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Cowboys vs. Saints: Down but not out

Dallas couldn't continue their late game magic against New Orleans, but they still control their own destiny in the playoff hunt.

Ronald Martinez

The Cowboys last three games have been decided on the final play. On Sunday, their luck ran out, as the Saints come to Cowboys Stadium and beat them 34-31.

Some observations from the game:

  • Drew Brees was nearly unstoppable, but with the Cowboys missing five starters on defense, it was going to be a difficult task for Rob Ryan to limit what Brees could do. Brees threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns, but most of those yards came to his running backs. Darren Sproles ate the Cowboys alive because they had nobody to cover him. HadSean Lee or Bruce Carter not been lost for the season, I highly doubt Sproles goes for 104 yards receiving.
  • Rob Ryan is taking guys off the street that nobody wanted and is inserting them at key roles on his defense. For the majority of the season, Ryan has taken a patchwork defense and made it work. With so many injuries, it's going to be hard for the Cowboys to make any serious noise if they get into the playoffs.
  • Dez Bryant continued his tear and feasted on the Saints suspect passing defense. Bryant had two 58-yard touchdowns in the second quarter. For whatever reason, the Cowboys never seemed to get Bryant back into the gameplan after the two touchdowns.
  • DeMarco Murray has revitalized the Cowboys' running game, but his costly fumble in the third quarter on the Cowboys' 5 yard line really put Dallas in a difficult position late in the game. The Saints scored just a few plays later and took a commanding lead. It's hard to criticize Murray for all he has done, but he's had two costly fumbles the last two weeks.
  • Tony Romo had a great game statistically throwing for 416 yards and four touchdowns. In the second half, the Cowboys got stale on offense and punted the ball because Romo's receivers couldn't get open, and they also had some key drops. Once again, Romo was nearly perfect with a 123.8 quarterback rating. He drove his team for two fourth quarter touchdowns, the last coming with just seconds left.
  • Romo gave the Cowboys a chance to win this game early, and he also drove them down the field to tie the game. It wasn't his fault the Cowboys lost this game. Romo is playing his best football of the year, and it's coming late in December.
  • Remember when Witten started off the season terribly? He passed Tony Gonzalez's record of 102 and sits at 103 receptions on the year.
  • The Cowboys continue to show up late in games. During the second half of the season, Jason Garrett has definitely changed the culture of his team. The future looks bright in Dallas, but they still have to finish out this season strong.
  • This is very similar to last year's Week 17 game in New York. The Cowboys had a chance to win that game and go to the playoffs, but they were blown out by the Giants. Hopefully this team doesn't repeat history and goes up to Washington amd takes care of business.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.