Cowboys vs. Saints: Breaking Down Game's Key Matchups

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistNovember 10, 2013

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 03:  Quarterback Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys passes during the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Cowboys Stadium on November 3, 2013 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

You can't ask for much more in a Sunday Night Football showdown than a matchup of two compelling offenses like those of the New Orleans Saints and the Dallas Cowboys. 

The Saints are seventh in total yards per game and seventh in points scored, while the Cowboys are fourth in points per game. It's gonna be fun. 

But every matchup still comes down to a few key battles on the field, and this one is no different. Let's break down a few of the most important matchups in this game.


Jimmy Graham vs. Cowboys Linebackers and Secondary

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 3: Quarterback Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints celebrates with tight end Jimmy Graham #80 of the New Orleans Saints after his touchdown catch in the 1st  quarter against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on Novemb
Ron Antonelli/Getty Images

For the Cowboys to have any success against Graham, they'll actually need to study what other teams have done against elite tight ends. For starters, they need to take a close look at how the New England Patriots managed to keep Graham without a catch in their Week 6 meeting.

Additionally, one of the tactics teams (including the aforementioned Patriots) have used against another elite tight end, Tony Gonzalez, is to bracket him in the red zone and make it difficult for him to release off the line of scrimmage. 

Once players like Gonzalez or Graham get into the end zone, they're likely to win any and all jump balls. But if a team can keep them from getting into the end zone in the first place, it's done its job.

It's a strategy the Cowboys would be wise to mimic. They likely won't be able to contain Graham the entire game, but forcing a different player to beat them in the red zone would be wise.


DeMarco Murray vs. Saints Front Seven

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 29:  Running back DeMarco Murray #29 of the Dallas Cowboys looks on against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on September 29, 2013 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Last week, the Cowboys became embarrassingly one-dimensional in a too-close-for-comfort win over the Minnesota Vikings, rushing just nine times for 36 yards. That's a recipe for disaster against the Saints' fifth-ranked pass defense (212 yards allowed per game).

DeMarco Murray is a talented runner, averaging a healthy 4.8 yards per carry. Plus, he presents a threat as a receiver out of the backfield. 

Utilizing Murray more heavily has two benefits—there should be running lanes against the Saints' 25th-ranked run defense, and it keeps Drew Brees and the explosive Saints offense off the field. If the Cowboys run successfully, they'll have a chance to pull off the upset. 


Drew Brees vs. Tony Romo

NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 27: Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints runs the ball against the Buffalo Bills at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on October 27, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Saints defeated the Bills 35-14. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

This pair obviously won't compete directly against one another, but the player who has the bigger performance will likely lead his team to victory. 

One would side with Brees in this matchup, seeing as he is at home and the Cowboys are ranked 31st in pass defense (305 yards allowed per game). But Romo has proven he can sling the ball around with the best of them so long as he avoids costly turnovers.

In a game that has shootout potential, the quarterback that makes less mistakes will likely be the winner. It should be a fun matchup to watch. 


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