Although they lead the all time series with the New Orleans Saints 15-10, recent history shows that New Orleans has been anything but The Big Easy to the Dallas Cowboys. The Saints have taken 7 of the last 8 meetings with Dallas, including last December's 34-31 overtime shootout. The outlier, however, was a victory that Cowboys fans have still not forgotten, one that was a rare dent on the Saints' Super Bowl season.
To kick off Week 15 of the 2009 season, fans were treated to the NFL's two remaining undefeated teams playing on NFL Network before Sunday. On Thursday, the Indianapolis Colts kept their streak alive, defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars in 35-31 thriller (yes, the Jaguars were actually contenders at one point!) and the Saints were scheduled to take on the Cowboys on Saturday night, December 19. Many experts had given the game to the Saints, and few could blame them. Dallas was coming off brutal back to back losses, further exaggerating the legend that they were unable to win in December. Following a painful 31-24 loss to the divisional rival New York Giants, the Cowboys fell at home to the San Diego Chargers 20-17. They were barely holding to a playoff spot, and things only looked bleak going into New Orleans, especially at the Superdome. Now the Saints had been challenged before the Dallas game, but no one figured Dallas would be the one to help the 1972 Miami Dolphins breathe easier. They came in boasting offensive weapons like QB Drew Brees, RB Reggie Bush, WR Marques Colston, and plenty of other names to give teams nightmares. They were coming a 26-23 win over rival Atlanta, which required a game winning field goal by K Garrett Hartley. By kickoff, the 13-0 Saints were 7.5 favorites over the 8-5 Cowboys, who did receive good news when it was revealed DeMarcus Ware, who was carted off the field late in the San Diego game, was ready to play.
The game got off to a shocking start...the Saints high powered offense got the ball first but went three and out. Starting at their own 21, Tony Romo got the Cowboys to midfield, where he found Miles Austin on a 50 yard strike to put Dallas up 7-0. Many expected a quick New Orleans retaliation, but the Saints again went three and out...the first time they had started a game with back to back three and outs. After Patrick Crayton returned a Thomas Morestead punt 28 yards to the Dallas 40, Romo engineered another scoring drive, getting the Cowboys into the red zone on a 26 yard strike to the Saints 15. Three plays later, RB Marion Barber, ripped all week for not scoring during the Charger game, punched it in from 3 yards out, his first touchdown in seven weeks. Though the Cowboys were up 14-0 after the 1st quarter, the raucous Saints crowd was not panicking. Carolina had jumped out to a 14-0 lead after one on New Orleans six weeks ago, and the Saints ended up winning that one 30-20. The Cowboys did give up a 34 yard Hartley field goal in the second, but negated that with a 44 yarder by K Nick Folk. Folk's field goal was set up by Ware's strip and sack of Brees, whose fumble put Dallas on the New Orleans 24. The Cowboys were up 17-3 at the half, and talks of an upset began to circulate.
On their first 2nd half possession, the Cowboys scored on a 13 play, 74 yard drive that lasted exactly seven minutes. Barber scored his 2nd touchdown of the day, and the Cowboys had a 24-3 lead after three. However, Brees and the Saints offense finally started to wake up. Brees engineered a 9 play, 80 yard drive that made it a 24-10 game, with RB Mike Bell punching in the score from one yard out. Roy Williams's drop led the Cowboys to another punt, and Brees again took the Saints on a scoring drive, this one going 70 yards in 7 plays. Brees threw the score himself this time, a 7 yard pass to WR Lance Moore that sent the Superdome in a frenzy.
The Cowboys got the ball back after a Morestead touchback and quickly faced 3rd and 7. Romo found Miles Austin for a 32 yard gain that put Dallas back into New Orleans territory. They went even deeper on the very next play, a 23 yard hookup with TE John Phillips. Not only was Dallas moving the ball, but they were taking time off the clock as well, forcing New Orleans to start calling their timeouts. Eventually the Saints, after using all their timeouts, forced the Cowboys into a field goal, sending Folk and the rest of the unit out. Folk had not had a good warm up session in the Superdome, and NFL Network was kind enough to play a clip of it before he lined up for a 24 yarder. Folk's attempt clanged off the right upright, and New Orleans got the ball back. It was the 2nd time in 3 weeks that Saints fans had seemed a situation like this play out, as Shaun Suisham's miss from 23 yards gave the Saints the opportunity to pull off a comeback win against Washington. As for Folk, it ended up being his final kick as a member of the Cowboys. He was let go two days later.
Given new life with 2:16 to go, Brees tried to keep the undefeated streak alive. On 4th and 10, he found Colston for a 14 yard gain. Brees eventually worked his way to the Dallas 42, where the Saints faced 2nd and 10 with 12 seconds to go. Brees dropped back and searched for an open receiver downfield....but the ball never made it there. Out of nowhere came...well, Ware. The then-linebacker sacked and stripped Brees for a second time, and the ball was recovered by Jay Ratliff, sealing a 24-17 win for the Cowboys. Romo finished the game 22-34 for 312 yards and a touchdown, with his favorite receiver being Austin who nabbed 7 catches for 139 yards and a TD. Brees, despite his turnovers, finished 29-45 for 298 yards, a touchdown and an interception to Mike Jenkins.
