The DallasCowboys.com staff of Bryan Broaddus, Rowan Kavner and Nick Eatman give their initial thoughts on the tough overtime loss to the Saints.
Rowan: The Cowboys knew going into this one they'd have to score a ton of points to keep up with the Saints offense. The 31-point mark wasn't quite enough. Eventually playing a majority of backups was going to come back to hurt this team in some fashion. Playing with backup and injured linebackers really hurt the Cowboys' defense, which couldn't generate any pressure on Drew Brees. I thought getting behind multiple scores would have spelled disaster for the Cowboys, but they came back yet again to force overtime. The offense had a shot to drive down the field to win it and couldn't get it done, forcing them to watch the scoreboard and hope for help to make the playoffs.
Bryan: My gut feeling was that Sterling Moore would be able to help Rob Ryan in this game in coverage. The Saints did a smart thing early in the game scheme wise which was play Sproles on early downs which meant that Moore was not on the field. Ryan's plan was to use Moore in coverage on Sproles to try and slow him down. It was very clear studying the Saints that there was no one on the Cowboys at linebacker that could match up in coverage and the Saints were able to take advantage of that with some routes to the outside. With Moore on the field, they had at least a chance, without him Sproles was able to make more than his share of plays.
Nick: What an exciting game to watch if you don't have a rooting interest. If you did, it's gut wrenching. Except for the fact this game might not even matter at all, depending on what the Giants do in Baltimore. Still, the Cowboys could've done their own dirty work Sunday by beating the Saints. But after watching four-plus quarters of football, it didn't seem like the Cowboys were the better team. They didn't play better for sure. I know the defense had its struggles but that was to be expected. To me, the offense didn't do enough in the second half, and DeMarco Murray's fumble was an absolute killer.
Gut Feelings, posted Saturday, Dec. 22:
Rowan: If the Saints were in your weekly pick 'em contest, you'd want to avoid them at all costs. Predicting which Saints team shows up every week is nearly impossible. Two weeks ago, the Saints allowed 52 points to a Giants team that was held scoreless a week later. Then the Saints played Tampa Bay and held the Bucs scoreless. The Cowboys secondary may not be able to hang with all the weapons, but I don't trust this inconsistent Saints squad to win two in a row. The Cowboys should be able to keep the season alive by coming up with one or two stops by pressuring Drew Brees, putting themselves closer to a division title.
Bryan:I will be interested to see how Rob Ryan plays these Saints skill players. He has the numbers to matchup with the Saints personnel but can he get the level of play that he will need to make some stops in this game? My gut feeling is that Sterling Moore will be a big facture in this game. I have talked about him a bunch this week because I feel like he can make a difference in the game with his ability to react and cover. I believe that Ryan will use Moore potentially a couple of different ways because he doesn't have linebackers that can cover in this game. This game is going to come down to which defense can get extra stops and with that being said, my gut tells me that the Cowboys will be able to make more.
Nick: I actually haven't been that good here with the gut. I don't feel bad for not understanding this team that well. It's been an up-and-down year for a while but the Cowboys have just started to show that long-awaited consistency. As powerful as the Saints' offense can be, you have to remember they're 6-8 for a reason. Yes, they can score. But they've had to. Their defense has been atrocious at best, even despite a surprising shutout last week against Tampa Bay. I see the Cowboys scoring a lot of points in a wild shootout game. Somehow, I think they find a way to stop Drew Brees just enough to get the win.