Story and photos by Phillip Petty III, junior at St. Augustine High School and Chris Taylor, junior at St. John the Baptist STEM Magnet High School.
The Saints were unable to find the end zone, but that wasn’t necessary for them to land this win against the Dallas Cowboys. With Drew Brees sidelined with a thumb injury, the Saints’ well-known offense was nearly nonexistent. But the defense certainly made up for it. How long has it been since the Saints won a game without a touchdown? Well, not a single JRNOLA student was born at that point—1998.
After last year’s uphill battle against the Cowboys, everyone expected a Brees-less Saints to fall to the undefeated Dallas Cowboys. Despite the mixed crowd of Saints and Cowboy fans (pre-game estimates projected nearly half the Dome would be white and blue), the stifling Saints defense had their best performance of the season with two forced turnovers and only 10 points allowed. New Orleans handed Dallas their first loss of the season with a score of 12-10, reminiscent of last season’s 13-10 scoreline.
On the first possession of the game, the Saints stopped the Cowboys and forced them to punt. The defense would later dictate the rest of this game. Drew Brees looked on from the sideline tending to his thumb, appearing more and more concerned as Teddy Bridgewater started to falter.
On Bridgewater’s first drive he threw an interception on a pass intended for Ted Ginn Jr., but the Saints were able to hold the Cowboys to a field goal as they stopped them in the red zone. On the second possession, Taysom Hill was the option and ran for 18 yards. And at the end of the first quarter, the Saints set themselves up for a field goal.
Wil Lutz helped finish up that opportunity by nailing a 40 yarder to tie the game up at three. Then the Saints forced the Cowboys to punt and Deonte Harris returned the ball for 23 yards.
In the second quarter, Teddy started to look a lot more comfortable as he drove the Saints into the red zone. Cowboys pressure slowed Teddy down as they sacked him, forcing the Saints to settle for a field goal.
It was Lutz again, nailing the 42-yard opportunity. Saints defense came up huge on third down as A.J Klein forced Jason Witten to fumble the ball, recovered by Vonn Bell. But the Saints were unable to capitalize as the Cowboys defense left them with a three-and-out. Saints then forced a second fumble, but this time it was Vonn Bell on Ezekiel Elliot, leaving the Cowboys on a 4th and 1. A roughing the passer on Demarcus Lawrence kept the drive alive on a 3rd and 10. To end the first half, Lutz made a 19-yard field goal.
The Cowboys offense came out the first half firing. They picked up the tempo, tiring the Saints’ defensive line and after an 84-yard drive, Elliot punched in the first and only touchdown of the night. The Saints’ offense, led by Bridgewater, marched back on the field hoping to match the Cowboys with their own touchdown. Alvin Kamara showed off his amazing balance on a very impressive 11-yard run, bouncing off tackles and fighting for a first down.
Kamara pushed them into the red zone, but Bridgewater was not able to convert it into a touchdown. For the fourth time, the Saints were near the end zone and could only get three points, giving the Saints a 12-10 lead to start the fourth quarter.
The Saints’ defense was able to force the Cowboys again, giving Bridgewater a chance to extend the lead. But penalty flags continued to plague the Saints’ offense, pushing them back ten yards on the first play of the drive. Bridgewater continued to play his style of football throwing a few short passes. But after getting sacked on a key third down, the ball was back into the hands of Dak Prescott.
The Saints were unable to convert after a momentous deflection by cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who played a phenomenal game. He only gave up 48-yards against Amari Cooper, and the ball was back in Bridgewater’s hands. As timed clicked away, clock-management became very essential.
If Bridgewater could continue to play his style and feed Kamara, the Saints would have been able to easily close out this game. However, on a key third down, in a position to extend their two-point lead, Bridgewater took a sack, pushing the Saints out of field goal range.
With less than two minutes left and the ball back in Prescott’s hands all the Cowboys needed was a field goal to take the lead. On the first play of the drive, David Onyemata sacked Prescott. With 34 seconds left after a near incompletion by Amari Cooper, Saints fans thought Demario Davis secured the win with a scoop and score. Instead, the Saints defense held up for one final drive, and forced Prescott to throw a Hail-Mary that was intercepted by cornerback Marcus Williams.
The Saints proved every doubter wrong by stealing this game with a standout performance from the defense and a half-decent performance from the offense. Bridgewater even came away with a more impressive stat line that it seemed like he would, passing for 193 yards and completing 76.7 percent of his passes. Michael Thomas had 95 yards on nine receptions and Kamara rushed for 69 yards on 17 carries: his most carries of the season. Despite the Hall of Fame quarterback being absent from the field, his teammates honored him with the best defense they could muster.
Next week for the Saints will be a big game as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to town. The matchup between the two will be a battle for first place in the division. The 2-2 Buccaneers are coming off of a huge win against the Los Angeles Rams and are surprising a lot of people. But the 3-1 Saints will come off of the high of closing out this nail-biting 12-10 win over the Dallas Cowboys, and just might capture another win without Brees.