Dallas will aim to extend its winning streak to three games and erase one of the most painful memories of its 2013 season when it hosts New Orleans tonight on NBC. If recent history between these two teams matters, it favors the Saints in this one. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is 0–3 all time against New Orleans, while Saints coach Sean Payton has a 3–1 ledger against Dallas.
And the teams' most recent meeting was a low point for the Garrett regime. Last season in Week 10, the Saints destroyed the Cowboys 49-17 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, as Drew Brees completed 34 of 41 passes for 392 yards and four TDs (passer rating of 139.0), and running back Mark Ingram rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown. In the teams' last meeting in Dallas, in 2012, the game was much closer but still produced a Saints offensive explosion, as Brees threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns and Marques Colston caught 10 passes for 153 yards.
New Orleans Saints at Dallas Cowboys
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Spread: New Orleans -3
Three Things to Watch
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1. Romo vs. Saints secondary
We've established that Saints quarterback Drew Brees has a stellar history against the Cowboys, but we must also acknowledge that Dallas quarterback Tony Romo has a certain comfort level against the Saints. In his last home start against New Orleans in 2012, Romo passed for 416 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions for a 123.8 QB rating. Wide receiver Dez Bryant had a career game in that matchup, catching nine passes for 224 yards and two 58-yard touchdowns. They'll be facing a Saints defense that has shown an alarming inability to produce big plays. This unit has forced just one turnover and has collected only four sacks in three games while allowing 369 yards per contest. The Saints have been particularly vulnerable on third-and-long. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will need to construct a creative game plan to thwart his former employer on its home field.
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2. Dissension in Big D?
Dallas cornerback Morris Claiborne made headlines earlier in the week when he skipped a walk-through and stormed out of the Cowboys' Valley Ranch headquarters after learning of his demotion. "I think he understood that he made a mistake," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said of Claiborne, who was called out on the radio by owner Jerry Jones. "Guys are competitors. When they hear news that doesn't go their way, different guys react different ways. He obviously knew that he didn't react the right way, and he had a chance to kind of collect himself. He came by last night and we addressed it, and we addressed it head on. He's back in here this morning and ready to go to work." The drama in Big D seemingly never ends, and although the Cowboys’ miraculous comeback in a Week 3 win over the Rams bought them a little time, they're one ill-timed loss from returning to full-on meltdown mode.
3. The Saints' Search for Consistency
New Orleans has only been consistent in its inconsistency so far this season. The offense has looked unstoppable on occasion but has sputtered at some inopportune times. On paper, the Saints possess one of the NFL's better offenses: fourth in both total yards and red zone touchdown percentage, and first in third-down conversions — but only seventh in scoring. Until the defense finds its footing, the offense has to convert every opportunity presented to it.
The Saints are one of the bigger disappointments in this young NFL season. Even in their first win of the season, a fairly comfortable 20-9 victory over the Vikings, there were errors and breakdowns on defense, and once again, the Saints failed to force a turnover, although they didn't turn it over on offense, either. After an offseason focused on takeaways, New Orleans is riding an 11-quarter streak without one and is still searching for a defensive spark. If they can't find one against the turnover-prone Cowboys, it could be a long season.