Saints vs. Cowboys final score, takeaways: Dallas stuns New Orleans behind Dak Prescott, suffocating defense
The Saints lost for the first time since Week 1 thanks to an excellent all-around performance from Dallas
Going into Thursday's game against the Saints, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said his team would have to treat every play like it was the Super Bowl if Dallas was going to win, and apparently, everyone on the roster got the memo.
In a Texas-sized upset, the Cowboys stunned the Saints 13-10 in a game in which Dallas never trailed. The Cowboys were able to pull off the shocker thanks to an impressive game from Dak Prescott and an absolutely dominating performance from their defense. As you'll be able to see later in our piece, the win gives the Cowboys a tremendous boost in their odds to make the playoffs. And if they can beat the Eagles in Week 14, a game that you can stream on fuboTV (Try for free), their playoff odds would shoot up even more.
It was fitting that the Cowboys defense clinched the win, because they shut down Brees and the high-flying Saints offense in a way that New Orleans had never been shut down before with Brees, who has been with the team since 2006. The Cowboys held the Saints to just 176 total yards, which was the lowest of the Brees-era and the lowest for the Saints in 17 years.
Instead of being intimidated by a Saints offense that went into Thursday night averaging an NFL-high 37.6 points per game, the Cowboys defense came out and punched New Orleans in the mouth, and the Saints never really recovered. Led by Jaylon Smith, Demarcus Lawrence and rookie Leighton Vander Esch, the Cowboys got off to a hot start by forcing the Saints offense to punt on three straight possessions to start the game.
The Cowboys were so dominant on defense that the Saints didn't even pick up their first first down until the final play of the first quarter.
Although Dallas made plenty of huge plays in the first half, no play was bigger than the Cowboys' goal line stand in the second quarter. After Amari Cooper lost a fumble, the Saints took over and drove down to the Cowboys' 1-yard line, which set up one of the most dramatic plays of the game. On fourth-and-1, the Saints decided to go for it, and this is what happened.
Alvin Kamara was stuffed by Lawrence for no gain. The Saints had no answer for the Cowboys defensive end, who also had a sack and a forced fumble to go along with that tackle. The game went exactly the way Lawrence predicted it would during a somewhat profane interview earlier this week.
"If you hit a [expletive] in the mouth and then they ain't doing what they're regularly doing, putting up 50 points, they start to get a little distressed," Lawrence said, via the Dallas Morning News. "Now, you got them where you want them at, and then you [expletive] choke their ass out."
Those words must have inspired the Cowboys locker room, because that's basically what happened. Not only did the Cowboys defense shut down Brees, but they did the impossible and shut down every offensive star on the Saints roster. Kamara finished with just 36 yards rushing while Mark Ingram only tacked on 27 yards. Things weren't much better through the air as no Saints receiver topped 40 yards.
Jones wanted a Super Bowl-like performance, and that's definitely what he got from his defense.
Not only did the Cowboys end the Saints' 10-game winning streak, but they let the rest of the NFL know that they're a team that could make some noise down the stretch.
Prescott almost perfect
Although the Cowboys defense carried the team against New Orleans, the win wouldn't have been possible without the play of Dak Prescott. With the nation watching in primetime, Prescott outdueled Drew Brees with a performance that was nearly perfect. The Cowboys quarterback finished 24 of 28 for 248 yards and a touchdown, and he did all that despite the fact that he was facing heavy pressure for most of the game.
With starting left tackle Tyron Smith out for the second straight game, the Cowboys offensive line struggled as Prescott got sacked seven times. However, when he wasn't getting sacked, he was making huge plays. As a matter of fact, the Cowboys' only touchdown of the game played right into the Saints' pressure: It was a screen to Ezekiel Elliot that went for a 16-yard score in the first quarter.
Eventually, it seemed like Prescott kind of got used to all the pressure, which he started using to his advantage. On a third-and-10 in the fourth quarter, Prescott was left for dead by his offensive line, but he manage to make something out of nothing by turning a potential sack into a first down.
The Cowboys quarterback finished with 22 rushing yards in the game. Prescott was smart with the ball all night and really only made one huge mistake, which was a lost fumble in the fourth quarter. However, the defense bailed him out with Lewis's interception.
The reason Prescott's performance was so big was because the Saints did a good job of shutting down Ezekiel Elliott. Although Elliott finished with 76 yards, he was averaging under 2.5 yards per carry until be finally broke loose for a 21-yard gain in the fourth quarter. Overall, Elliott actually had an impressive game with a total of 136 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown.
One unsung hero for the Cowboys was rookie wide receiver Michael Gallup. Gallup caught five passes for 76 yards, including the 40-yarder you can see below.
Gallup was the Cowboys' leading receiver, followed closely by Amari Cooper, who caught eight passes for 75 yards.
