NEW ORLEANS – Jerry Jones seemed reluctant to delve into the details of Lance Dunbar's knee injury during Sunday night's loss to the Saints – which is a telling indicator of the situation.
The Cowboys' owner/general manager is usually quick to discuss the developments of his team's games, be they good or bad. As recently as two weeks ago, he was on hand with a prognosis for Dez Bryant's broken foot.
Following a gut-wrenching overtime loss, Jones had much less to say about the injury that knocked Dunbar out of the game.
"I don't like it. It doesn't sound good," Jones said. "They'll go back and do more technical evaluation of it, but I don't like the way it sounds."
Dunbar twisted his left knee gruesomely when he was tackled on a kickoff return to open the second half of play. After lying on the turf for a lengthy amount of time, he was assisted gingerly to the sideline and then carted to the locker room.
"We will do more tests tomorrow and see what the status is," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett.
One look at Dunbar on Sunday night gives an idea of the status. As the Cowboys departed the visitors' locker room, Dunbar's knee was outfitted in a massive brace, and he exited the stadium on crutches.
It's not Dunbar's first experience with injuries. In 2013, he injured the same knee during what was a breakout game against the Oakland Raiders. He was placed on season-ending injured reserve with four games to play.
Dunbar was the Cowboys' leading receiver entering the game, with 21 catches for 215 yards. He was also the Cowboys' leading rusher against the Saints, with three carries for 54 yards – 45 of those coming on the Cowboys' second play from scrimmage.
Man Down, Man Up
Dunbar's injury appears to be the most severe, but it wasn't the only one that set the Cowboys back on Sunday night.
Sean Lee left the game on the third possession of the night when he took a blow to the head while making a tackle on Saints tight end Benjamin Watson. He was evaluated for a concussion and did not return to the game.
"Well, next guy up," Garrett said. "That is the philosophy that we have. Our guys embrace it. Everybody has got to be ready to play."
Lee will be evaluated when the Cowboys return to Dallas, and he'll have to pass concussion protocol before he can return to the field. It remains to be seen how long he'll be out of commission. In his absence, Anthony Hitchens led the Cowboys with 11 tackles, a half-sack and a tackle for loss on the night.
"Anthony Hitchens does a good job stepping into that role and leading the defense," Garrett said. "For a young player, he really plays like a veteran player. I thought that he handled that well."
Hitchens was asked about the amount of injuries facing the Cowboys' roster, but he stayed true to one of Garrett's other philosophies and focused on himself.
"I try not to dwell too much on the injuries we had out there tonight," Hitchens said. "I try to focus on my job and make this team better. In the end we just came up short tonight."
As soon as Brice Butler said hello, it was time to say goodbye.
The Cowboys' newest wide receiver made the biggest play of his short stint with Dallas on Sunday, hauling in a 67-yard bomb to set his offense up in the New Orleans red zone midway through the third quarter.
It was the type of play that prompted the Cowboys to trade for Butler after they lost Dez Bryant to a broken foot – and it was the only play he'd be able to make. After a 26-yard run after the catch, Butler came up limping after he was tackled by Saints cornerback Brandon Browner.
Minutes after he'd made one of the biggest plays of the game, he had exited with a hamstring injury.
"That was my first catch all year, and I got hurt – and it was a tough loss, as well," Butler said. "I really thought we were going to win that one."
Butler had the longest play of the night, aside from C.J. Spiller's 80-yard game-winner in overtime.
"I caught the ball, and I was stumbling a little bit, trying to catch myself. And it was one of those stumble-steps," he said.
Butler said he didn't know what kind of evaluations await him when the team reports to Valley Ranch on Monday morning. But he was confident it's not an injury that'll keep him out for long.
"I'm really good with treating my body and getting stuff right, so I don't expect to be out long," he said. "They didn't say nothing, but I don't expect to be out long."
Nobody had a better view of the play that lost the game than Barry Church.
The Cowboys's veteran safety diagnosed exactly what was happening when Drew Brees dropped back to pass, but he couldn't do enough to stop it.
"We were in man-to-man coverage on the last play. Brees saw that from the jump and noticed the linebacker covering Spiller," Church said. "He was able to run the wheel route, and he threw the ball up there perfectly."
Some pre-snap confusion undoubtedly assisted Brees on the play – an 80-yarder down the New Orleans sideline for the win. On the previous play, Andrew Gachkar had been shaken up by a hit and jogged off the field.
Rookie linebacker Damien Wilson entered the fray, prompting some confusion about alignments and assignments.
"We just didn't get the matchup the right way," Garrett said. "They made the play and we didn't."
Spiller cleared Wilson on the coverage easily, and the breakdown left only Church to prevent a game-ending touchdown. The tackle, and the game just barely slipped away.
"I tried to get over the top and help him, but it was too late," Church said. "I thought I had a good angle on the tackle, but he just ran down the sideline to score."