Instead of being in a position to win the NFC, the New Orleans Saints find themselves with a defense so bad that even Drew Brees can’t seem to overcome it, and makes the Dallas Cowboys look like a solid, dangerous team, coming away with the 38-17 win as they continue to focus on running the ball and taking the pressure off of Tony Romo, which seems to be an idea worth implementing more.
The Saints fall to 1-3 this season including 0-3 on the road. There were questions about their ability to win on the road last season and then they beat Philadelphia in the playoffs and weren’t far from upsetting the Seahawks in Seattle a week later. The Cowboys don’t have a juggernaut of a home field advantage. They didn’t seem to be that good of a team despite winning their last two games. But momentum and adjustments being made seem to be making a difference.
The Cowboys were up 24-0 before the Saints actually got going. The first touchdown New Orleans scored came in the fourth quarter. They did finish with over 400 yards of offense but also turned the ball over three times – one time Brees was intercepted and two more fumbled by Jimmy Graham and Travaris Cadet. The Cowboys avoided a turnover for the first time this season, as Tony Romo finished the game with 22-of-29 for 262 yards and three touchdowns while DeMarco Murray carried on with his impressive start to the season, finishing with 149 yards and two touchdowns.
The Cowboys are finally going with a run first system, taking advantage of Murray supposedly being over his injury problems. He has rushed 99 times this season and leads the league with 534 yards through the first four games. He leads the NFL in both yards before and after contact, and joins Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett as the only running backs in Cowboys history to start the season with four games of 100 yards or more.
Some have mentioned that Jason Witten is declining as a receiver. Catching five passes for 61 yards isn’t bad at all, even if he is no longer the automatic option for Romo, replaced by Bryant. But what makes Witten such a complete tight end is his blocking ability, helping out Murray on his rushes around the edges. The best target for Romo happened to be Terrance Williams, catching six passes for 77 yards and a couple of touchdowns, while Bryant also pulled one down for his third of the season.
And the Saints? While you trust the Payton-Brees combo to work out their offensive inaccuracies with too many overthrows and tipped passes, the biggest problem right now is this Rob Ryan defense, which is blitzing on automatic. Romo threw all of his touchdown passes facing a pass rush of five or more players. The offensive line isn’t perfect, but doing a solid job, and the Cowboys turning into a running team makes it so much easier for them to handle extra pressure.
A 3-1 start with wins against the lower half of the league is nothing to shout off the rooftops about, but after a debacle of an opener, it looks like the Cowboys know what to do in order to make the most out of the talent and hide the flaws they have. The same can’t be said of the Saints, who are lucky to be in a division that isn’t going to need a special season to win in.