Sunday, December 23, 2012
New Orleans Saints 34, Dallas Cowboys 31 (OT)
Cowboys' playoff hopes on the rocks after overtime shootout loss.
ARLINGTON The Dallas Cowboys' postseason chances are slim after yet another home loss, as they were defeated 34-31 by the New Orleans Saints at Cowboys Stadium. The loss dropped Dallas to 8-7, one game behind the 9-6 Washington Redskins for first place in the NFC East. Dallas plays the Redskins in Washington next week in the final game of the regular season.
The game was a back-and-forth shootout between two of the best passers in the league. Quarterbacks Drew Brees and Tony Romo combined for 862 yards passing with seven touchdowns and zero interceptions on the afternoon, and had no problem making big plays when they needed it.
The Saints got the scoring started on the very first drive of the game, marching 80 yards in 10 plays before Mark Ingram ran it in from the nine yard line to make it 7-0. After a short Dallas possession that ended in a punt, the Saints again dominated on offese, putting together a 16-play drive that used up the remainder of the first quarter before it ended with a missed 36-yard field goal. New Orleans held a 13-to-2 minute time of possession advantage in the first quarter.
The long wait seemed to awaken the Cowboys' offense, and three plays after the field goal miss Romo hit Dez Bryant for a 58-yard touchdown to even it up at 7-7. Following a Saints drive in which they ran seven plays over four minutes but gained just nine yards, Dallas once again struck quickly and Romo again hit Bryant for a 58-yard touchdown to pull ahead 14-7 with 5:43 left in the half.
New Orleans responded with another long drive, a 12-play, 90 yard drive that culminated in a six-yard touchdown pass from Brees to Lance Moore for a 14-14 score with just 1:11 left before halftime.
After Dallas followed up with a quick three-and-out that featured two incomplete passes to stop the clock, the Saints got the ball back on their 30 with 47 seconds remaining. Brees promptly hit Darren Sproles down the middle for 44 yards down to the Dallas 26, and Garrett Hartley converted the 37-yard kick for a 17-14 halftime lead.
The Cowboys tied it on the first drive of the second half when Dan Bailey connected with a 47 yarder to make it 17-17, then both teams traded punts until the four minute mark of the third, when DeMarco Murray fumbled on the Dallas five yard line and the Saints recovered. Three plays later Brees hit Pierre Thomas for a five-yard touchdown pass on third-and-goal to pull ahead 24-17.
The Saints extended their lead with another extended drive straddling the third and fourth quarters. Facing 3rd-and-8 on their own 37, Brees avoided the ineffectual Cowboys pass rush and completed a 60-yard pass to Marques Colston down to the Dallas three. On the next play, Brees connected with David Thomas for a touchdown and a 31-17 lead with 11:10 remaining in the game.
The teams traded punts before Romo took over on his own 20 with just 4:45 left, needing two touchdowns to tie. Romo went 4-for-5 on the drive, connecting with Bryant for 41 yards and Murray for 15 before hitting Dwayne Harris for a 16-yard touchdown pass with 3:35 left.
The Saints drove the clock down another two minutes before punting with 1:29 left, but Dallas' chances were improved when Harris ran back the punt 28 yards to the Cowboys' 36. Romo promptly passed to Murray for a 22 yard gain, then got Jason Witten for 19 down to the Saints 19 yard line with 55 seconds to play. After three straight incompletions to set up 4th-and-10 with 15 seconds left, Romo finally found Miles Austin in the end zone for the critical 19 yard touchdown that tied it at 31-31.
The game then went to overtime, with Dallas needing a win to keep pace with the Redskins and Giants in the NFC East race. But after receiving the opening kickoff, Dallas went 3-and-out and punted. Brees connected with Jimmy Graham for 26 yards on their first play of the drive to get down to the Dallas 38, then hit Graham three plays later on 3rd-and-3 for seven yards and a first down at the Dallas 34. Graham then added to his overtime heroics when Colton caught a pass across the middle but fumbled forward. With several Cowboys defenders standing around watching in the general area, Graham pounced on the loose ball as it rolled to the Cowboys' two yard line. Hartley converted a 20-yard chip shot field goal on the next snap for the win.
Romo had an excellent day statistically, going 26-of-43 for 416 yards, four touchdowns, and no turnovers. DeMarco Murray was the only Dallas rusher, carrying the ball 11 times for 40 yards and a crucial fumble. Dez Bryant led all receivers with a career day, catching nine passes for 224 yards and two long touchdowns.
Brees also had an excellent statistical day to go along with the actual win, going 37-of-53 for 446 yards, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Ingram led the Saints in rushing with 21 carries for 53 yards and a touchdown, while Marques Colston led the receiving corps with 10 catches for 153 yards.