Cowboys Shut Down Drew Brees, Potent Saints Offense in Stunning 13-10 Win

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistNovember 30, 2018

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 29:  Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys throws against the New Orleans Saints in the first quarter at AT&T Stadium on November 29, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys snapped the New Orleans Saints' 10-game winning streak, earning a 13-10 win on Thursday night at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Dak Prescott finished 24-of-28 for 248 yards and a touchdown. Coming off his monster Thanksgiving game, Amari Cooper caught eight passes for 75 yards. Ezekiel Elliott, who entered Week 13 as the NFL's leading rusher, ran for 76 yards as well.

Drew Brees threw for 127 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Alvin Kamara totaled 72 yards from scrimmage and failed to find the end zone for the second game in a row.


MVP Race Opens Up with Drew Brees' Underwhelming Performance

According to OddsShark's Stephen Campbell, Brees entered Week 13 the runaway favorite to win MVP with -400 odds. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was in second at +250.

Now, Mahomes has the chance to close some of that ground. On Sunday, the Chiefs play the Oakland Raiders, who rank 29th in defensive efficiency, per Football Outsiders.

Brees' only interception proved costly for the Saints.

Cameron Jordan recovered a fumble to give New Orleans the ball on its own 15-yard line with two minutes, 35 seconds left in the game. Brees was poised to lead a fourth-quarter comeback that would give him an almost unassailable lead in the MVP race.

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Instead, the 11-time Pro Bowler rushed his throw on the second play of the drive and found Cowboys cornerback Jourdan Lewis.

The turnover summed up a night in which Brees didn't look himself.

The results from the week are unlikely to be enough for Mahomes to unseat Brees, and the Saints should have a field day against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' porous offense in Week 14, which gives Brees the chance to pad his passing numbers.

But Brees opened the door for Mahomes to potentially snatch the MVP away over the final five games of the regular season.


Lawrence Smack Talk Provides Key for Cowboys, Saints' Future Opponents

In the buildup to Thursday's game, Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence was blunt about how Dallas' defense was going to approach trying to slow down Brees and the Saints offense, per The Athletic's Calvin Watkins:

One thing was clear early on: Lawrence was prepared to back up his trash talk.

New Orleans entered Week 13 averaging 416.6 yards and 37.2 points per game. Dallas held the Saints to just 176 yards in addition to the 10 points.

The performance of the Cowboys defense achieved two things.

Although Dallas isn't an elite defensive team, it has enough talent on that side of the ball to challenge the NFL's best. Even when the offense is sputtering, the Cowboys can rely on their defense to keep them in games. That's a trait that is valuable come playoff time.

Through its effort Thursday, Dallas may also have provided the blueprint for the Saints' remaining opponents.

Being aggressive and physical against New Orleans clearly carries some risk. It not only leaves the secondary more vulnerable to big plays down the field, but it also increases the chance of picking up penalties.

But the Cowboys utilized the strategy to perfection, and they showed it's possible to throw the Saints offense out of rhythm.


Offense Continues to Be Cowboys' Achilles' Heel

When the Cowboys put up 31 points and 404 yards on the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving, some Dallas fans were likely thinking the offense had turned a corner, with Cooper in particular sparking the passing game.

Instead, Thursday was a reality check. This is the same offense that has been frustratingly inconsistent all year.

Dallas headed into halftime with a 13-0 lead, and the gap would've been wider had the Cowboys capitalized on a golden opportunity close to the goal line. They had a 1st-and-goal at the Saints 6-yard line on the first drive of the game and eventually settled for a 26-yard field goal by Brett Maher.

As much optimism as Dallas' defense generated, the offense gives one some serious reservations about how far this team can go in the postseason.

While Cooper's arrival has helped, he was never going to single-handedly solve the numerous problems the Cowboys offense has experienced. The issues go deeper than on-field personnel and speak partly to head coach Jason Garrett and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.

On paper, Dallas has the pieces to be a more dynamic team, yet the unit hasn't equaled the sum of its parts. It's hard to see any substantial progress materializing between now and the end of the season.


What's Next?

The Cowboys have an NFC East matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles at home looming in Week 14. The Saints head on to the second leg of their three-game road stretch. They play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Dec. 9.