NEW ORLEANS - This was the New Orleans Saints at home, where they don't lose, at home in prime time, where they turn it up a notch.
The Saints actually ran the football and ran it quite well. They had true balance for the first time this season, rushing for 252 yards. They did virtually anything they wanted against a porous Dallas defense. They set an NFL record for first downs, posting an astonishing 625 total yards, a franchise record. San Diego had 625 yards in a game against Cincinnati in 1982.
The defense was stout, holding Dez Bryant to one catch and completely shutting down Tony Romo, who was a total non-factor, completing 10-of-24 passes for 104 yards. This was a team effort, a dominating performance. The win kept the Saints one game clear of Carolina in the NFC South. They needed it. They got it, sending fans home early with a work day to follow.
Injuries are part of the game. A week ago, the Saints did not have Marques Colston and lost Darren Sproles on the first series of the game against the Jets. They were without Malcolm Jenkins as well. This time around, Dallas was without Morris Claiborne, Jason Hatcher, Miles Austin and J.J. Wilcox and then lost linebackers Justin Durant and Sean Lee to injuries during the game. You cannot sustain that many significant losses and avoid losses.
The Saints were really good offensively. The Cowboys were really bad defensively. As a result, New Orleans made it eight wins in the last nine meetings between the two teams in the series, including three straight. The champions of prime time have now won 12 straight night specials and they are 18-3 since 2006 on Saturday, Sunday or Monday nights under Sean Payton and Drew Brees. Despite forcing no turnovers, giving one away and missing an easy field goal, the Saints blew out the Cowboys.
With the win, the Saints improved to 7-2, still a game clear of surging Carolina in the NFC South and 5-0 at home in the 'Dome.
Here are my Quick Takes from the Saints' 49-17 demolition of Dallas:
**The Saints have now won 17 of their last 21 games in November.
**Brees got Marques Colston involved early, completing a short pass to him and trying to go over the top to him but Orlando Skandrick had good coverage on him. Brees came back to Colston for a first down conversion on the second Saints possession. Brees then connected with Colston for 21 yards and another third down conversion. Brees then hit Colston on a 22-yard touchdown pass. On the play, Colston got a clean release with no one on him. It was taking candy from a baby.
**When Brees hit Colston for the touchdown, it was the 60th scoring connection between the dynamic duo, making them only the seventh pair to have 60 or more touchdown connections in NFL history.
**Mark Ingram made his mark immediately, dropping what could have been a long gain. Of course, he would come back to redeem himself.
**Ramon Humber tackled Demarco Murray for a loss of one on the first play from scrimmage for Dallas.
**Darren Sproles returned to the lineup and promptly fumbled away the first punt of the game.
**Chris Carr played well early, making a nice open field tackle on James Hanna for a short gain and defending a pass to force a Dallas field goal after the Sproles turnover.
**The Saints lined up with Pierre Thomas and Sproles in the backfield together on their second possession and threw a throwback screen to Thomas. Dallas defended it well.
**Dwayne Harris hit the back of his head on the knee of Cam Jordan on the kickoff return after the Colston touchdown. He was down for over three minutes and was escorted off the field.
**The Saints are simply not good enough against the run. Demarco Murray exposed that again with a 35 yard run before running for seven through another big hole on the next play. He got five more for a first down on the next play. Two plays later, Murray ran through another taping hole for 12 yards to the seven-yard line. Murray then scored on a seven-yard run. The Cowboys wiped out the Saints up front on the eight play, 72-yard drive. After completing a five-yard pass to James Hanna to start the drive, Dallas ran it seven straight times for 67 yards, all by Murray. That was in-your-face football at its best, the Saints' worst nightmare. Keep in mind that the Cowboys ran it just nine times against the Vikings.
**The Saints double-teamed Dez Bryant in a goal line situation. They held the mercurial Bryant to just one catch, with Keenan Lewis doing a solid job with safety help over the top. Bryant came into the game with 51 catches and eight touchdowns.
**When Ingram finally made a good run, he acts like he has never been there before, spiking the ball, incurring a delay of game penalty. Message to Mark—a 13 yard run does not require spiking the football. Seriously. Of course, as mentioned, he came back to redeem himself.
**The two-yard touchdown pass from Brees to Pierre Thomas was well devised. The Saints went with two tight ends and Jed Collins at fullback in a power formation and brought Thomas across the formation right into the flat and he beat the defender for the score. Made it look like a run, deceived and succeeded.
