Saints make winning a “Brees”, but can they continue their dominance against the Dallas Cowboys?

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–Nathan Jones–

 

The Saints are rolling past their competition. After losing in week one, the New Orleans Saints have gone on a 10-game winning streak. The national media has a fun time deciding which team has the greatest offense. People love to debate whether Pat Mahomes, Jared Goff, or Drew Brees is the MVP. Whatever you find yourself on that argument, one thing is certain: the New Orleans Saints has been the most impressive team through week 12.

The Cowboys are finally getting respect by the country as well. After a rough start to the season, Jerry replaced the offensive line coach and traded for Amari Cooper. Cooper has made life for Dak Prescott a lot less stressful. Cooper is a consistent option on third down, which for a run first team,  is essential. People were writing Dak Prescott out, in the beginning, criticizing everything about the quarterback (which to be fair, he needed a lot of criticism). However, since acquiring Amari Cooper, Dak Prescott has improved tremendously. He still has room to grow (every quarterback does), but overall his game looks vastly different than without Cooper.

Before Amari Cooper, here were Dak’s stats:

202 passing yards per game

2 to 1 pass touchdown to interception ratio

QB rating of 88.56

With Amari Cooper, here are Dak’s stats:

253 passing yards per game

5 to 1 pass touchdown to interception ratio

QB rating of 102.55

To put these numbers in perspective, if Dak averaged this for one season, he would end up with over 4,000 passing yards, 20 pass touchdowns, and four interceptions. These are not jaw-dropping stats, but with a great defense and run game, these numbers can win big games.

Can they beat New Orleans? Maybe…

New Orleans enters this match as the 5th overall offense in yards per game with 416.16, and 1st in points per game with 37.1.

Drew Brees is on pace to set many records, including holding a completion percentage of 76.3%. Many teams have a “three-headed monster”. The Saints have a “four-headed monster” in Brees, running backs Kamara and Ingram, and receiver Michael Thomas. The Saints can move the ball with ease on the ground and through the air. They use Kamara from the backfield, at the X spot, in the slot, he is basically everywhere expect the bench. Michael Thomas has solidified his standing among the best receivers in the NFL.

Their offense is exceptional, but the reason they are the best team in the league is that they have mastered “complementary football”. They score early on offense, and their defense does their part. They pose the best run defense in the league, though the numbers may be skewed because of the lead they have early in games, as well as playmakers on the back side that do a decent job of taking turnovers and limiting touchdowns. They are just in the middle of the pack on points allowed (23.3 points/game). But, second-year cornerback Marshon Lattimore is rebounding in the second half of the season, returning to his rookie year form. He has one interception against the Eagles in week 11 and has given up only 27.6 yards in his last three games.

Besides Lattimore, the scariest part of their defense is DE Cameron Jordan. Like the Cowboys’ Demarcus Lawrence, Jordan is more than just a top-tier pass rusher. He plays the run at an elite level as well. He does not allow offensive tackles to hook him and seal the edge. He uses his strength and leverage to beat the running back outside, forcing a cutback into DT Sheldon Rankins.

The Key for a Cowboys’ win

If the Cowboys win, it will because of 3 things:

  1. They have to slow the game down to their speed. The Cowboys are not built to win a 40-45 ball game. Even the Rams fell short in a shootout with New Orleans. They must stick to what works for them. Run with Ezekiel Elliott, give him 25+ touches, preferably 30+. And they need to find ways to move the chains. Cole Beasley has been a non-factor as of late, so look for ways the Cowboys can find him on quick out routes. Amari Cooper can factor in with screens, the occasional deep route, but mostly quick stuff underneath.
  2. Win the red-zone battle. The Cowboys defense has been fantastic in forcing teams to settle for field goals. The Saints have been fantastic in scoring touchdowns. The Cowboys’ defense is battling against a very crafty offense called by Sean Payton. Expect wildcat formations, trick plays, etc. The Cowboys offense can not afford to only come away with a field goal. The motto for the offense should be: “TDs not 3s”. Scott Linehan has been persecuted for his wretched play calling in the red zone, and with rumors surrounding his job security, he must call a perfect game.
  3. Win the turnover battle: The Cowboys have yet to lose a game where they have not turned the ball over to the opposing team’s defense. Dak Prescott has been playing great football and will have to continue to know when to take a sack or throw the ball away. The Saints’ defense craves opportunities to take the ball away, and another Dak dribble situation cannot happen. Also, Drew Brees rarely throws an interception, an incompletion for that matter. However, to beat Brees we must have an exceptional pass rush and get hands in passing lanes. Tipped balls have to be capitalized on by the Cowboys’ defense. They have found ways to take the ball away recently, and this must continue on Thursday. The more possessions for Dallas’ offense, the more they can dictate how the game is played.

Football is a chess match. Every play call is calculated plays, or even drives in advance. The Cowboys are at a disadvantage with Tyron Smith most likely missing the game due to injury. It is time for players such as Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott, Demarcus Lawrence, Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch to take charge and lead the team to victory.

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