My Grades from the 26-20 overtime loss to the Saints
PASSING OFFENSE: C – Quarterback Brandon Weeden had solid numbers, completing 16 of 26 passes for 246 yards and one touchdown. He led the Cowboys on a nice 91-yard game-tying touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. But he continues to be more check down than downfield. Teams don’t fear the vertical passing game and are loading up to stop the run. Cole Beasley had a nice game inside and the Cowboys missed the injured Lance Dunbar out of the backfield. But they need more plays to be made down field. And typical of the Cowboys this season, Brice Butler caught a 67-yard pass and promptly left the game with a strained hamstring.
RUSHING OFFENSE: F – The running game has gone in reverse since the start of the season and particularly in the second half of games. Joseph Randle is on the verge of being benched for poor decision-making with ball. He didn’t even play in the fourth quarter. Darren McFadden did nothing to get excited about and the Cowboys made Christine Michael active for the first time all season and used him for just one play _ a 1-yard loss. The Cowboys rushed for just 25 yards in the second half one week after registering -4 yards in the second half against the Falcons.
PASS DEFENSE: F – The Cowboys recorded a season-high three sacks but don’t confuse that with getting pressure and affecting Drew Brees, who simply picked the defense apart. He completed 33 of 41 passes for 359 passes and two touchdowns, including the game winner. Cornerback Tyler Patmon dropped an interception. The Cowboys didn’t make plays when it counted. Brees threw mostly underneath and simply nickel and dimed the Cowboys all night until the 80-yard game winner to running back C.J. Spiller coming out of the backfield against an overmatched and out of position linebacker.
RUSH DEFENSE: C – The Saints didn’t run over the Cowboys but they gashed them on the ground enough in the second half to gain 103 yards on 25 carries. They averaged 4.1 yards per carry. Mark Ingram had 17 carries for 77 yards. The Cowboys continue to miss too many tackles. Per Pro Football focus, the Cowboys missed 7 tackles in the secondary. Defensive end Jeremy Mincey had a big missed tackle on a third and 1.
SPECIAL TEAMS: F – It’s inexcusable that the Cowboys were flagged for 12 men on the field on a Saints punt after a three and out. The Saints sent the field goal team on the field and turned that mistake into 3 points. That can’t happen and proved to be the difference in the game.
COACHING: D – Injuries are one thing. And there is no doubt the Cowboys have a lot of them. But coaching blunders are another. That can’t continue to happen. The Cowboys had 12 men on the field on a punt, giving the Saints a chance at a field goal. If not, the Cowboys would have won in regulation. They didn’t get a timeout to get an injured playoff off the field before the game-winning touchdown in overtime. The Cowboys abandoned the run in the red zone.