The momentum was huge for the Cowboys. After defeating high powered New Orleans offense, the defense posted back to back shutouts of Washington and Philadelphia en route to the NFC East division title. Even sweeter, they picked up their first playoff win in over a decade, defeating those same Eagles in the NFC Wild Card round. Sadly, a rematch with the Saints was not to be as the Cowboys fell to the Minnesota Vikings in the Divisional round. New Orleans, meanwhile, went on to win their first ever Super Bowl title over the Colts that February.
So while New Orleans may go into Sunday night's game favored, just remember...the Cowboys used a prime time win over New Orleans to propel them to a division title before...who's to say they cant do it again
Cowboys en Español: DeMarcus Lawrence, ¿Etiqueta o Contrato?
El pasado martes 20 de febrero, comenzó a lo que se le puede llamar una especie de "prólogo" a la agencia libre. Esa fecha marcó el primer día para que los equipos de la NFL designen jugadores franquicia o de transición. Alrededor de la liga, muchos nombres como el de Le'Veon Bell resaltan en esta conversación.
Y uno de los más grandes y conocidos, es el del defensive end de los Dallas Cowboys: DeMarcus Lawrence.
Hace unos días, se reportó que los Cowboys le darían la etiqueta franquicia a D-Law, algo que todos veíamos venir desde hace rato. Sin embargo, aún no se le otorga dicha etiqueta, sino que lo harán más cerca de la fecha límite para hacerlo, el 6 de Marzo.
En enero escribí un poco más a fondo sobre como funcionan las etiquetas franquicia en la NFL.
Al inicio de su carrera, Lawrence fue un tanto decepcionante. No logró mantenerse sano, recibió una suspensión de cuatro juegos en el 2016 y antes de la última temporada, no había sido nada especial. Sin embargo, en el 2017 estuvo entre los mejores defensivos de la liga.
Lawrence logró capturar 14.5 veces a los quarterbacks contrarios (había conseguido sólo nueve en toda su carrera) y 35 tackles. No sólo mejoró increíblemente presionando el juego aéreo, sino que también se convirtió en una fuerza contra el juego terrestre.
Podemos hablar de estadísticas todo lo que queramos, pero creo que todos vimos lo que sucedió en el campo semana tras semana.
Un jugador que juegue de la manera que jugó DeMarcus este 2017, merece un gran, gran contrato. El problema es, que esta ha sido su única buena temporada. Y ahora la administración tiene que decidir que hacer respecto a este joven talento de sólo 25 años de edad.
¿Dejar que juegue en el 2018 bajo la etiqueta franquicia? ¿O darle un contrato a largo plazo, asegurando que use la Estrella por varios años?
Definitivamente no es una opción tan fácil como parece. Stephen y Jerry Jones han sido criticados por mucho los últimos años (bastantes veces erróneamente), y Lawrence es una oportunidad perfecta para lucirse... o quedar mal con su afición por muchos años.
¿Qué si le dan una jugosa extensión de contrato y nunca volvemos a ver al mismo jugador que vimos dominar líneas ofensivas en el 2017? ¿Qué pasa si por alguna razón juega en otro equipo tras el 2018, y termina siendo uno de los mejores de la NFL?
Según reportes, Lawrence está pidiendo 17 millones por año, lo cuál lo pondría entre los mejores pagados de su posición actualmente. El DE de los Giants Olivier Vernon promedia esa cantidad, y sorpresa, sorpresa... ambos jugadores cuentan con el mismo agente.
Finalmente, por años hemos ansiado un caza cabezas para los Dallas Cowboys. Año tras año, hablamos de novatos como Joey Bosa o agentes libres como Dwight Freeney que podrían cambiar el rumbo de la defensiva de este equipo.
Pues ahora, los Cowboys cuentan con uno.
Sí, no se mantuvo sano durante los primeros tres años de su carrera, pero cuando lo estuvo demostró ser un jugador de mucha calidad. Quizá esta vez, si sea la ocasión para romper el cochinito y pagarle su merecido dinero a Lawrence.
Y con un poco de suerte, seguirá siendo el mismo que fue la temporada pasada y los Cowboys contarán con un excelente jugador en su línea defensiva.
Will Jeff Heath be a Starter or Backup in 2018?
There seems to be quite a bit of optimism surrounding the Dallas Cowboys secondary after the hiring of Kris Richard. A lot of Cowboys Nation is hoping that he can re-create the "Legion of Boom" here in Dallas, but do the Cowboys have the personnel to do it?
There's no denying the Cowboys have some very talented young defensive backs. Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and Xavier Woods all had fantastic rookie seasons and they have only started to scratch the surface of their true potential. We could even throw Anthony Brown into that conversation as well, even though he struggled at times in 2017.
