Byron Jones said he just remembers his teammates “yelling around, saying dumb stuff.” Chidobe Awuzie remembers “speaking in tongues, dang, near.”
In other words, the Cowboys’ defense was excited beyond words when Saints quarterback Drew Brees attempted to throw the ball away on 2nd-and-5 with 2:16 to play and instead cornerback Jourdan Lewis snagged the ball for an interception before it could hit the turf.
“Honestly, if you look at the play, everybody kind of stopped” Awuzie said after the Cowboys’ 13-10 win.
The Cowboys held a New Orleans offense scoring a league-high 37.1 points a game to just 10, the fewest they’d scored since exactly three years earlier when New Orleans managed just six at Houston.
Nobody had ever held mastermind Sean Payton’s offense to 176 yards since Payton took over the Saints in 2006. Nobody had held any Saints squad to fewer yards since 2001. Heck, nobody had even managed to lead against the Saints in 32 days.
But “nobody ain’t us,” said Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who generated headlines earlier in the week for his confidence entering the game.
This was a milestone win, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said.
“This team will never be the same again,” Jones said. “These guys are different cats now. … They aren’t going to be the same kids that looked in the mirror this morning.”
The Cowboys aren’t the same team that looked in the mirror in October, before they reeled off four wins in 19 days to rescue them from 3-5 to 7-5. They now hold a one-game lead ahead of the Redskins in the NFC East.
The Cowboys offense has benefited in November from a trade for Raiders receiver Amari Cooper, who caught eight balls for 180 yards and two touchdowns on Thanksgiving. Cooper had a quieter eight catches for 75 yards vs. the Saints but caught every target Dak Prescott sent his way. Prescott was an efficient 24-of-28 for 248 yards and a touchdown against the Saints. Ezekiel Elliott rushed 23 times for 76 yards against the league’s best run defense.
And yet, after a penalty by Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory set up the Saints’ first touchdown in the third quarter, Dallas led by a tenuous three points. When Saints defensive end Cam Jordan strip sacked Prescott – who was sacked seven times total – with 2:42 to play, the Saints’ chance to take their first lead of the night seemed likely.
Lewis’ interception shot it down. The Cowboys snapped the Saints’ 10-game win streak in the upset.
“To be able to just stop them right there, that was huge,” Prescott said. “At that moment, the offense knew that the defense had our back right there.”
Added Cooper: “I’m not shocked. I know how our good our defense is.”
The Cowboys defense looked more than good Thursday, forcing two three-and-outs to start the game after the Saints had surrendered 14 in 11 games. The defensive line pressured Brees into four incompletions to open the game and sacked him twice, not including a strip sack negated by a penalty. The Cowboys linebacker duo of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch limited the Saints rushing attack to 3.4 yards a carry. Defenders deflected six of Brees’ passes.
But perhaps none more impactful than Lewis’ interception, Dallas’ sixth pick in four games.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Jori Epstein