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Broaddus: How Things Went South Just Before Half
The Saints had just completed a nine play, 52 yard drive for a touchdown with Darren Sproles running it in from three yards out to put the Saints up 21 – 10. During the drive, Jason Garrett elects to try and get his squad another possession before the half, knowing that he would also get the ball to start the 2ndhalf. In theory, it was the correct use of his timeouts but the Cowboys were just coming off a three-and-out drive on the previous series that didn’t show a great deal of promise. Garrett was able to save his offense 1:32 but he had no timeouts and the ball on his own 20.
The drive opened with a successful eight yard pass from Romo to Witten but the next two plays, Romo throws short and incomplete to Terrance Williams, then on 3rd down, Corey White covering Cole Beasley, knocks away a little pass that has become the bread and butter play for Beasley, forcing the Cowboys to have to punt the ball back to the Saints with 53 seconds on the clock and three timeouts in their pocket.
With the ball on their own 25 yard line, Sean Payton elects to go with “11” personnel and Kiffin matches with his nickel package. At the snap, Jimmy Graham who is lined up inline to the left runs a simple hook and Brees fires the ball right to him. Graham catches the ball and dives forward for six yards.
Same personnel group for the Saints, with Darren Sproles lined up in the slot to the right and covered by Barry Church. At the snap, George Selvie comes unblocked to the right of Brees as Bruce Carter is blitzes but is picked up by Zach Strief. Brees is able to get rid of the ball just a split second before Selvie arrives to Sproles, who has run a slant against Church who is at depth for a 11 yard gain as Church makes the tackle, with the Saints using their first timeout.
The ball is now at the Saints 42 with :30 on the clock and the Saints still holding two timeouts. In a twist, instead of having Sproles in the slot, he is lined up wide to the left side with Marquis Colston inside of him. Micah Pellerin walks outside to pick Sproles up and at the snap, he plays bail technique which allows Sproles to run up five yards, then hook inside. Brees is looking his direction the whole time, makes the pitch and catch, Sproles makes Pellerin miss the tackle and work up the field for another 11 yard gain and getting out of bounds, saving time on the clock.
Ball on the Cowboys 47 with: 25 left in the half, Payton stays with his “11” personnel and Kiffin in his nickel. Brees now moves Sproles back in the left slot with Colston on the outside. At the snap, Colston drives up the field with Sproles delaying behind him on the route. Sproles runs the out with Orlando Scandrick driving on him in coverage. Pellerin is working to protect his outside as Colston clears Scandrick, he breaks to the inside leaving Pellerin a good seven yards away. In the pocket, Brees has plenty of time and is able to hit Colston on the move, who makes the catch and gets to the ground after a 19 yard catch, which allows Payton to use his 2nd timeout.
With the ball on the Cowboys 28 and: 19 on the clock, Brees tries to fit a pass into Lance Moore, who is running up the field out of the slot on the right side. Justin Durant is able to turn and run from his Mike linebacker spot and go vertical with Moore. Jeff Heath is playing safety just off the hash, sees the route inside from Moore and heads over to help in the coverage. As Moore tries to work away from Durant and Heath, Durant sticks his hand up to knock the ball away, while Heath was there to deliver a blow as well as the ball arrives. Solid play all around by both Heath and Durant.
Brees makes an adjustment to the formation by bringing Sproles in the backfield to his right side, out of the shot-gun. Kiffin calls for zone coverage as the routes develop. Sproles sneaks out to his right with Jahri Evans and Brian De La Puente in front of him. Both Everette Brown and DeMarcus Ware are hard rushing up the field and both read the screen too late. De La Puente cuts down Durant, as Sproles cuts to his left leaving Scandrick in chase mode. Down the field, Sproles gets a block from Colston on Heath that allows him to cut to his right. Lance Moore gets a block on Pellerin which allows Sproles to burst into the end zone, untouched. It was the perfect call by Sean Payton for that time and situation in the game.
With 5:09 left in the half, the Cowboys went from being down by four, to the Saints being up by 18 as both teams heading for the locker room. It was a back breaking final two minutes for a defense that was under attack all night by Sean Payton and Drew Brees.