NEW ORLEANS – Bad enough the Cowboys have lost back-to-back games for the first time since Nov. 26 and Nov. 28 of 2020, Washington and at Baltimore, in between posting a three-game winning streak near the end of last year and a six-game winning streak toward the beginning of this season.
Bad enough the Cowboys have lost three of their past four games, again having to go back to a year ago to find the last time.
Bad enough their once seemingly insurmountable lead in the NFC East has shrunk to just two games over the Washingtons, heading into Week 13 of an 18-week season, with the first showdown with WFT on the horizon.
Bad enough they headed to New Orleans late Wednesday afternoon knowing they could be without as many as 9 players and coaches combined currently in COVID protocol, including their head coach, two offensive line coaches, potentially all three strength and conditioning coaches, an offensive assistant and two starters.
But on top of all this, they now must play the Saints here Thursday night in a nationally-televised game from the Superdome, where some of that south Louisiana voodoo has been cast over them in recent years, losing down here off the Mighty Mississippi the last three times and six of the past seven. Yes, an ignominious stretch starting on Dec. 6, 1998, with the lone win on Dec. 19, 2009, when DeMarcus Ware arose from the trainer's table to help the Tony Romo-led Cowboys to a 24-17 victory over the 13-0 Saints who were on their way to a Super Bowl XLIV championship.
Nothing about this place for the Cowboys suggests Big Easy.
And let's not downplay the Saints' 5-6 record or that they have lost four consecutive games. Since 1988, the Saints have turned these Cowboys into some home-cookin' gumbo, no matter the record of either team. They've beaten the Cowboys eight of the last 10 times overall, one by two points in 2019, 12-10, and another in overtime in 2015, 26-20, and then in 1989 in Troy Aikman's season-opening NFL debut, 28-0.
"Obviously coming off a second straight loss and losing your head coach, we're in for a challenge," Dak Prescott says. "But when you go into an atmosphere like this you understand it's going to be a heavyweight challenge regardless. Know it's going to be a four-quarter game and so it's about us getting our mindset and our mentality right to go do that and to be our best.
"And for the offense, it's about communication. Us being sound and us being on the same page in our non-verbal communication and making sure we don't allow the crowd noise to become a problem or affect us as far as our execution."
You've heard of that New Orleans saying, Laissez les bons temps rouler, or let the good times roll. Well, the Cowboys must overcome, stop these les mauvais temps rouler. Not many good times out here.
My best shot translating after taking three years of high school French and 13 hours in college.
- Strange Magic: So, this might sound somewhat strange since in two of the past five games the Cowboys have combined for 76 points, a win and an overtime loss. But in the other three games they have scored just 20, 16 and nine, two of those three losses. This offense needs to get untracked and in a hurry. We can understand how great it was to win at Minnesota scoring just 20 points with backup quarterback Cooper Rush starting. But since losing three of the next four, can't win scoring just 16 and nine points, and the high of 16 coming after falling behind Denver 30-zip. The offensive line just needs to play better. Seems one and all want to blame the lack of a running game on Ezekiel Elliott's sprained knee ligament. Or blame Dak for not putting the team on his back. But if you watch closely, there is nowhere to run most times, the 82 yards rushing in the Kansas City loss the high in four of the past five games. And in losing three of the past four games, Dak has been sacked eight times in those three losses. As I've said, hard to put the team on your back when the other team is on your back.
- No Way: How about this, or maybe you'd prefer not to look? But the Saints' current four-game losing streak is their longest since losing four straight in the middle of the 2015 season and also three straight to start that year. But they broke that three-game losing streak to start that season by beating … wait for it … the Dallas Cowboys in that 26-20 overtime victory. And this one of those strange coincidences, in, yes, a nationally-televised Sunday Night Football game in the Superdome. As I remember, backup quarterback Brandon Weeden drove the Cowboys to the tying touchdown on a 17-yard pass to Terrance Williams with 1:15 left in the game. Then, of all things, on the Saints' first possession of overtime – after their game-winning field-goal attempt in the final seconds of regulation bounced off the upright – on the second play, Drew Brees hits C.J. Spiller on an 80-yard wheel route for the winning score when the Cowboys were late lining up for the play. See what I mean about this New Orleans?
- On The Tube: Well, CBS is proud to announce that the Cowboys-Raiders game on Thanksgiving became the second-most watched Thanksgiving Day game on record with 38.3 million TV and digital viewers, just slightly behind the Cowboys-Dolphins game in 1993 that drew 38.4 million viewers for that snowy, icy game at Texas Stadium – with records dating back to 1988. This time, the game featured yellow flags instead of snow.
- Expensive Slap: While Cowboys defensive tackle Trysten Hill was able to appeal his two-game suspension down to a one-game ban for his one-handed slap to Raiders guard John Simpson's facemask 50 seconds after the conclusion of that Thanksgiving game, the most costly part becomes the suspension is without pay. That means Hill forfeits 1/18th of his $938,472 base salary, totaling around $52,000. Don't think he got his money's worth.
- Bayou Bites: Man, good thing CeeDee Lamb is good to go Thursday night. While Amari Cooper has been removed from Reserve/COVID-19, after limited work on Wednesday, he's listed as questionable for the game and now Cedrick Wilson, considered the team's fourth receiver and would have taken Coop's place if he can't go, is now out with a sprained ankle and on top of all that now Malik Turner is being listed as questionable, coming down with a non-COVID illness to miss practice on Wednesday. What next at wide receiver . . . And the Saints are having their injury problems on the defensive side of the ball, LB Kaden Elliss (hamstring) and DE Tanoh Kpassagnon (ankle) and DE Marcus Davenport (shoulder) were all ruled out. The Cowboys can only hope RB Alvin Kamara is really questionable, the headache he is.
- How about this in Monday night's Washington 17-15 victory over Seattle. Former Cowboys linebackers and teammates were defensive coordinators in the same game, Jack Del Rio for Washington and Ken Norton Jr. for Seattle, obviously both doing a bang-up job since neither team scored more than 17 points . . . Not a bad hotel setup for the Cowboys here in New Orleans. Can see the Mississippi River out my room window.
And this short week's last word goes to Prescott, realizing the urgency to end the two-game losing streak that's part of losing three of their last four, even though they have some uncommon hurdles to leap over against the Saints.
"It's very urgent," Dak says. "This is a team that's hungry and that's pissed off simply by the way we have executed and the way
that we have played. It's about us looking in a mirror and checking ourselves first and foremost, and that's what we've done.
"So now it's about going out there, as I said, and doing everything that we can to heighten our focus, our mindset and our execution come Thursday to make sure we come out with a victory."
Would imagine all of you guys would second that motion.