IRVING, Texas – Rob Ryan won the first round. In fact, it wasn't even close.
But that won't stop the Cowboys from being a confident group heading into the rematch with the Saints' defensive coordinator, who held the same position here in Dallas from 2011-12.
Ryan's defensive unit in New Orleans won the battle last year in the Cowboys' 49-17 loss at the Superdome. The Saints offense also had its way as well, completely dominating Dallas on the scoreboard and the stat sheet.
The Saints had over 40 minutes in time of possession and set the NFL record for most first downs in a game with 40. On the flip side, Ryan's defense held the Cowboys to just nine first downs.
"I'd like to forget all of it if I could," tight end Jason Witten said Thursday. "I mean, really, we just got outplayed in all three phases. You go back and watch it, we were 0-9 on third downs. We weren't really effective in the game. Rob did a good job against our offense and we really couldn't get anything going."
And while the Cowboys have improved the offense this year, particularly the running game, Witten knows to expect some exotic looks from Ryan schematically.
"We know he's bringing a lot of different blitzes," Witten said. "He double-teams guys at times. He plays Cover 2 at times. He just has a rolodex of coverages and blitzes and fronts that he runs. We've got to be prepared for that and do a better job of keeping it in manageable down and distances and then execute better. We've done a pretty good of that after three games. I think we're over 50 percent there. I think that's kind of a byproduct of being good on first and second down as everybody says. That's going to be a tough challenge. He thrives with his defense in putting you in third downs, so he can get to those blitzes."
One way to beat a blitz is to get the ball out quick and into the hands of the playmakers. For the Cowboys, it always starts with Dez Bryant, who recalls being limited in last year's matchup. Bryant had a season-low one catch in the game, although it went for 44 years.
The Saints doubled him most of the day and the Cowboys weren't able to exploit the defense with their complementary players.
That being said, Bryant knows the double-teams will likely occur again.
"I know he's going to double me. I know he is. But I'll be ready for it," Bryant said of Ryan, whom he still calls one of his favorite coaches. "(Last year) was embarrassing. No team wants to go through that. It was just two guys on me pretty much all game. When you don't have anything for the double-team that's what happens. You've just got to live with it and do the best that you can." [embedded_ad]
The Cowboys are counting on another big day from running back DeMarco Murray, who leads the NFL with 385 rushing yards. At least Bryant hopes Murray's presence will help open up a few more passing lanes.
"Of course, it's hard to double anybody, Witten or Beasley," Bryant said. "If they want to keep doubling (the receivers), DeMarco will run for 150 or 200 or more."
Without a doubt, the Cowboys are focused on flipping the script Sunday night, but head coach Jason Garrett said last year's film still has a purpose, for motivation if anything else.
"I think it's probably more of a teaching tool. You watch the tape and you try to evaluate just like you would any other previous experience you would have with a team," Garrett said. "If you can get anything from it, from a scheme standpoint or a personnel standpoint, you certainly try to use that. It was not a good game for us. Their team is different. Our team is different. We're focused on this game on Sunday."