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Week 13 Game Recap: New Orleans Saints 10, Dallas Cowboys 13
What you need to know
The 10-game win streak has come to an end after a disappointing showing against the Cowboys on Thursday night. Drew Brees
looked human and threw an interception in back to back games for the first time this season. He was off the mark all night and could not develop any rhythm with his receivers. He missed on all 3 passes to open the game and did not connect with a receiver until their second drive and his 5th attempt. The rushing attack did not do him any favors and struggled to get anything going as well. Alvin Kamara
was stopped on 4th and goal from the 1 in the second quarter and this was the first time the Saints were held scoreless in the first half all season. The defense held Ezekiel Elliot largely in check but did allow Dak Prescott
to complete almost 86% of his passes and sustain drives down the field with short passes. It is surprising to see a Saints team that only gave up 13 points to lose and they just looked out of sorts playing on a Thursday in consecutive weeks. After buzzing through the NFC elite in recent weeks, the Saints had a slight hiccup this week. New Orleans will travel to Tampa Bay in week 14 and try to avenge their season opening loss to the Buccaneers. It is the perfect defense for everyone to get back on track against.
The Cowboys played a near-perfect first half against the Saints, especially on defense, but untimely sacks and stalling for field goals led to a second half where they held on for the important home win. Dak Prescott
posted an impressive stat line, but missed his most important throw of the game – a likely long touchdown to Michael Gallup
– to potentially ice the game. Ezekiel Elliott
was once again the engine of the offense, approaching 30 touches for more than 130 total yards. Dallas’ tight ends and Cole Beasley
were notable small components for the Dallas passing game which ran through Amari Cooper
and Michael Gallup
for 11 receptions between them.
New Orleans Saints
|QB Drew Brees, 52 offensive snaps, Pass: 18 - 28 - 127 - 1 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 1 - 2 - 0|
It was not a banner night for Brees as he did not look like the MVP candidate that he has in recent weeks. He opened the game with 4 straight incompletions and never found a rhythm. His longest play of the game was also his touchdown to Keith Kirkwood
. The play was only possible after a 15-yard roughing the punter call that extended the drive. The 30-yard pass to Kirkwood was just a simple go route that he took up the seam and required a perfect throw from Brees into traffic. Kirkwood caught the ball just over his shoulder in the end zone with Tre'Quan Smith also in the area. The route shows the confusion on the part of the Saints offense as the receivers were running almost stride by stride next to each other into the end zone and it caused the Cowboys to have 4 defenders in the area. It was a mistake on the part of the young receivers, but Brees made it work for the touchdown. Brees had a chance to be the hero on the final drive of the game. The defense came up with a big fumble recovery after the Cowboys had taken nearly 7 minutes off the clock and were deep in Saints territory. Brees started on his own 15-yardline and had a long way to go for the tying field goal. On the second play of the drive, he threw the ball behind Alvin Kamara
and a diving interception was made by the Cowboys defense. It was a disappointing end to a disappointing game for Brees. He will have a chance to get back on track next week against Tampa Bay.
|RB Alvin Kamara, 35 offensive snaps, Rush: 11 - 36 - 0, Rec: 8 - 36 - 0 (11 targets)|
With Drew Brees
struggling, the rushing attack needed to pick up the slack, but that did not happen this week. Kamara hit a wall of defenders every time he touched the ball and was able to break free only once for 7 yards. He averaged 3.3 yards per carry this week and was bottled up by a devastating defense this week. He did his damage in the passing game by catching 8 of his 11 targets, but his longest play through the air was only 8 yards. Kamara only averaged 4.5 yards per catch this week and could not break free there either. He was also targeted on the final drive of the game where Brees threw the interception, but there was nothing he could do to change that play. Kamara saw 35 offensive snaps or about 63% of their plays. This was 14 more snaps than Ingram, but he only did more damage in the passing game. It was not a great day for Kamara or anyone else in the Saints offense.
|RB Mark Ingram, 21 offensive snaps, Rush: 7 - 27 - 0, Rec: 2 - 1 - 0 (3 targets)|
Someone needed to step up this week against the Cowboys and unfortunately it was not Ingram. He was given 7 carries to Kamara's 11 and had a slightly better average at 3.9 yards per carry. His longest rush was 13 yards and it was the only real big play on the ground for the Saints. Ingram caught 2 of his 3 targets and was quickly wrapped up each time. Ingram saw 21 offensive snaps or about 40% of the offensive snaps. He was out paced by Kamara this week and has seen a decline in recent weeks. It is tough to predict what the Saints do at running back each week, and it was Ingram who took the back seat today. A matchup against a Tampa defense next week could get everything back on track.
