Spagnola: Playing Saints All That Matters Now


FRISCO, Texas – IDM.

It Don't Matter.

According to DeMarcus Lawrence.


It Doesn't Matter.

According to Jason Garrett.

Same difference.

IDM is now printed on the sleeves of these Cowboys standard-issue blue player shirts. The message is clear, and definitely as meaningful as it gets for Week 4 of this year's NFL schedule, and especially for 7:20 p.m. Sunday when the Cowboys go marching into the Superdome to face the New Orleans Saints and Who Dat Nation.

Let us count the ways Garrett attempts to minimize external factors swirling around.

It Don't Matter the Cowboys will be playing before the Superdome's 74,000 in New Orleans. Remember home, away, the parking lot or the moon.

It Don't Matter the amount of noise the Cowboys will face in that place. Get ready. Be prepared. Execute. None of those folks should be on the field. "It's real," veteran Jason Witten said of the decibels during a night game in New Orleans, meaning as Dak Prescott says, "That communication has to be better than ever."

It Don't Matter the Cowboys go in with a 3-0 record, having skunked their previous opponents 97-44, because as Garrett reminds his team every day, "It only matters what we do now."

It Don't Matter the Saints are 2-1, yet playing without future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees, out following surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb, reportedly the first quarterback to have such a surgery commonly required among snow skiers. "Every game is a measuring stick," QB Dak Prescott says, injuries notwithstanding.

It Don't Matter the Cowboys still will be playing without WR II, Michael Gallup. Next man up, right.

And for sure, It Don't Matter the Cowboys go into this game converting 58.1 percent of their first downs, or that QB I has the NFL's second highest rating at 128.0, or that his nine touchdown passes rank second by one in the NFL, or that Amari Cooper is tied among receivers for the most TD receptions, or that the Cowboys have now scored at least 30 points in four consecutive games dating back to last year, or that the Cowboys beat the Saints last year at AT&T, 13-10, or that only Jason Witten and L.P. Ladouceur are the only players on this team to remember the Cowboys went into New Orleans in 2009 to defeat the then 13-0, undefeated Saints on their way to a Super Bowl championship, 24-10.

Right, because, and go ahead, say it: It only matters what we do now.

And what the Cowboys absolutely must do now on Sunday if they expect to remain undefeated after the first four games of a season since 2007 is this:

They must control Saints all-purpose running back Alvin Kamara.

Their offensive line must thwart that Saints defense, thus allowing Dak to do his thing and Zeke to do his. That simple, though no way simple at all.

Let's start with Kamara. The Saints hand it to him. They pitch it to him. They dump passes to him. They screen to him. And guarantee you, knowing Sean Payton the way we know Sean Payton, he'll come up with another creative way to get him the ball, some sort of gimmick especially for national TV.

Because without Brees, Kamara is the guy. The offense will revolve around him. He's hard to get on the ground, and even harder now that he's the man – the Saints' starting running back. Reminds me of one of those Barry Sanders types. Open space is the last place you want him in, and he's good enough and fast enough to create his own space.

Thought Saints now starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater best described Kamara:

"He's like a human joystick. Give him the ball and he's spinning, he's juking, he's bouncing off of guys. And as a quarterback, when you can throw him a screen and just watch the play happen, it's like, 'Man, this guy, he's a bad man.'"

Real bad, baddest man on the whole darn field.

Ask the Seahawks. Kamara had 25 touches against the Seahawks this past Sunday, totaling 161 yards and his first two touchdowns of the season. And if you need evidence of what this guy can do, and haven't seen the play yet, just look up what he did to the Seattle defense Sunday, taking a mere screen pass two yards behind the line of scrimmage and bouncing, weaving and slashing his way for a 29-yard touchdown.


Now the Cowboys' offensive line. While the Redskins front was decent, the Saints will pose the best defensive front the Cowboys have faced this year. But my guess is, the Cowboys' offensive line will be the best those guys have faced so far this season – maybe the best they face all season.

Yep, the Cowboys' offensive line is playing at an extremely high level.

"Look at the offensive line we have," Dak begins. "I'll put them up against anybody. I'm going to trust my guys every day of the week."

And twice on Sunday.

Take protection. Dak has been sacked just twice, and one of those was his fault for not getting the ball out, er, throwing it away. Just remember the protection on his interception in the Miami game. He was back there a good nine seconds before carelessly throwing the ball down field off one foot while on the run.

You know, just two sacks, and very few hits. Why last year Dak was sacked 56 times. Fifty-six now. That's 3½ a game. And check this out. After three games last year Dak already had been sacked 11 times.

"We're playing better, but we had a lot of drills in the offseason, kind of emphasizing that, that's an area we needed to improve over from last season," offensive line coach Marc Colombo says of pass pro. "Just getting the guys out there, timing, punching, stuff like that . . . they are executing right now and something we have to continue to do.

"Pretty good pass rushers coming up."

Like Sunday, the Saints Cam Jordan and Marcus Davenport and Trey Hendrickson and David Onyemata.

Well, as Dak basically said, bring it on.

Sure helps that Travis Frederick has returned.

"Travis is incredible," Colombo says. "He's one of the best centers in all of ball, maybe the best. It does make a difference."

Then a continually improving La'el Collins.

"He's just a heckuva football player," Colombo says. "He's determined . . . more experience he gets the better he's going to be."

Then an improving Connor Williams. Bigger. Stronger. Improving technique.

And no need to even mention the quality of Tyron Smith and Zack Martin, who despite his back flaring up this week is expected to play.

Plus, these guys are no slouches run blocking. Zeke is averaging 5.3 yards a carry. Rookie Tony Pollard is 5.0. Dak is 8.0. And even Randall Cobb, another 5.5 on his two runs.

"There is no question, it all starts there," Garrett says of his offensive line. "You never see the skill on your team if you don't win on the offensive and defensive lines."

Now it's imperative this all continues come 7:20 p.m. Sunday in the Big Not-So Easy.

Because as we know, it only matters what we do now.