FRISCO, Texas – "Rocky" fans like me, rejoice: Creed II is out, and I plan to catch it on the upcoming long weekend. (No spoilers on Twitter, please.)
Before that, there's a big-fight feel this week leading into Thursday's Cowboys-Saints showdown at AT&T Stadium. Let's step through those ropes, shall we?
four games into his Cowboys career, we're starting to see the full scope of Amari Cooper's abilities – namely, haymakers down the field.
In his first three games as a Cowboy, Cooper had one explosive play in the passing game: a 24-yard catch at Philadelphia. Against Washington on Thanksgiving, his 40- and 90-yard touchdowns broke the game wide open.
Cooper has a rep as a route-running technician, and his 6-1, 210-pound frame makes him tough to re-route and tackle. But he's also been a home-run threat throughout his four-year career. Since 2015, when Oakland drafted him fourth overall, he has 37 receptions of at least 25 yards, tied for 11th most in the NFL. And he's in the top 20 in yards after catch (2,105).
"He as a really good sudden kind of twitch to his game," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. "That allows him to get that extra yard or two of separation, so it allows him to hit that guy in stride, it allows you to get the big play. That's why we put a great effort into getting him here in a lot of ways because we knew he had that ability."
Speaking of run after catch…
we might see history, again, from Drew Brees this season.
Brees is completing a ridiculous 76.4 percent of his passes. He has broken the league's all-time single-season record multiple times, including last year at 72.0 percent.
Throughout his time with Sean Payton, Brees has been exceptional at making throws at all levels of the field, but the Saints have also excelled at short timing throws that lead to larger gains.
"He puts that ball right on the button for them," Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "They do a great job cutting back in the grain. So he challenges all your tackling, and we've got to be able to play with our speed and our fundamentals."
Since 2006, Brees' first year in New Orleans, the Saints have the most yards after the catch in the league (29,409). They rank ninth through 11 games this year.
But this must be noted, too: Dak Prescott is completing 70 percent of his passes the last four games. The Cowboys have found much better efficiency themselves.
I Have No Idea…
how anyone can truly draw parallels to a game that happened nine years ago, but here's something to remember about 2009 Cowboys-Saints.
Defense was the key. New Orleans entered that game 13-0 and averaging nearly 36 points a game. The '09 Cowboys held that Saints team to 17 points and 1-of-7 on third down. They also forced and recovered two fumbles, including one by DeMarcus Ware to end the game.
There's a new DeMarcus in town, and Lawrence is this line's best playmaker. The defense is fully aware they must affect Brees in the pocket to reduce that lofty completion percentage.
No one except long snapper L.P. Ladouceur remains on the roster from 2009, but there's your template for an upset: gather some extra possessions for the offense. It won't be easy: Brees has been picked off only twice all year.