Kris Richard definitely has something to work with, at least at cornerback. But, the safety position for the Cowboys could probably use an upgrade.
I wouldn't be all that surprised if we see completely new faces starting at safety for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018. There have already been rumors Byron Jones might be moving back to cornerback. That would leave Jeff Heath as the only Cowboy safety with any kind of starting experience.
Unfortunately, Jeff Heath has been the favorite whipping boy for a lot of Cowboys fans. When there was blame to be placed in the secondary, it usually fell on Heath's shoulders whether it was warranted or not.
Kris Richard will probably have a pretty big input on who the Cowboy starting safeties will be next season. You can bet he has already evaluated every single one of his secondary players and already has a pretty good idea of how he wants to deploy them.
Right now, the biggest enigma in the Cowboy secondary has to be the safety position and more importantly what to do with Jeff Heath. Will he be a starter or backup in 2018?
Heath actually performed pretty well in 2017. He finished the season with 71 tackles, two forced fumbles, and three interceptions. That compares pretty favorably with the safety everybody wants to bring to Dallas, Earl Thomas, who finished last season with 88 tackles, one forced fumble, and two interceptions. But, we all know statistics don't show the big picture.
We all know Earl Thomas is the more talented of the two players, but that's not to say Jeff Heath isn't worthy of his starting job. I know some of you will disagree, but I believe he proved that last season.
What happens to Jeff Heath in 2018 will likely depend on what the Dallas Cowboys are able to do in free agency and through the draft. Adding another safety at some point is definitely an offseason priority, but that doesn't necessarily mean they will be an upgrade over Heath.
As things stand right now, Jeff Heath is still penciled in as one of the starting safeties heading into the 2018 season. The other starting safety spot is up for grabs. Who knows, maybe we'll see completely new faces at the safety position, much like we did at CB last year.
Do you think Jeff Heath remains the starting safety?
Should Cowboys Sign This RFA to a Contract Sheet?
Fortune favors the bold. It's a rough translation of an old Latin proverb and the mantra I believe the Dallas Cowboys should indoctrinate this offseason.
I think it's time the Dallas Cowboys start to make a few bold moves. I truly believe they are close to competing for a championship title and one or two offseason moves could increase those odds. One such move would be to sign restricted free agent (RFA) Shaquil Barrett to an offer sheet.
It's expected that the Denver Broncos will place a second-round tender on Barrett and I think the Dallas Cowboys would be wise to explore the possibility of signing him to a contract sheet. If Denver declines to match the offer, the Cowboys would then send them their second round draft pick as compensation.
You on board?
Probably not at this point, but let me try to explain why I believe this is a good move on the Cowboys part, even if it is an uncharacteristic one.
You see, the Cowboys could definitely use someone to play opposite DeMarcus Lawrence and I think Shaquil Barrett could be the solution.
I know it sounds like a lot to give up a second round draft pick, but the Cowboys have been deplorable at drafting players in the second round the past decade. Sean Lee, DeMarcus Lawrence, and possibly Jaylon Smith have really been the only "hits" the Cowboys have found in the second round. That's simply unacceptable!
So, why not use that second rounder to acquire a player who is already a proven commodity in the NFL?
I know the first thing a lot of you are going to do is to look up Shaquil Barrett's stats to see what he has accomplished in the NFL. But, stats don't always show the big picture.
You see, Barrett has been stuck behind some pretty talented pass rushers in Denver, so his statistics aren't going to jump off the paper. But, when given the opportunity he has proven he deserves a larger role. That's where the Dallas Cowboys come in.
The Broncos probably don't have the money to keep Shaquil Barrett if the Cowboys sign him to a contract sheet. It doesn't necessarily even have to be a big money contract offer. The Broncos simply don't have the salary cap to do much, especially considering they are still looking for a starting quarterback.
I honestly like the idea of the Cowboys going after Barrett. You may have forgotten, but he gave a healthy Tyron Smith fits last season.
With an injured Shane Ray, Shaquil Barrett got the start against the Cowboys in 2017 and finished the game with two quarterback hits, six QB pressures, and five stops. No other player found that kind of success against Tyron Smith all season, even when he was banged up.
Unfortunately, when Shane Ray returned, Barrett's usage on defense declined. That's why you can't always judge a players productivity by statistics. You have to judge him more on a per-snap basis, and if you do that you will discover he was very effective as both a pass rusher and run stopper.
I believe Barrett is ready for a full-time role. Yes, he has been used as a standup 3-4 OLB with the Broncos, but he has the required traits to put his hand on the ground and maintain his effectiveness.
The downside to all of this is the Dallas Cowboys would have to give up their second-round draft pick, but draft picks are sometimes overvalued anyways. Shaquil Barrett is probably better than anybody the Cowboys could draft in the second round, so I say pull the trigger.
Should the Cowboys sign Shaquil Barrett to a contract sheet?
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