Cowboys implode in spectacular fashion

Posted Monday, Nov. 11, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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lebreton Oh, the humanity.

The missed tackles. The strained hamstrings. The Drew Brees bombs bursting in mid-air.

Oh, the outplayed, overmatched and overwhelmed Dallas Cowboys.

And how was that for a midseason measure of the Cowboys’ playoff mettle?

Graced with a golden opportunity to run the football and, perchance, to stake their claim as one of the NFC’s elite, the Cowboys imploded spectacularly Sunday night 49-17.

They were embarrassed by quarterback Brees and the New Orleans Saints in almost every way possible. In all three phases, as head coach Jason Garrett might say.

Only three? Let us count the phases.

The Cowboys were inundated on offense, defense, pass coverage, tackling, providing safe harbor for Tony Romo, injury prevention and, most noticeably, noise reduction, just to name a few.

The more the Saints scored, it seemed, the noisier it appeared to get in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

And score and score the home team did. The Saints struck for seven touchdowns, four through the air by Brees, as coach Sean Payton’s team ran and threw for 625 yards and registered an NFL-record 40 first downs.

Yet, that was only half the story. Not only couldn’t the Cowboys stop the Saints — New Orleans punted only once all night — but after a pseudo-promising opening 25 minutes, the Cowboys appeared to abandon the offensive game plan and resort to their old ways.

The Cowboys finished the game with nine first downs — nine! They were a perfectly imperfect 0 for 9 on third-down attempts.

That the long, frustrating afternoon came at the hands of former Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan only rubbed salt in the festering wound.

Patience? There was no time for patience Sunday, after the Cowboys drove 72 yards for a brief, go-ahead touchdown with 65 of those yards coming by virtue of the running game.

After that precision drive, Brees and the Saints answered with a 15-play, 80-yard drive of their own and regained the lead for keeps.

But, oh, the impatience.

An illegal block forced Dallas to begin its next drive at its own 7-yard line. But after DeMarco Murray ran for two yards on first down, Romo attempted two passes that went incomplete. The Cowboys didn’t try another running play until the third quarter.

By then, the Saints had seized the moment and increased their lead to 28-10.

The rout was just beginning.

This was the kind of opponent, the NFC South-leading Saints, that the Cowboys were supposed to be measuring themselves against. This was Rob Ryan’s defense that they were supposed to know and exploit so well.

Instead, the Cowboys got a lesson in how distant they remain from the elite teams in the NFC.

This wasn’t one of those Sundays where they caught Christian Ponder, Nick Foles or Sam Bradford having a dreadful afternoon. This was Brees, picking apart the Cowboys’ wounded defense as if it were child’s play.

Oh, the yardage allowed. The frustration. The embarrassment.

As a measure of their playoff worthiness Sunday night in front of a national TV audience, the Cowboys clearly were not ready for prime time.

The road ahead just got a lot bumpier.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton

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