiness and a general feeling of taking their eye off the ball helped contribute to their demise and may force them to take a pencil sharpener to their focus for tough games ahead. This is just the first of a three-game road swing with big NFC South trips to Tampa Bay and Carolina next in line.
Antics like Marshon Lattimore dropping cash in a giant sideline Salvation Army pot after he recorded a first-half fumble may look cute, but like the Michael Thomas cellphone-in-the-goal-post-padding ploy, it says you are anything but all business.
The Cowboys, by comparison, were locked in with an underdog’s typical determination, making the big plays on defense to throw gum in the gears of what had been a frightful Saints offensive machine and playing keep-away on offense. Dallas looked inspired at the chance to topple the NFL’s current king.
“Everyone, including our organization, had this team at the top,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “We know the Rams are certainly distinguished, but this team was at the top.
“When you win a game like this, it changes you.”
The Saints looked like they had changed into some other team.
They were scoreless at halftime for the first time since a 38-17 loss here in 2014, in part because they blew off a chippie field goal to go for it on fourth-and-goal at the 2, where Alvin Kamara got the Berlin Wall treatment. They only possessed the ball for 8:11 in the first half and 23:07 overall. Drew Brees started the game 0-for-4 passing for the first time perhaps since Pop Warner ball down home in Austin and threw for only 127 yards. The Saints managed just 176 total yards, their most miniscule offensive output in years.
ARLINGTON, Texas — The music that blared in the New Orleans Saints' locker room after the past 10 games went silent Thursday night.
ARLINGTON, Texas — In an age of high-speed, high-tech passing attacks filled with misdirection and designed to cause confusion, the Dallas Cow…
“It felt like we didn’t really find a rhythm pretty much the whole game,” Brees said. “We may have had one decent drive. So credit to them.”
Despite being corralled by the Cowboys, Dallas only led 13-0 at halftime. With the Cowboys’ help, New Orleans started chipping away in the second half.
Their first drive resulted in a Wil Lutz field goal. That was followed by the Saints’ lone touchdown on a 30-yard Brees to Keith Kirkwood strike at the end of a drive that benefited from four Dallas penalties, including roughing the punter when Thomas Morstead got chopped to the turf.
When the Saints forced a Dallas punt, the home folks started to turn from giddy to anxious. Then a big nothing went against New Orleans.
It has not been a good week for Louisiana teams getting crucial calls in the state of Texas. In this case, officials completely whiffed on what looked like a textbook personal foul on Dallas linebacker Jaylon Smith when he launched himself into a helmet-to-helmet hit on Alvin Kamara along the Saints’ sideline at the Cowboys 42. A flag there would have given the Saints a first down at the 27. Instead, the Saints had to punt.
The Cowboys knifed to the Saints 6 with under three minutes left when Cam Jordan shook off holding by former LSU tackle La’el Collins and forced a Dak Prescott fumble at the New Orleans 15. The Saints got the ball back with 2:35 left, but in short order Brees, trying to throw a ball away under pressure, released a dying duck that flapped just high enough for Jourdan Lewis to make a superb diving interception at the 23. Dallas got to the Saints 1 before running out the clock.
Games like this are going to happen over the course of a 16-game season and aren’t necessarily reason for panic buttons to be depressed. The Saints’ problem, however, is that this hour the 10-1 Los Angeles Rams have nosed ahead of 10-2 New Orleans for home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs. The Saints hold the tiebreaker on the Rams with their 45-35 victory on Nov. 4, but they now need someone else to upset the Rams to get home field back.
For the first time in a long time, the Saints have to rely on hoping instead of simply doing. After 10 straight wins, it is an odd place to be.
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ARLINGTON, Texas — The screens and dump-offs were there.