After the explosion against the Rams, Thomas has been pretty quiet. He has not surpassed 100 yards in his previous 4 games and has not found the end zone in the last 2. He caught 5 of his 8 targets but could not surpass 50 yards this week. The Dallas defense did a great job jamming him at the line and took away his quick hitting plays. The Saints are still missing a clear number 2 behind Thomas and it is starting to show. Opposing defenses are able to assign added help on Thomas and it is cutting into his production. His longest catch was 11 yards and he did not come close to finding the end zone this week. Thomas is going to need more help on the opposite side to open the defense for him a little more. He still has a great matchup next week against a weak Tampa defense. He should be one of the top receivers next week in a rebound game.
There were not a lot of big plays for the Saints this week on offense, but Kirkwood provided the lone one. He was responsible for the 30-yard touchdown catch, but that was the only reception he pulled in from his 3 targets. Kirkwood ran a go route up the seam and caught the perfect pass from Brees. It would have been the perfect play had it not been a mistake. Both Kirkwood and Smith ran to the exact same spot and pulled 4 Dallas defenders to the area. It took a perfect throw from Brees to make the touchdown work, but someone ran their route wrong. Kirkwood now has a touchdown in back to back games and has seen 3+ targets in his last 3 games. This role could be diminished if and when Brandon Marshall
finally suits up.
The enigma that is Smith continues to baffle Saints fans. After not playing in week 12, he was back this week and played 44 offensive snaps or about 85% total. He registered a single target, but it was on a ball thrown away by Brees and was nowhere near catchable. Smith has seen 60%+ of offensive snaps since week 5 but cannot show sustained success. After having 10 catches for 157 yards and a touchdown in week 11, Smith was a non-factor this week. Smith has a great chance to get back on track against a very soft Buccaneers defense next week.
It has been a steady decline all season for Watson. Despite the lack of big time weapons in the receiving core this year, the Saints have gotten away from using Watson in recent weeks. The big tight end only played 38% of offensive snaps this week and did not have a single target. The Saints have been using their backup tight ends in recent weeks and this could be a sign that they plan to move away from him in the off season. He has not been the big-time weapon they expected when they signed him.
|QB Dak Prescott, 71 offensive snaps, Pass: 24 - 28 - 248 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 5 - 22 - 0|
Prescott secured the home win over the Saints, posting an efficient stat line. However, Prescott withered in key moments, leaving the game in doubt despite an outstanding effort by the Dallas defense. Prescott airmailed his most important throw of the game, a wide open Michael Gallup
down the sideline, which would have iced the game in the closing minutes. Prescott also took key sacks on third down and lost a fumble in the red zone late in the fourth quarter, another chance to essentially end the game. On the plus side, Prescott made the most of his rushing opportunities with two key scrambles for first downs, breaking multiple tackles for a third down conversion on his highlight run. The critical games continue next week against the Eagles, a suspect secondary where Prescott will get a chance at redemption on downfield throws.
|RB Ezekiel Elliott, 63 offensive snaps, Rush: 23 - 76 - 0, Rec: 6 - 60 - 1 (6 targets)|
Elliott had tough sledding against an inspired Saints run defense. Fortunately, Elliott was featured in the pass game with two noteworthy screen passes with excellent design, one for 15 yards and another for a red zone touchdown. On the ground, Elliott was held in check outside of a beautiful cutback in the fourth quarter for more than 20 yards. On another occasion Elliott fought through penetration to turn a loss into a small gain. Elliott rarely left the field and saw nearly 30 touches as one of the few unquestioned foundation running backs in the NFL.
|WR Amari Cooper, 56 offensive snaps, Rec: 8 - 75 - 0 (8 targets)|
Cooper led the Cowboys in targets and receiving yardage, proving valuable as a chain-mover in critical situations. Cooper’s two best plays came on a hitch turning into a 19-yard catch with a quick pivot for additional yardage. In the closing minutes, Cooper iced the game by drawing a defensive pass interference penalty in the end zone. On the negative side, Cooper lost a fumble after Dallas dominated the game to a 10-0 lead, breathing life in the Saints. Cooper has been used more on quick-hitting routes since joining the Cowboys, while Michael Gallup
has functioned more as a downfield receiver over the same span.
Gallup saw a career-high seven targets against the Saints and thrived against secondary coverage with Amari Cooper
monopolizing defensive attention. Gallup displayed a variety of routes, including a full extension grab on an out route and beating press coverage on a 40-yard reception down the sideline. Gallup likely would have added a long touchdown to his already strong game as he was wide open deep but Dak Prescott
made his worst throw of the game and overthrew Gallup. With the suspect Eagles secondary next week, Gallup is likely to see more downfield opportunities.
|WR Cole Beasley, 47 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 9 - 0 (3 targets)|
Beasley’s decline of offensive involvement continued against the Saints, seeing a mere three targets. Beasley converted a third down on one of his short receptions, however, Beasley is a clear fourth in Dallas’ passing game pecking order behind Amari Cooper
, Michael Gallup
, and Ezekiel Elliott
, and he suffered a foot injury in this game.