New Orleans 30, Dallas 27: Snatching Another Defeat

Jesse Holley helped to set up a touchdown by stripping Reggie Bush on a punt return in the third quarter.

With 3:20 remaining in today’s game against New Orleans, Roy Williams caught a slant pass from Jon Kitna and raced 47 yards to the Saint 11-yard line. Had Roy gone down there, the Cowboys would have had a four-point lead at 27-23 with three minutes to kill on the clock. New Orleans at that point had only one timeout remaining.

Instead, Malcolm Jenkins stripped the ball from Williams and recovered the fumble. The Dallas defense that had not broken since allowing 17 points in the first quarter fell apart. New Orleans easily went 89 yards and scored what would be the game-winning touchdown when Drew Brees hit Lance Moore on a 12-yard touchdown.

Teams like Buffalo and Detroit just find ways to lose games they should win. Dallas is in that category of teams.

It certainly didn’t look like the Cowboys would be in a position to find a way to lose this one at the end. Within two minutes of the opening kickoff, the Cowboys were down 7-0. By the end of the first quarter, the Cowboys trailed 17-0, and Dallas was having trouble moving the ball. Early in the second quarter, the Cowboys moved to the New Orleans 21 but failed to convert on a fourth-and-one play. The Dallas defense managed to tighten, though, and the Cowboys kicked two field goals before halftime. The second of those was a 53-yarder by David Buehler as time expired.

The field goal gave the Cowboys some momentum, and on the second play of the second half, Miles Austin found an opening on the sideline on a reverse and raced 60 yards for a touchdown the cut the score to 20-13.

Two plays by Reggie Bush later in the third quarter gave the Cowboys an even better chance. On a third-and-seven play from the Dallas 10, Brees hit Bush on an angle route, but Bush dropped the ball, forcing the Saints to settle for a field goal. When the Cowboys had to punt on the next possession, Jesse Holley forced Bush to fumble, giving Dallas the ball at the New Orleans 15.  Six plays later, Marion Barber scored from a yard out on a fourth-and-goal play from the one, cutting the New Orleans lead to 23-20.

Dallas could have attempted a 52-yard field goal with 11:08 remaining, but Jason Garrett decided to punt instead. Mat McBriar, though, dropped the snap and was forced to kick the ball illegally off the ground. Still, the Saints were pinned inside their 20.

Three plays later, Brees tried to hit Jimmy Graham near midfield, but Graham tipped the ball in the air, and Gerald Sensabaugh came down with the interception. The Cowboys again drove to the New Orleans 1, and Dallas punched it in from there to take a 27-23 lead.

The defense stepped up with a big stop, punctuated by Jay Ratliff’s sack on a third-and-seven play. The Cowboys got the ball back inside their own territory, but they had the momentum, and only four minutes remained. On third-and-six, Williams made a sharp cut inside on a slant, and cornerback Patrick Robinson fell down. Williams ran right up the center of the field, but Jenkins caught up to Williams and stripped Williams of the ball.

We’ve seen something like this before…

Brees to Marcus Colston for 22…

Two Dallas stops set up a third-and-10, but…

Robert Meachem burned Terence Newman along the right sideline for a 55-yard gain…

And on the next play, Moore ran right in front of Mike Jenkins for the game-winner.

Dallas moved to inside Saint territory thanks to three consecutive passes to Jason Witten. From there, though, Dallas could not move past the 41. On fourth-and-ten from the 41, Garrett sent Buehler to attempt a 59-yarder, but his kick sailed left.

At 3-8, the Cowboys are guaranteed their first non-winning record since 2004. Dallas has to win two of its final five to match Dave Campo’s 5-11 teams from 2000, 2001, and 2002. The way that Campo’s secondary played today, those two wins aren’t guaranteed.

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