The New Orleans Saints topped the Dallas Cowboys in a wild shootout, that went into overtime, 34-31. It was a tough win for the Saints, who suffered a defensive meltdown late in the game, allowing the Cowboys to score two touchdowns in the final four minutes of the game—after playing one of their best defensive games in Week 15 against the Bucs—but they fought through it and survived.
On paper, one would think the Saints had it easy against the Cowboys in Week 16. The team was efficient in third-down conversions, they had more time of possession and they won the turnover battle. But the last four minutes of the game almost ruined the good football the Saints were playing.
Yes, the Saints played a lot of inconsistent football this season, but one thing they do still have is fight. Even when almost everyone wrote them off, this team keeps fighting, even if it's just for pride.
Let's take a look at some winners and losers for Week 16.
No. 9 was stellar once again, completing 37 of 53 passes for 446 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Brees and the Saints passing attack was too much to handle for the Cowboys defense, who could not seem to stop the Saints offense. Drew Brees made some big plays and was deadly accurate, picking apart the Dallas secondary.
Brees proved that the Saints offense lives and dies with him (with 53 pass attempts), as they had to rely on the quarterback again to lead them to victory.
The Saints secondary took a huge blow when cornerback Jabari Greer left the game in the first half with a concussion.
Cornerback Johnny Patrick filled in on defense. The Dallas Cowboys and Tony Romo took advantage and picked on Johnny Patrick toward the end of the game, and it almost cost the Saints the game. Patrick was beaten by Dwayne Harris for a 16-yard touchdown, then again on the the score-tying, 19-yard touchdown catch by Miles Austin with 15 seconds left in the fourth quarter, sending the game into overtime.
Even though Marques Colston almost cost the Saints the game in overtime, fumbling the ball in Cowboys territory after a nine-yard reception, he still had a stellar game.
Marques Colston was giving the Cowboys defense a headache throughout the game. Colston had 10 receptions for 153 yards. The receiver had no touchdown catches in this game, but he made several tough third-down catches to keep the Saints' drives going.
Colston's big performance opened up for other Saints players to make some plays.
Cornerback Patrick Robinson looked confused out on the field. He got torched by Dez Bryant. He was unable to cover or tackle Bryant on both of his 58-yard touchdown receptions in the first half.
Tony Romo made Patrick Robinson look silly in Week 16. The first thing the Saints should have not allowed was the big plays. Two came from Bryant against Robinson. If it weren't for some key plays by the defense, the game would've had a different outcome.
Jimmy Graham didn't have a spectacular game by any means—Graham finished the game with seven receptions for 88 yards—and he continued his streak of dropped passes with a couple of more in Sunday's game, but he did save the Saints.
Graham had the critical fumble recovery in overtime that led to Garrett Hartley's game-winning field goal. If Graham didn't hustle to recover the ball, the Cowboys would've recovered, ruining the Saints' momentum, and maybe the game would've ended differently.
After having a great game against the Bucs in Week 15, the unit follows it up with this kind of game. Yes, the defense did make some critical plays to help the team win, but they shouldn't have been in that position to begin with.
Tony Romo picked apart the Saints defense, allowing a lot of big plays down the field. They allowed 446 yards against the Cowboys and now have allowed 6,512 yards through 15 games. This unit is close to breaking the NFL record for most yards allowed in the season.
The reason why Drew Brees and the offense was so successful against the Cowboys is because of the Saints offensive line. They had solid pass protection and gave Brees plenty of time to pick apart the Cowboys defense.
Going into the game, the Saints had to deal with the Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer, their top pass-rushers with a combined 21.5 sacks. That was a non-issue in Sunday's game. Those two or the Cowboys defense weren't able to disrupt the Saints offense, which produced 562 yards.