Dallas Cowboys report card vs. Saints
Jason Garrett’s commitment to the run, which seems to have started when he became the interim coach, continued. The tailbacks’ production wasn’t impressive. Felix Jones averaged 3.4 yards on 13 carries. Marion Barber averaged 1.9 yards on 10 carries, including a 1-yard touchdown. Third-teamer Tashard Choice pinballed into the end zone for a 1-yard TD on his only carry. Miles Austin took advantage of the Saints’ commitment to stopping the tailbacks, taking an end-around 60 yards for a score.
The passing game operated with precision, but it produced two turnovers and no points. That’s not good enough to win. Jon Kitna completed 30-of-42 passes for 313 yards, but his interception set up a field goal for the Saints. Roy Williams caught five passes for 83 yards, but his fumble with a few minutes remaining gave the Saints a chance to drive for the winning TD. TE Jason Witten was perfect, catching all 10 passes thrown to him for 99 yards.
Reggie Bush had only one carry in his return from a broken fibula, but the Saints didn’t need him or injured Pierre Thomas to establish the run. The backup running backs caused problems for the Cowboys. Undrafted rookie Chris Ivory gained 38 yards on seven carries, including a couple of touchdowns. Ex-Cowboy Julius Jones had 10 carries for 45 yards. The Saints’ only negative running plays were kneeldowns by Drew Brees to run out the clock at the end of the game.
The Cowboys’ secondary stunk in the first quarter and in the final minutes. They contained Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees for the majority of the game, but that wasn’t enough for the win. Brees completed his first six passes for 128 yards while the Saints built a 17-0 lead. He threw for 89 yards and a touchdown during the 63-second game-winning drive near the end of the game. Brees finished with 352 yards despite several drops, one of which Gerald Sensabaugh rebounded for an interception.
The 59-yard miss in the final minute doesn’t affect this grade. That’s not a kick you can count on making, although David Buehler just missed and blamed himself for the loss. Buehler had an outstanding day otherwise, making field goals from 21 and 53 yards and booming all five kickoffs into the end zone. Mat McBriar averaged 55 yards per punt. Jesse Holley ripped the ball away from Reggie Bush on a punt return to set up a touchdown.
Jason Garrett made some questionable decisions. His fourth-and-1 call for a Marion Barber sweep backfired. So did his decision to accept a holding penalty instead of letting the Saints have a fourth-and-1 near midfield. But Garrett gets a ton of credit for completely changing the Cowboys’ attitude since taking over as interim coach. A team that quit on Wade Phillips showed incredible fight while battling back from a 17-0 deficit. That’s a reflection of Garrett.