**Brees completed 19 straight passes in the first half before an incomplete pass for Benjamin Watson late in the first half. The 19 straight tied his personal best, back on December 27, 2009 against Tampa Bay. It is a New Orleans franchise record.
**Corey White broke up consecutive passes on Dallas' final possession of the first half, getting the ball back for Brees and the Saints offense. Brees and company took advantage, driving 75 yards in just six plays with Brees connecting with Sproles on a beautifully executed 28-yard screen pass for a score.
**With his touchdown pass to Sproles late in the first half, Brees moved ahead of Tom Brady into fourth all-time in NFL history in touchdown passes with 348. Brett Favre is the all-time leader with 508. Peyton Manning has 465, Dan Marino finished with 420.
**It was easy pickings for Brees in the first half. He went 26-of-30 for 252 yards and three touchdowns. He would finish 34-of-41 for 392 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. It marked the 15th time in his illustrious career that Brees threw four touchdown passes with no interceptions in a game.
**While the Saints were doing a good job denying Bryant the ball, Kenny Vaccaro and Carr did a good job matching up with Jason Witten. Vaccaro left the game injured in the second half, a real concern with Roman Harper and Jenkins already out.
**Brees had more completions (26) than Romo had total yards passing (20) in the first half.
**Ingram later had a 34 yard run, the longest of his career. Good for him. He went on to have his best game as a Saint, to his credit. To the credit of the offensive front, they provided Ingram with huge room to run and he took advantage of it.
**Benjamin Watson nearly scored on a throw from Brees midway through the third quarter. He was hit, separated from the ball and was injured on the play, banging his head hard on the turf after contact.
**It is time to start worrying about Garrett Hartley. You cannot miss multiple kicks inside of 40 yards in perfect conditions at home.
**Jabari Greer dropped a sure interception late in the third quarter. It then appeared that he was toast on a 21 yard touchdown pass from Romo to Terrance Williams.
**Brees has now played in 120 career games as a Saint and has passed for 300+ yards in 67 of them (56%).
**The Saints did a poor job on the onside kick which Dallas recovered (Cameron Lawrence) late in the third quarter. They had to expect it. Did see some hands folks up but did not get it done.
**After watching this Dallas defense, you have to wonder if Rob Ryan was a fall guy. They played better under him.
**Kenny Stills continues to impress. Despite not being a burner, he continues to make big plays on deep throws. Stills runs good routes, catches the ball well and has a knack for adjusting to the football when it is in the air. Brees totally trusts him already.
**Speaking of receivers, three Saints receivers had seven catches, including Colston, who went over 100 yards with 107 yards. Colston is just 11 yards short of Eric Martin's all-time Saints record of total receiving yards. Martin had 7,854 yards in nine seasons while Colston has 7,843 in eight seasons.
**The Saints put the cherry on top of the whipped cream, driving eight plays, 78 yards, all on running plays to make it 49-17. Ingram had five carries for 58 yards on the drive and Thomas finished it off with a one-yard touchdown.
**The Saints set an NFL single-game record with 40 first downs breaking the previous record of 39 shared by several teams. The Houston Texans amassed 39 first downs against Jacksonville on November 18, 2012 in an overtime game. The Redskins turned the trick in 1990 in an overtime. The Jets did so as well in 1988 against the Dolphins.
**Luke McCown got in the game late. Good move by Sean Payton, who owns the Cowboys, a team he once worked for, where he moved to a few years back and with an owner that would love to have him as his head coach.
**Drake Nevis of John Ehret and LSU got in and made a tackle late in the game for Dallas.
**Ingram had his first 100 yard rushing game in his career, carrying 14 for 145 and one touchdown.
**The Saints crushed Dallas in time of possession, keeping the ball for 39:32 to just 20:08 for the Cowboys. The Saints had 80 offensive snaps to just 43 for the Cowboys. The Saints defense was on the field for just 20 snaps in the first half. You can safely say that they were fresh in the second half.
**New Orleans was an amazing 9-of-12 (75%) on third down conversions. Equally amazing, Dallas was 0-for-9 on third down.
**Brees was sacked just once and was only hit a few times all night.
**The 252 yards rushing were the most since the Saints ran for 249 yards against Cincinnati on November 4, 1990.
As a result, the Saints righted the ship after a very disappointing performance on the road against the Jets. Next up is a crucial home game against powerful San Francisco. The 49ers are coming off of a loss but they have an elite defense and have beaten the Saints two straight times. While all games are important, this is a big one, with a trips to Atlanta and Seattle to follow and with two games against surging Carolina yet to come.
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