Cowboys vs. Saints: Takeaways from Dallas' 49-17 Loss to New Orleans
The New Orleans Saints embarrassed the Dallas Cowboys on national television by a score of 49-17 on Sunday Night Football. There were very few bright spots in a game that brought injuries, frustration and Dallas' fifth loss of the season.
The Saints are not exactly known for losing at home and were going to be a tough team to beat; the Cowboys knew that much coming in. New Orleans wasted no time proving to its opponent the Superdome would be defended that night.
Here are eight takeaways from Dallas' brutal loss heading into its Week 11 bye.
All statistics were retrieved from NFL.com unless otherwise noted.
Defense Could Not Stop the Saints Passing Game
At one point against the Cowboys, Drew Brees had thrown 19 consecutive completions. Tony Romo didn't have 19 completions the entire game. Heck, Romo didn't even have 11 completions the entire game.
Brees also threw for four touchdowns, more than one came from beating Dallas rookie safety Jeff Heath. The veteran quarterback also threw more than 400 yards against Monte Kiffin's defense.
There was just no stopping Brees in this contest. It seemed like every time he dropped back to pass, he was going to throw a completion. For the most part, that's exactly what happened.
Brees finished with just seven incompletions on 41 attempts. He was pretty much perfect all night long, and nothing Kiffin dialed up was going to change that.
Sean Lee Injury Devastated Dallas Defense
Even with Sean Lee playing a full four quarters, the Cowboys likely would have lost this game. With Lee on the field, however, there's a strong chance the contest would've been a tad closer.
The Dallas defense is made up of veteran castaways, rookies, an injured DeMarcus Ware and Lee. When No. 50 went down, the defensive unit simply looked depleted.
The players knew their defensive leader was gone, and that hurts morale when Drew Brees is staring you down.
Dallas can't afford to lose Lee for a significant amount of time. The linebacker will be hoping that a week off will be all he needs to get back on the field.
Penalty Woes Rear Ugly Heads Once Again
After tallying five penalties for 45 yards in a Week 9 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, the Cowboys again fell victim to the yellow flags.
The Cowboys shot themselves in the foot on 11 different occasions against the Saints, giving up a total of 82 free yards to New Orleans.
The Superdome is already one of the toughest places to travel to on the road and expects to earn a victory. Dallas made beating a tough opponent in arguably its toughest road game that much harder on itself.
There were holding calls on both offense and defense, even a horse-collar-tackle call on Bruce Carter. Dallas didn't just rack up penalty yardage, it did so in epic fashion between defensive holding calls, facemasks and so forth.
At this point in the season, it's clear the Cowboys have a real issue in terms of playing smart football. Garrett might not be able to rid his team of this trait, but he needs to at least limit the penalty calls somehow.
Dallas Passing Game Was Nonexistent
Tony Romo completed just 10 of his 24 pass attempts against New Orleans. He was sacked three times for a total of 24 yards lost.
Dez Bryant had just one acrobatic catch for 44 yards, and Jason Witten dropped as many passes as he caught. The Cowboys' big names through the air were sufficiently grounded on Sunday Night Football.
Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan had two defenders on Bryant at all times when he wasn't pressuring Romo in the pocket. There was simply no time for Romo to look down the field. When he did get the chance to scan the field, his No. 1 option was double-covered.
There were few bright spots in the Cowboys passing game aside from Bryant's highlight-reel catch and the touchdown to Terrance Williams. The aerial attack was not a factor for Dallas in this one.
DeMarco Murray Had a Solid Showing
Like in Week 9, DeMarco Murray did not get a chance to make a huge impact for his team. Murray did carry the ball 16 times against New Orleans for 89 yards.
Unfortunately for the Dallas starter, more than a few of those runs came in garbage time. Murray had 80 yards at halftime and received few touches once the Saints started to light up the scoreboard.
When Murray was given the chance to make something happen, though, he had success. The former third-round draft pick had a big 35-yard run at one point and hit the holes fast overall.
It was the first time since his injury that Murray looked truly able to deliver on his significant potential. The Cowboys need to take some time over the next few weeks to get No. 29 more involved in the offense before playing the New York Giants in Week 12.
Onside Kick Attempt Showed Some Guts
The Cowboys decided after the Terrance Williams touchdown that calling a surprise onside kick wasn't such a bad idea. They were rewarded with an onside recovery, but the offense couldn't turn the extra drive into points.
While the onside kick didn't prove to do much for Dallas' hopes of beating the Saints, it was a smart call. Jason Garrett knew another touchdown would have helped bring his team within 11 points just before the fourth quarter began.
The offense did not deliver anything for Garrett's gutsy call, but that's not the point.
Dallas' head coach is constantly criticized for his bad clock management and other miscellaneous coaching duties. In Week 10, his team got clocked, but he made a decision that could have swung momentum to the Cowboys.
Garrett deserves a bit of credit for not giving up and trying to make something happen for his football team on that play call. It was nice to see the Cowboys coach try something unexpected and take a chance like that.
New Orleans Is a Better Football Team
The Saints are 7-2 and No. 1 in the NFC South for a reason. They win the games they are supposed to and have a complete team.
Rob Ryan's Saints defense has become respectful after a miserable 2012 campaign, finishing No. 32 in the league.
The Cowboys are a battered team injury-wise, but even at full health, they would have likely lost to New Orleans. The Saints have an adequate defense that can shut down offenses on occasion. Brees, Jimmy Graham and the offense have put up 30 or more points five times this year.
Dallas has just five total wins and has given up the most and second-most total yards to opposing offenses in franchise history in the last three weeks.
The Cowboys still lack an identity and the consistency needed to make a serious playoff push. New Orleans at least knows its a passing offense and a defense based on reaction and multiple 3-4 looks.
As of now, the Saints are just a more formidable team than the Cowboys are.
Dallas Is in Desperate Need of a Bye Week
Since the win over the Philadelphia Eagles, the Cowboys have gotten back to their old "win one, lose one" mentality. They have also suffered an obscene amount of injuries on defense this year.
Anthony Spencer was lost to season-ending surgery before the season. Starters Jason Hatcher, J.J. Wilcox and former first-rounder Morris Claiborne were all inactive in Week 10. Sean Lee and Dwayne Harris were both injured against the Saints, though the latter returned to action.
Dallas has a full bye week to recover from the New Orleans loss and get to study the Giants that much more before Week 12. The Cowboys need to get healthy on defense, while the offense needs to get back into rhythm.
With so many players currently injured, the Cowboys are admittedly not as formidable as they were in Week 1. Still, Dallas has a very good chance of winning the NFC East title and needs rest to do so.
The Cowboys need as many starters back and suiting up for a pivotal divisional foe in the Giants in Week 12. With the need to find consistency and get healthy, this upcoming bye week is much-needed down on Valley Ranch.
Alex Hall is a Dallas Cowboys Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @AlexKHall.