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Cowboys-Saints Series Has Been A Wild One Recently
IRVING, Texas – You wouldn’t call it a rivalry.
The Cowboys and Saints don’t share a division. They’ve only played 25 games all-time, and the majority of those weren’t surrounded by any impressive implications.
There’s no denying, though, that these teams have a penchant for fireworks when they get together -- which has been often recently. Since Sean Payton became the head coach in New Orleans and Tony Romo assumed starting quarterback duties in Dallas in 2006, the Cowboys and Saints have played four times, with three of those coming since 2010.
“You do have a sense that this isn’t the first time we’ve seen these guys,” said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. “Teams change from year-to-year – there’s new coaches, there’s new players. But certainly some of the real key components to their football team remain.”
Sunday night’s meeting makes five games in the past eight seasons, which ties the Saints with Detroit and Tampa Bay as the Cowboys’ most often-faced opponent outside the NFC East. In that time span, all four meetings have been memorable for one reason or another.
“Every game against the Cowboys seems to be a big game, bigger than normal, with the media and everything,” said Saints safety Roman Harper.
The Saints have gotten the better of the matchup in the past two meetings, both played at AT&T Stadium – and not in typical fashion. Roy Williams seemed to have the 2010 meeting clinched for Dallas when Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins stripped him of a 47-yard reception, setting up Drew Brees for a game-winning drive.
Last year, the Cowboys rallied for 14 points in the final five minutes including a last-second touchdown by Miles Austin to force overtime. But it was Jimmy Graham who recovered a 31-yard fumble by Marques Colston in overtime, leading to a game-winning Saints field goal.
Most noteworthy of all is probably DeMarcus Ware’s Herculean effort to end the Saints’ bid at an undefeated season late in the 2009 season. Ware had a frightening neck injury the week before against the Chargers and had to be carted off the field and taken to the hospital. Six days later, playing mostly on third downs, Ware had two sacks and two forced fumbles to upend the Saints, 24-17.
“It's been back and forth. It seems like every single one of these games comes down to the end, or the wire,” Harper said. “They've always got a little something about them.”
Ware will once again be hoping to rebound from injury Sunday in New Orleans, where he said the Cowboys need to manage some road success. Dallas is a sterling 4-1 in the confines of AT&T Stadium, but they boast just one road win in four tries.
“I think any NFC game is always a big game, when we play it. It’s sort of like a double-edged sword – you’ve got to think of it as ‘OK, this team can come back and bite you,’” Ware said. “So you need to try to get that win, and where we’re going right now, with the record that we have, we’ve got to find a way to get some road game wins.”
It’s not an easy venue to come out of with a win, especially for a night game. The Saints currently boast an 11-game win streak in primetime home games, and they’re outscoring their opposition by an average of 36-17 in those games.
It can’t be forgotten that the last team to beat them in that situation, however, was the Cowboys in that 2009 game.
“It’s two completely different teams at this point. It’s always a very tough place to play,” Romo said. “It’s going to be a tough scheme we’re going against, a tough place to play, a good offense on the other side. All those things up against it are going to make for a tough situation, but that’s what makes the games great.”
Of course one must also consider Payton’s ties to Dallas, as people often do. Payton coached under Bill Parcells for three years with the Cowboys, prior to taking the job with the Saints. His family still lives in the area, and he spent his time in Dallas when he was suspended from football in 2012.
Payton insists that familiarity doesn’t put any added emphasis on the matchup, however.
“There are a lot of ties just because I spend time back there with my children, live back there and, shoot, I’m back there probably every two or three weeks to spend time with them, and then also having had a chance to work for three years there – naturally there’s a familiarity I guess, if you will,” he said. “But I think from a head coaching standpoint, you really look at, eight games are in and we’re beginning kind of the next half of the season and working on improvement – especially on the things we didn’t really do well in this last game.”
If past experience is any indication, the 2013 edition should be a doozy. With both teams on top of their respective divisions, this one features plenty of playoff implications – both for the Saints and Cowboys themselves, and the teams behind them in the pecking order.
“You just expect that it’s going to be a 60-minute battle, or maybe more – it went into overtime last year,” Brees said. “Two really good teams that are playing for a lot, have a lot of pride and a lot of playmakers. It certainly makes it fun to watch.”