FRISCO, Texas – From my vantage point in our studio at The Star, here are my biggest impressions from an amazing Cowboys win against the New Orleans Saints.
I'll have a more detailed report when I have a chance to watch the tape, but it's safe to say this was an encouraging night to watch the Dallas defense.
Here we go:
· What a play by DeMarcus Lawrence, running from the backside, to keep Alvin Kamara from scoring on the goal line. The Saints left Lawrence unblocked and he came screaming down to the inside while Xavier Woods covered for him over the top in case Drew Brees pulled the ball. The tackle by Lawrence was a result of Tyrone Crawford, Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith all holding their ground and not getting turned at the point of attack.
· What a spin move by Maliek Collins in order to get in the face of Drew Brees to force him into an interception. Collins was one-on-one with Larry Warford and completely threw him off balance. Brees felt him coming and just threw the ball in the direction of Alvin Kamara -- who wasn't even looking for it on the play. Jourdan Lewis was in perfect position and somehow managed to pull the ball off the turf.
· Very creative way to set up the screen to fake a screen. Scott Linehan set up a look as if Cole Beasley was getting a screen pass to the left. He went as far as to put both Blake Jarwin and Cam Fleming on the outside with Beasley in order to draw the defense in that direction. It worked, giving Joe Looney and Zack Martin enough time to work in front of Ezekiel Elliott for key blocks to get him in space. The final block he needed was from Michael Gallup on Eli Apple and he got just that for the touchdown.
· Give Maliek Collins a ton of credit for getting up the field to put pressure on Drew Brees, which allowed Anthony Brown to come from the backside for the sack. Brees shot a quick glance at Brown and tried to slide away from him, but Collins beat Ryan Ramczyk – and that gave Brees no room to escape. Brown is developing quite a feel for how to finish those blitzes when he gets the chance.
· What a clutch block by Joe Looney, picking up Cam Jordan and alloweing Dak Prescott to break free for the third and long conversion. If Looney doesn't pick up Jordan slanting down to the inside, he is likely tackled for a small gain and the Cowboys would have been forced to punt. Instead, Prescott ran through attempted tackles by A.J. Klein and Marshon Lattimore for the first down.
· Great hit by Xavier Woods to knock the ball loose from Dan Arnold up the seam near the goal line. Woods managed to put his right shoulder into Arnold, which caused him to fumble the ball. If not for a heads up play by Michael Thomas to make the recovery, Woods would have been right on top of it.
· What a tremendous effort by Cole Beasley to secure a key third down late in the game. Beasley was able to extend the ball just enough to make the official mark him just beyond the line to gain. If not for that extra little bit of effort, Jason Garrett would have been forced to make a decision whether to go for it or not -- but it didn't come to that. It also appeared that Beasley was a little short with the knee down, but with the Saints out of challenges there was nothing they could do about it.
· I have seen defensive linemen line up in the neutral zone worse than what Randy Gregory did for the call he got. The ball was on the line and it appeared that his hand was on the line. That could have gone either way. Heck of a rush by DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford on the play. Brees never had a chance as he was trying to climb the front of the pocket. Lawrence has such great feel for how to attack the ball once he sees the quarterback make it available. It's a shame that the play didn't count.
· I don't believe that Michael Gallup could sell the "stutter-go" any better than he did. Eli Apple completely bit on the route and Gallup was in the clear. Prescott did a great job of looking at Amari Cooper the entire time, which held the safety in the middle of the field. Prescott just threw the ball too much on the line instead of letting Gallup run under it.
· Can't say enough about the way this Cowboys defense tackled, especially Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith. One of the main reasons the defense was able to make a goal line stand was due to the tackle that Smith made on Alvin Kamara after he was able to shake free from Byron Jones. It appeared that Kamara had a head of steam and was heading for the end zone, but Smith was flying from the inside just before he had a chance to get there. Game-saving type of play.
· All eight of Amari Cooper's receptions were against the Saints best defensive back – Marshon Lattimore. Cooper even drew the crucial pass interference call in the end zone that sealed the game for the Cowboys. I would have never believed that Cooper would have had that kind of success against Lattimore, but he did. Dennis Allen gambled by putting Lattimore on him and it wasn't enough.
· Loved the idea of Jourdan Lewis travelling with Alvin Kamara in certain situations. Lewis hasn't had the type of season that I am sure he had hoped for, but on this night he gets my game ball. It was not going to be easy to handle one of the most dynamic weapons in the league but he did just that. Not only did he cover well, but he was just as good when he had to tackle Kamara in space.