The Dallas Cowboys have ripped off two straight road victories to remain in the thick of the NFC East hunt, but if their fortunes have truly turned around they’ll need to squash a 23-year, home losing streak to the New Orleans Saints.
The Cowboys will host 1-2 New Orleans Sunday night at AT&T Stadium hoping to end the decades-long streak and keep pace with Philadelphia in the division. According to the Dallas Morning News, the last time the Cowboys beat the Saints at home was way back in 1991. It was Troy Aikman’s third year in the NFL, but he sat out while Steve Beuerlein pulled off the 23-14 victory.
That’s an era long since passed and no current Cowboy will have that game on their mind. But Dallas certainly remembers the 49-17 beat down the Saints laid down in their house last year. New Orleans put up 625 total offensive yards as quarterback Drew Brees executed the Saints high-octane offense to near perfection, tossing four touchdowns and completing 34 of 41 pass attempts.
Dallas’s offense wilted to the challenge, gaining 193 total yards and failing to convert a single third down off nine attempts. The Cowboys were also plagued by 11 penalties resulting in a loss of 82 yards. Running back DeMarco Murray was the only bright spot, gaining 89 yards and scoring one touchdown.
Murray has the potential to carry the Dallas offense this year, and end the streak by himself. He’s the NFL’s leading rusher with 385 yards and three touchdowns, and gaining 5.1 yards per carry. The 26-year-old is on the best tear of his career, with three consecutive 100-yard games to start the season, helping quarterback Tony Romo get back into playing shape.
Struggling to recover from offseason back surgery. Romo threw three interceptions against San Francisco in Week 1. But in Week 3’s 34-31 comeback win over St. Louis Romo looked as sharp as ever, completing 18 of his 23 pass attempts for 213 yards and two touchdowns.
With Romo seemingly recovered, and top receiver Dez Bryant totaling 20 receptions for 247 yards and two scores, the Saints No. 29 ranked pass defense could be on their heels all game.
Despite the addition of high-price safety Jairus Byrd, New Orleans has yet to force an interception and allowed four passing touchdowns. Opposing quarterbacks are racking up a 97.7 passer rating, which also likely has to do with the Saints pass rush generating only four sacks through three games.
However the Saints offense has continued to hum along with Brees under center. Ranked fifth in the air and sixth on the ground, the Saints picked up their first win of the season last week, outlasting Minnesota 20-9. Brees threw two touchdowns and rookie receiver Brandin Cooks totaled eight receptions for 74 yards. Running backs Khiry Robinson and Pierre Thomas, splitting No. 1 duties for the injured Mark Ingram, combined for 94 yards and a touchdown.
Both sides also enter the game banged up on the defensive side of the ball. Dallas could be especially weak at defensive tackle with Davon Coleman (knee), Terrell McClain (concussion) and Henry Melton (hamstring) all listed as questionable. As are linebacker Rolando McClain (groin) and defensive end Anthony Spencer (knee).
The Saints have already ruled safety Marcus Ball (hamstring) as out, while inside linebacker David Hawthorne (ankle/knee), cornerback Patrick Robinson (hamstring) are all listed as questionable.
The game kicks off Sunday night at 8:30 p.m. EST, and NBC will provide live coverage and an online stream at SNF All Access here. New Orleans is a -3 favorite on the road, and the over/under is set at 54.5 points, according to Bovada.lv.
Prediction: Cowboys 30, Saints 27