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Mick Shots: Cowboys-Saints Come Marching In


FRISCO, Texas – No time to waste on this Wednesday. Cowboys 3-0 for first time since 2008. Saints 2-1. Cowboys the third-ranked offense in NFL. The fourth-ranked scoring offense.

And now the Saints come marching into their way this Sunday night at the Superdome in New Orleans with the Cowboys looking to start a season 4-0 for the first time since starting the 2007 season with a five-game winning streak.

How delicious is all this?

So with a bundle of shots awaiting, let's get going.

  • Making A Point: There is this perception out there with the Cowboys now averaging 32.3 points a game that this has become an offensive metamorphosis out here at The Star. Sure is an uptick, but hey, this offense has had its moments over the past two decades. In 2007, with now head coach Jason Garrett a first-year offensive coordinator for the Cowboys, the offense averaged 28.4 points a game. In 2013 the Cowboys averaged 28.4 points a game. The next year, that number climbed to 29.2. And in 2016, with a raw rookie playing quarterback, along with a rookie running back, the Cowboys averaged 26.3, not bad for a rookie QB. Then in 2017, in the first half of the season, before Ezekiel Elliott's four-game suspension that began in Game 9, the Cowboys were averaging 28.25 over the first eight games. And while this team struggled to start the 2018 season, after the trade for Amari Cooper, the Cowboys' average jumped four points a game the final eight games (23.9), and if we eliminate the Indy shutout – which does count – the Cowboys were averaging 26.4 in the other seven games.
  • Scoring Trend: One more point on points. The Cowboys scored at least 27 points in five of the final eight games last year. And if you include the first three games of this season – 35, 31, 31 – the Cowboys have now scored at least 27 points in eight of their last 11 regular-season games.
  • Oh Amari: Sure doesn't help heading into New Orleans the Cowboys will be without starting wideout Michael Gallup (knee scope), missing his second straight game, but now Amari Cooper shows up on the Cowboys' injury report Wednesday, listed as limited with an ankle. Got to keep an eye on that after he left practice early to get an MRI. Especially since Cooper leads the team with four touchdowns, ranking him tied for second among NFL non-kicker points (24) and tied for the NFL lead among fellow wide receivers. Four TDs in three games has him on pace for a franchise-record 21-touchdown season.
  • Two Wide: Heaven forbid the Cowboys have to play Sunday without Gallup and Cooper. But if they must, and they are in two-receiver sets, they very well could line up with Devin Smith, currently playing for Gallup, along with Randall Cobb, a slot receiver who can play outside, too. Cobb says during his time in Green Bay he did line up as an outside receiver, and the Cowboys actually took advantage of that versatility during training camp.
  • Timely Nuggets: Dak's comment caught on tape during a timeout in the Cowboys-Dolphins game on Sunday that went viral on social media, saying after he called the next play, "Oh, spicy nuggets are back, I might need to stop on the way home," didn't come out of thin air. Says he saw at the time the spicy nuggets spot playing on the AT&T Stadium video screen overhead.
  • Double Trouble: Depending on how dependable you think NFL NextGen Stats are, Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence over these first three games has been double-teamed more than any other "edge" rusher in the league at 35 percent of his 129 defensive snaps.
  • Third Down: This stat is enlightening, giving more evidence to why the Cowboys' offense has been more productive after three games than this time last year. The Cowboys are leading the league with a 58.1 third-down conversion percentage. The Eagles are second at 56.3. Now then, after the first three games in 2018, the Cowboys getting off to a 1-2 start, they were converting 23.5 percent of their third downs. For context, 40 seasons ago the Cowboys finished with a 53.5 conversion rate in 1980, a club record. Only one other time have they finished in the 50-percent range, 50.2, in 1978. The highest since 1980 has been the 47.3 percent of 2014.
  • Conversely: And when it comes to getting off the field on third down, the Cowboys' defense is holding opponents to just a 20-percent conversion rate, ranking them second, if you can believe that. Well, that's because New England is holding opponents to a ridiculous 12.8 percent. When asked about the Cowboys' success getting off the field, Lawrence says, "Just the effort and mentality – all about relentless effort." But he also gives credit to the offense, pointing out with "the offense putting up points and teams having to play catch-up, now they become one-dimensional."
  • Hot Ticket: Just understand this is one hot ticket in New Orleans if price means anything. Saints report this is a ticket office sellout. The only tickets remaining are on the secondary market. And a ticket survey site claims available lower level tickets are selling from $300 to $2,500, and that remaining secondary tickets are averaging $413.
  • Extra Shots: Guess the Dolphins knew what they were up against with their former DE Robert Quinn, even if he was playing his first football since the second week of training camp. On the Cowboys' third play of the game, second-and-seven at the Cowboys' 23, they doubled Quinn, the running back chipping-in help with the left tackle . . . In two goal-to-go situations against the Dolphins, the Cowboys' defense survived a third-and-goal at the 2, forcing a field goal, and then the first-and-goal at the 7, Lawrence recovering the fumble that he claims "the ball found me." . . . The 265 yards the Saints gained against Seattle are the fewest totaled in any of head coach Sean Payton's 128 victories as the head coach . . . Payton, the former Cowboys passing game coordinator (2003-05), has an 8-6 record in playoffs, including that Super Bowl XLIV victory in the 2009 season. This after the Saints previously had won just one playoff game in their history (2000 season).

And on a personal note, while the Cowboys lead the series with the Saints, 17-12, unfortunately my most memorable Cowboys-Saints game occurred on Dec. 8, 1991 at Texas Stadium while covering the Cowboys for the Dallas Times Herald when two hours before the noon kickoff the call came into the press box from my sports editor to inform me the paper had been bought out and was going out of business after Monday morning's edition. We did our jobs one last time, Cowboys winning, 23-14. The game was a blur. As fate would have it, after suffering through covering back-to-back 3-13 and 1-15 seasons in 1988-89, the Cowboys clinched a playoff berth the next game for the first time since 1985 – and I couldn't write about it.