New Orleans Saints vs Dallas Cowboys — Gus Kattengell’s Preview
It took a bit longer than expected but the New Orleans Saints picked up their first win of the season last week in the comforts of the Superdome. A 20-9 win over an undermanned Vikings offense left players answering questions on if it was an ugly win and fans feeling unsatisfied. A win is a win though and now it’s on to the prime time lights of Sunday Night Football.
Like Minnesota a week ago, the Dallas Cowboys had to deal with a little off the field distraction. Former LSU Tiger Morris Claiborne was informed on Tuesday that he had lost his starting cornerback position to Orlando Scandrick. Cliaborne left the facility anger and the national media acted like it was the biggest sign of disrespect in all of mankind. Claiborne came back that night talked it out with head coach Jason Garrett and will play on Sunday in the role coach sees fit.
The Saints have played Dallas six times in the Sean Payton era with the Black and Gold winning five of those including a meeting last season where the Saints spanked the ‘Boys 49-17. In those meetings Saints quarterback Drew Brees has thrown 14 touchdowns to just two interceptions with at least 352 yards in three straight wins.
KEYS TO THE GAME
At the top of the list is the New Orleans Saints defense. Okay this makes it three straight weeks I’m starting my keys with the defense.
The Saints did keep Minnesota under double digits but again they had to use their backup quarterback following an injury to starter Matt Cassell and were without RB Adrian Peterson. It was also the second straight game in which the defense failed to force a turnover. Heading into Sunday’s game the Saints rank 29th in the NFL in stopping the pass. They are however 10th in stopping the run and will be put to the test since Dallas averages 156.7 yards per game on the ground good for 3rd best in the league.
Saints LB Curtis Lofton played the media card this week when asked about the team’s road-woes. Sorry Curtis, we don’t have the power to affect games. The Saints are 0-2 already this season and a loss Sunday would not only make winning your homes games basically a must if you want a high seed in the playoffs, but do anything but quell the questions about why this team can’t win on the road.
The Saints haven’t played poorly on the road this season, they’ve just failed to close. Popeye’s Chicken, Gatorade color and sweats can only go so far. A loss and at some point you have to question if it’s a mental hurdle the team can’t overcome.
RUN GAME VS RUN GAME
As touched on in the defense portion, Dallas will run the ball. The Cowboys passing offense is ranked 24th in the NFL. RB DeMarco Murray is their offense right now having carried the ball 75 times for 385 yards. The next closest back has five carries. Forcing Dallas to become one dimensional and put the game squarely on Tony Romo’s shoulders would benefit the Saints. Romos is coming off of off-season back surgery and while he did lead Dallas to 24 second half points in last week’s come from behind win, he also threw a pick-six in the first half as the Cowboys went down 21-0.
Speaking of Romo he is the reason this game makes me nervous. For all the hoopla about his lack of success in the post season, if and when the team makes it all, and the amount of games he throws multiple interceptions, he still can play. Romo’s ability to extend plays by escaping the pocket could be dangerous for a team that hasn’t consistently put pressure on the quarterback. It’s pretty simple. If the defensive line that allowed Matt Ryan to break a franchise record in passing yard and Brian Hoyer look like a legit NFL starter shows up, the Saints will lose.
Sunday could be a 12-pack game. The Saints are the more talented team. There isn’t any question about that. The Black and Gold could win this game by 20 points or more. This road thing is very real and the Cowboys have showed they can run.
I see it 34-31 Saints in a game that comes down to the final two minutes where Brees takes advantage of a very poor Dallas secondary to pull off the win.