(Sports Network) – Drew Brees’ 12-yard touchdown pass to Lance Moore following a Roy Williams fumble late in the fourth quarter lifted the New Orleans Saints to a 30-27 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day.
Brees finished with 352 yards on 23-of-39 attempts for the Saints (8-3), who have won four consecutive games. New Orleans entered Thursday tied with upstart Tampa Bay and one game back of Atlanta in the crowded NFC South.
Jon Kitna connected on 30-of-42 throws for 313 yards, while Miles Austin, Marion Barber and Tashard Choice each scored a touchdown on the ground for Dallas (3-8), which suffered its first loss in three games under interim head coach Jason Garrett.
Dallas had won four straight Thanksgiving tilts.
A one-yard touchdown run by Choice following a Brees interception gave the Cowboys, who trailed 17-0 in the first quarter, their only lead of the game at 27-23 with 5:51 remaining in regulation.
After the Saints were forced to punt, Kitna hit Williams on a short toss and he scampered 47 yards before New Orleans safety Malcolm Jenkins ripped the ball from Williams’ grip at the Saints’ 11-yard line.
“The play that Malcolm makes late is an effort play, a heart play and it’s one of those plays that really inspires everyone on the team,” said New Orleans head coach Sean Payton.
Brees completed a 22-yard pass to Marques Colston on first down and after a pair of throws missed their intended targets, the Super Bowl XLIV MVP hit a streaking Robert Meachem in stride along the right sideline for a 55-yard gain at the two-minute warning. Brees and Moore hooked up on the next play to put New Orleans back on top.
Kitna led the Cowboys into New Orleans territory, but David Buehler’s 59-yard field goal try sailed wide left with 25 seconds remaining.
“(New Orleans) got out on us early in the ball game, they made some big plays, we turned the ball over and gave them a chance to go ahead 17 to nothing. But I think the obvious thing to me as a coach is our team continued to fight, continued to fight in all three areas and battle them,” Garrett said.
The Saints, playing for the first time on the holiday, got the ball to begin the game and needed just four plays to find the end zone. A 57-yard pass from Brees to Devery Henderson set up a three-yard touchdown run by Chris Ivory.
On Dallas’ first possession, New Orleans cornerback Tracy Porter recovered a fumble after defensive end Will Smith picked off Kitna. The Saints capitalized on the turnover as Garrett Hartley drilled a 50-yarder.
Following a three-and-out by the Cowboys’ offense on the next series, Ivory ran for a six-yard TD to give New Orleans a 17-0 lead with 4:33 remaining in the first quarter.
Buehler made a 21-yard field goal to put Dallas on the board with 5:13 left in the second quarter. The 14-play drive chewed up nearly eight minutes of the clock before stalling at the New Orleans three.
The Saints responded with a 45-yard Hartley field goal before Buehler converted a 53-yard attempt as the first half expired.
Austin ran for a 60-yard touchdown on an end around on the second play of the third quarter, trimming Dallas’ deficit to 20-13.
Brees then took the Saints to the Dallas 10 before Hartley came on to kick a 28-yard field goal.
The Cowboys were forced to punt on their next possession and Reggie Bush, who had been out since Week 2 with a fractured fibula, fumbled during the return for New Orleans. Dallas linebacker Leon Williams recovered at the Saints’ 15, and Barber plowed his way into the end zone from a yard out on fourth down to close the gap to three with 4 1/2 minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Colston caught six passes for 105 yards…Jason Witten had 99 yards on 10 receptions for the Cowboys…Williams made five grabs for 83 yards….Dallas limited New Orleans to 81 yards rushing…The Saints have won six of the last seven meetings.