Watching the Cowboys take on the Saints from our studios at The Star, here are my initial impressions of Dallas' loss at New Orleans.
I'll have more breakdowns from the game once I've had a chance to watch the video.
- Give the Cowboys' pro personnel department credit for the work they did on Robert Quinn. There were questions about whether he still had any juice to his game, but I believe we can put those questions to rest. Quinn abused one of the better left tackles in the league in Terron Armstead. The Saints really had no answer for him the entire night. It wasn't until late in the game that New Orleans head coach Sean Payton even attempted to give Armstead help, but that didn't matter, either.
- The return of Sheldon Rankins was a big deal for the Saints, but it was the play of David Onyemata and Malcolm Brown that was the difference in controlling the Cowboys running game. As the game wore on, I was surprised that Kellen Moore continued to run inside with Ezekiel Elliott. The games I studied showed the Saints had more trouble with the ball on the edge. If Moore was going to have success, that's where I felt like it needed to take place, not running inside.
- Bad night for the Cowboys receivers overall. Every ball was contested with no real separation. New Orleans defensive coordinator Dennis Allen took Marshon Lattimore and put him on Amari Cooper, just daring Dak Prescott to beat him with Randall Cobb, Devin Smith and Tavon Austin. The Saints had been getting torched for huge plays in the secondary through three games, but these Cowboys receivers didn't threaten them one bit.
- Wrote in "Final Thoughts" that I felt like Moore could attack these Saints safeties for some big plays, but the only shots I saw were to Jason Witten and Blake Jarwin. It surprised me that Moore didn't make Vonn Bell and Marcus Williams have to play more in this game. All of the Saints opponents to this point had done just that, but I feel like that Moore let them off the hook.
- Will study the tape for "Scout's Eye" this week, but just from watching the game in the studio, Marcus Davenport gave Tyron Smith all he could handle. I was more worried about Cam Jordan rushing over La'el Collins, but Collins appeared to be able to hold his own. Davenport is a nice player, but I thought there were several times when he was able to break Smith down and it affected Prescott in the pocket. I didn't see Davenport coming into this game being able to do that with any consistency, but he did.
- It was a killer miss by Prescott to Cobb early in the game rolling to his left with Cobb in the end zone. Prescott is generally money when it comes to those throws as he's moving to his left, but he just put the ball too wide for Cobb to be able to extend for. The offense had to settle for three points where a score could have put pressure on Teddy Bridgewater.
- What a shame that Quinn's first sack of Bridgewater was taken off the board due to a sloppy facemasking penalty from Chidobe Awuzie. New Orleans was facing a second-and-long and would have been in real trouble had Awuzie been able to control his hand. Instead, the Saints get a first down and rattled off gains of 13 and 18 yards before Quinn came back with another sack while also drawing a holding call from Larry Warford. For some reason, Jason Garrett decides to accept the penalty instead of taking Quinn's sack. The Saints then ran a third down play but were stopped, forcing a 40-yard Wil Lutz field goal.
- What a great job by the Cowboys defensively after the Witten fumble to get off the field. The Saints had the ball in excellent field position, but another hold by Warford marched the ball back. Kerry Hyder then had a big stop on Alvin Kamara on first down. Then defense buckled down by just allowing two short completions from Bridgewater to force a punt. After the fumble, that had the potential to be something bad.
- I asked Garrett earlier in the week if he was going to say anything to the officials about the number of times that Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas pushes off in the top of his route. Garrett told me he really didn't want to say anything because he was worried that the officials might call it on his guys as well. I would have never believed that Amari Cooper would have been called for a push off due to his route-running ability, but that was the case. His first pass interference nullified a 14-yard gain on the play. The offense chipped away to where Garrett had a decision to make on fourth down, but an Elliott fumble killed the drive. The Saints took the turnover and marched it down the field for a field goal before halftime.
- What a critical three-and-out by the offense after another Quinn sack late in the second half when they appeared to be gaining some momentum. Prescott completes to Cooper for 9 yards. Then on second down, Moore hands the ball to Elliott without any blocking at the point of attack, and he is stopped for a loss, making it third down and short. Moore decides to go empty in the backfield, spreading the Saints out defensively. Prescott then decides to throw the ball to Cooper with Lattimore in coverage. Lattimore is able to knock the ball away, forcing a Dallas punt at the absolute worst time.
- I will be interested to see how many times Byron Jones traveled with Thomas in this game. I had a feeling that he might be with him on third downs, but it appeared as if Kris Richard tried to mix up the coverage on him with all of his cornerbacks. Thomas was able to make some timely receptions for Bridgewater with more than adequate space, which was completely different from what we had seen in the previous matchup.
- We all need to get prepared for Cam Fleming to be in the starting lineup these next several weeks. I am hearing that the injury to Tyron Smith was not a break to his ankle but a significant sprain. Fleming finished out the game and has made starts in the past for Smith, but I wonder if we might see Connor Williams get some snaps at left tackle just in case Fleming struggles at the position.