No one outside their own locker room saw the Dallas Cowboys winning three-straight games and sitting in a first-place tie atop the NFC East when they were seemingly left for dead at 3-5 following a devastating 28-14 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Nov. 5.
So they don’t expect anyone to give them any chance Thursday against the New Orleans Saints (10-1), who are considered the best team in the NFL while riding their own 10-game winning streak.
The Cowboys have a healthy respect for the Saints.
It’s a game owner Jerry Jones has already called the Cowboys’ quote-unquote ‘Super Bowl’.
That may be a little much with five games left to go in the regular season.
But it is a measure stick game for the Cowboys to see where they stand against the league’s best in their quest to win the division, make the playoffs and possibly give themselves a chance to get on a run to the Super Bowl.
“The Saints are a really good team, a really hot team,” receiver Amari Cooper said. “They’ve won 10 in a row. Why not look at it that way? They’re one of the best teams in the league so if we can beat them that says a lot about us.”
It would say quite a bit about the Cowboys, who have played well during their three-game winning streak.
But coach Jason Garrett said they will have to be at their best to knock off the Saints, who are known for their potent offense but are good in all three phases of the game.
“Yeah, they’ve won 10 games in a row,” Garrett said. “It’s hard to do that in the NFL. In all three phases of their team. They can run it, they can throw it on offense, they move the ball every time they have it, they score a ton of points. Defensively, they’re very aggressive. They do a good job defending the run, they do a good job defending the pass, they make a ton of plays throughout on all three levels of their defense, kicking game, their guys show up, they’ve got playmakers all throughout their team, they know how to use them and they’re just playing at an extremely high level.
“So certainly they challenge you a ton of different ways throughout their football team but ultimately it comes down to us playing at the highest level we can play at.”
Running back Ezekiel Elliott buys the measuring stick narrative, to an extent.
“It’s the NFL,” Elliott said. “Records don’t matter. Anything can happen Sunday to Sunday.”
But Elliott doesn’t believe the Cowboys have to be perfect. He said they just need to continue to do what they have been doing and play their style of football, which is control the ball with him on the rushing attack to keep the Saints offense all the field.
“I don’t think you have to play perfect. That is nearly impossible,” Elliott said. “I don’t think it’s going to take perfection. It’s going to take for us to come out there and play physical. Play our style of football and compete. We have to make sure are continue to do what we have been doing. Same approach we have had the past three weeks. Our backs are against the wall. We have to go out and do everything we can to win this ball game.”