Things that never happen: The leading candidate for the NFL’s MVP award handed the Cowboys a win with an interception on a ball he should never have thrown.
With his team trailing by three points with under three minutes remaining in the game, the quarterback that wanted to go to TCU threw an interception to Cowboys defensive back Jourdan Lewis deep in Saints’ territory to help wrap up the Cowboys’ biggest win of the season.
Before more than 93,000, including new Ring of Honor member Gil Brandt, the Cowboys gave their fans the cruelest of paradoxes: They defeated the Saints to improve to 7-5, which means their head coach is assured of a return.
The Cowboys could always blow this and finish 7-9, or 8-8, but right now there are too many positives working in their favor to think they will finish with anything other than a winning record.
And ... who are we kidding? Jason Garrett will be the coach of this team until 3032, at which point he will finally retire.
Until that clap-happy retirement speech at the unveiling of the statue, Garrett and the Cowboys are on a four-game winning streak. They are secure in first place in the NFC East, and are winning with a style that is distinctly dated by NFL standards.
While the best teams in the NFL, which include the Saints, are scoring at a video game pace, the Cowboys win on traditional values, which includes a defense that is Super Bowl-caliber good.
The Cowboys entered their game against the 10-1 Saints as 7.5 point underdogs, and left the club with a 13-10 win.
The Saints had not lost since Week 1. The reason they lost again is the Cowboys’ defense.
“The defense plays like that against that team ... it’s incredible,” quarterback Dak Prescott said.
The Saints entered the game averaging 416 yards per game; against the Cowboys, they had 176. Brees threw for 127.
The Saints went three-and-out on their first two possessions. They didn’t register a first down until the last play of the first quarter.
With 10 minutes remaining in the second quarter, the Saints had the ball at the Cowboys’ 7 and a first and goal; the defense prevented them from scoring on a 4th-and-1 run by Alvin Kamara.
The Saints even had to dust off their punter. Saints’ punter Thomas Morstead had to be exhausted Thursday night; the guy had to punt four times, which tied his season high.
The last time the Saints scored so few points was 2015.
The Cowboys won a game for the first time this season where they committed a turnover; they had two, the last of which, considering the opponent and their quarterback, should have cost them the win they deserved.
Prescott’s fumble late in the fourth quarter with his team at the Saints’ 6-yard line didn’t matter as Lewis picked off Brees only two plays later. Brees had thrown two interceptions all season.
With defensive end Tank Lawrence routinely wrecking opposing linemen, linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, and quality defensive backs in Lewis and Byron Jones, the Cowboys are loaded throughout with real players on defense.
If a defense can stop the Saints, the team has a chance to be win games in January.
As much as the NFL has evolved and gone out of its way to increase scoring, it cannot change a few truisms of the game itself: If you can stop people, and harass a passer, you can win. Nothing will ever change that.
Typically, offenses that throw the ball around all over the world from September through November tend to slow down in December and January. Games get tighter. Play-callers grow more conservative. The weather is colder. Guys are hurting.
The Cowboys still have issues on offense, specifically they need left tackle Tyron Smith to return from his injury. Backup Cameron Fleming is better than last season’s reserve, Chaz Green, but this offense needs its starting left tackle.
Prescott has improved dramatically since the team acquired wide receiver Amari Cooper, whose presence has opened up some room for rookie Michael Gallup. But this is a quaerterback who is a gamer, but needs to improve his passing.
Running back Ezekiel Elliott, who ran for 76 yards and had 60 yards receiving against the Saints, should be an MVP candidate, but he is not. Only quarterbacks win that award.
The NFL currently is dictated by pretty offenses, which the Cowboys do not possess.
Dak was sacked seven times on Thursday night, a few of which are on him because he still holds the ball too long.
The Cowboys’ beauty is on defense.
A defense that was good enough to stop the New Orleans Saints, and force Drew Brees to do something he never does.
A defense that is Super Bowl-caliber good, for a coach who is assured of a return.