Just Such A Rude Awakening

burn them, that they heaped more coverage responsibility on their inside linebackers than normal. He also didn't point out how Payton knows how vulnerable the Cowboys are at safety, and made a point of forcing Roy Williams into coverage. 

Thus Karney. 

"He was part of the game plan," Brees said, "but I don't think we intended for him to get a hat trick." 

Neither did the Cowboys. But Karney did, and with the score 21-7, Bush then demonstrated why the Cowboys were so concerned with him, taking a little swing pass 61 yards for a touchdown. My goodness, I thought this guy was good. In person, he was even better and faster. 

Houston, Houston, you kidding me? 

And then, when things are going your way, they really go your way, former Cowboys kicker Billy Cundiff dribbling an onside kick up the middle with the Saints leading 35-17, and of all things, with the Cowboys poised to scoop up the ball, it hits his foot right at the 40, which allowed the Saints to recover the ball and drive for the knockout touchdown. 

"Sometimes things just start going your way," said Payton, who has mastered the non-answer, but was closer to the truth on this than you might think. "This game went our way." 

Not that you could tell from the beginning when the Cowboys, after stopping the Saints on their first possession, took a 7-0 lead on their second play, Julius Jones going 77 yards for a touchdown, bringing 63,722 people to their feet. Texas Stadium was hopping. 

But when the Cowboys kept sputtering on offense, and Payton called a shrewd wide receiver reverse on fourth-and-1 at the Dallas 49 that gained three and the first down, this way was headed the wrong direction for the Cowboys. The Saints would tie the score as some weird things began to happen to the Cowboys. 

Defensive end DeMarcus Ware gets called for an "un-football-like move" on a third-and-goal at the 5, the officials accusing him of flinching like he was going to blitz. Imagine that. 

Then Romo, who appeared to be coming back to earth last Sunday at Giants Stadium, landed with a thud here Sunday night, beginning with the interception on the next possession on a ball he seemed to rush from the start, taking the snap with only one second left on the play clock and then throwing late to a never-open Terry Glenn. 

Then the Carney, er, Karney, touchdown. Then Romo gets sacked. Then the Saints grab Mat McBriar and throw him to the ground, yet for some reasons referee Gerry Austin called running into the kicker. What? 

Then the 95-yard Saints touchdown drive to close out the first half, taking a 21-7 lead that involved the weirdest of occurrences, with a booth challenge changing a Saints' 20-yard catch at the Dallas 22 into an incompletion. Yet Austin called an unsportsmanlike penalty on Parcells for throwing his red challenge flag under 2:00. 

The 15 yards moved the ball to the 27, and then Brees sent Jamal Jones down the hash, where he beat inside linebacker Bradie James, who got no help whatsoever from Roy Williams, who was in single safety against the empty formation. Worse, Williams missed the tackle at the 5. 

Then Gramatica misses the half-ending 43-yard field goal attempt, keeping his tenure here in Dallas tenuous. And really, when the Cowboys couldn't score a touchdown when sitting first-and-goal at the 8 on the first possession of the second half, this game was history. 

"To me, it's more about how well they played," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "They didn't just play good. They played great. Their preparation was outstanding. Give Brees a heckuva lot of the credit. 

"They had a good game plan, a real good game plan." 

Just weird. The Cowboys, who came into the game leading the NFC in third-down conversions (49.4), converted just 1-of-8 this night. The Cowboys, who came into the game leading the NFC by scoring touchdowns in the red zone 63 percent of the time, were 0-for-2 Sunday night. The Cowboys, who came into the game with their quarterback leading the NFL with a 102.4 quarterback rating, finished with a 58.8, which included more incompletions (17) than completions (16), two interceptions and two sacks. And a Cowboys defense that had allowed just six touchdowns in the last five games, was

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