Drew Brees will want to forget this game
Brees might just want to go ahead and burn all the film from this game because it might go down as the worst one he's ever played. Although the Cowboys defense was spectacular, it also felt like Brees was slightly off, and that became clear when he threw four straight incompletions to start the game, which was the first time in his career that had ever happened. It was an ugly night for Brees, who finished 18 of 28 for 127 yards and a touchdown.
The first half was especially bad with Brees completing just 7 of 13 passes for 39 yards. His first half total was his lowest since 2004 when he played for the Chargers. As a team, the Saints put up just 59 total yards in the first half, which was their lowest since 2002. The 10 total points for the Saints was their lowest total since 2015.
It never felt like Brees was in rhythm, and when the Saints needed to him to come up with a big play, he couldn't. New Orleans got just two possessions in the fourth quarter and they ended with a punt and a Brees interception.
The Saints did score one touchdown against Dallas, but even that one was a little weird. The score came on a drive where the Cowboys got called for four big penalties, including a roughing the punter on a fourth-and-3. Although the refs got it right on the roughing the punter, they did struggle on a few other calls, which takes us to our next takeaway.
Rough night for the refs
When Sean Payton and Jason Garrett send in their officiating grades from this game, there's a good chance they're both going to have a few complaints. The biggest complaint for the Saints will probably be the fact that the refs missed an obvious helmet-to-helmet shot on Alvin Kamara.
With the Saints facing a third-and-17 from the 50-yard line in the fourth quarter, Kamara caught a pass and took a huge hit from Jaylon Smith.
That should have been an easy call for any official on the field, but there was no flag thrown on the play and the Saints were forced to punt. If there had been a flag, the Saints would have been given an automatic first down at the Cowboys' 27-yard line trailing 13-10 with 9:59 left to play.
The Cowboys also caught another break when Cole Beasley was given on a first down on a third down play where he came up obviously short of the marker.
The Beasley play came on a third-and-5 with just under six minutes left to play in the game.
Of course, not every call went the Cowboys' way. Prescott was facemasked late in the fourth quarter on a play where the Saints absolutely should've been flagged. The Saints also arguably got away with an offensive pass interference on their only touchdown of the game. Basically, it was a rough night for the refs.
Marshon Lattimore makes a donation to charity
For the second straight week, the Salvation Army kettle pot at AT&T Stadium got a small donation from a player on the field. After recovering an Amari Cooper fumble in the second quarter, Marshon Lattimore ran straight to the pot and dropped in some cash. The crazy part of his celebration wasn't the he donated to the pot, but where he got the money. Lattimore pulled the money out of his sock.
The donation from the Saints corner came one week after Ezekiel Elliott made his own donation. During the Cowboys' Thanksgiving game against the Redskins, Elliott donated $21 after a touchdown and then donated his quarterback after another score from Dak Prescott.
Based on how often the kettle at AT&T Stadium gets used, every NFL team should probably install one.
Playoffs, you want to take about playoffs?
The Saints had a chance to become the first NFL team to clinch a playoff berth this year with a win over the Cowboys, but now that option is out the door. Due to the loss, the Saints won't be able to clinch a postseason berth until Week 14 at the earliest. The Saints would have also had a chance to clinch the NFC South title this weekend, but that's also no longer possible.
The bad news for the Saints is that their chances at the No. 1 seed in the NFC dropped from 62 to 42 percent in the computer simulations that were run by SportsLine's Stephen Oh after the game. Basically, the computer really likes the Rams' chance to earn homefield advantage through the playoffs, thought it might not mean a whole lot; Oh also only noted a 2 percent drop in the Saints' chances to win the Super Bowl based on them still being projected to get the win in L.A.
As for the Cowboys, they're not close to clinching anything, but they did a giant step toward possible winning the NFC East title. Oh has crunched the numbers on the Cowboys' playoff chances, and they took a huge jump from 59 percent to nearly 80 percent thanks to the win. That doesn't mean the Cowboys are a lock, but fans in Dallas have to be feeling slightly better about things than they were four weeks ago when the Cowboys were sitting at 3-5. Jason Garrett extension anyone?
The Cowboys have now won four games in a row and they'll be looking to extend that streak next week when they host the Eagles in a game where first place in the division could be on the line. If the 5-6 Eagles beat the Redskins on Monday, they'd only be one game behind Cowboys heading into their NFC East showdown in Week 14.
New Orleans will also be facing a divisional opponent in Week 14, but first place definitely won't be on the line in Tampa Bay, where the Buccaneers will be hosting the Saints. The game will be a rematch of the Week 1 shootout where the Bucs pulled off the upset and beat New Orleans 48-40.
You can relive all the action of the Thursday night thriller in our live blog below.
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