Despite losing head coach Mike McCarthy and six other coaches to COVID-19 protocols this week, the Dallas Cowboys made a statement against the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night, cruising to a 27-17 victory.
The Cowboys’ defense recorded a total of four interceptions, and running back Tony Pollard broke off the season’s longest run to claim victory in the Big Easy.
The game began with each team trading punts before the Saints failed to convert a 56-yard field goal try. Despite excellent field position, the Cowboys could not pick up a first down on a fourth-and-two attempt and were forced to punt for the second time in the game.
After the offense had struggled in the two previous weeks while receivers Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb were unavailable, a 41-yard pass to Cooper and a 33-yard run by Lamb on the ensuing drive set up a one-yard touchdown pass from Dak Prescott to Michael Gallup. Gallup was able to toe-drag the floating touch pass for a highlight-reel score.
The Saints answered with a scoring drive of their own. The Saints elected to start Taysom Hill at quarterback despite the do-everything player suffering from plantar fasciitis. Hill tied the game at 7-7 with a 24-yard completion for the score.
A pair of Greg Zuerlein field goals in the second quarter gave the Cowboys a 13-7 lead at halftime. Zuerlein hit field goals of 55 and 34 yards. He was perfect on the night, hitting both kicks and all three extra-point attempts.
The Cowboys’ defense started to make serious noise in the second quarter and would carry that energy throughout the remainder of the game. Facing a second-and-ten from the Dallas 26, Hill tried to connect with receiver Kenny Stills, who was covered by linebacker Micah Parsons.
Cowboys’ safety Jayron Kearse made a diving, toe-tapping interception off the deflected pass for the game’s first turnover.
The Cowboys’ offensive struggles continued after halftime, with the first two drives accounting for only nine combined yards. Then, on the Cowboys’ third drive of the third quarter, Pollard found a field of green and outran the Saints defense for a 58-yard score.
It was the longest run of the season for any Cowboys player. In fact, the run was longer than the total yards gained by star running back Ezekiel Elliott in the game.
A Saints 42-yard field goal made the score 20-10 at the start of the fourth quarter. Prescott threw an interception on a deep ball intended for Lamb, his eighth INT of the season. The Cowboys’ defense stepped up, though, recording interceptions on each of the following three Saints drives.
Cornerback Trevon Diggs collected his ninth interception of the season as he continues to lead the league, while defensive tackle Carlos Watkins made his first career interception and took it to the house for the final Cowboys score that all but put the game on ice.
The Saints added a 70-yard touchdown near the end of the fourth quarter, but the Cowboys’ offense only had to earn one first down to end the game on the ensuing possession. The Cowboys are now 8-4 and continue to lead the NFC East.
The Saints fall to 5-7, and their chances to make the playoffs this year took a serious blow with the loss to Dallas.
Dallas now gets a miniature bye-week after playing two continuous weeks on Thursdays. The next game will be on December 12, when they travel to take on the Washington Football Team.
It will be the third divisional game of the season for the Cowboys, who are unbeaten by NFC East teams this season.