The best defensive performance of the season against the high-powered New Orleans Saints offense carried the Cowboys to an impressive 13-10 victory on Thursday night to keep Dallas firmly atop the NFC East.
After Dak Prescott was stripped on a sack with 2:35 left to play to give New Orleans a chance to steal a victory, Jourdan Lewis intercepted Drew Brees as he took pressure from Maliek Collins to all but end the Saints chances. A defensive pass interference call in the end zone on Marshon Lattimore two plays later officially sealed the deal.
The Cowboys defense clamped down the Saints attack, allowing just 176 total yards as Brees, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas and company were kept hemmed in all night long. It was the lowest scoring output of the season for New Orleans. Their previous season low had been in a 21-18 victory over the Cleveland Browns in Week Two. Additionally, it was the first time 2013 against the Seattle Seahawks that the Saints had been held under 200 yards of offense and the first time since 2002 against the San Francisco 49ers that they were held under 180 yards of offense.
The Cowboys survived two big mistakes from Randy Gregory that helped keep the Saints in the game. A roughing the punter call on a hit of Thomas Morstead on a fourth-and-3 with two minutes left in the third quarter give the Saints a fresh set of downs. Three plays later, Brees hit Keith Kirkwood for a 30-yard touchdown to close the gap to 13-10.
Then with just over 12 minutes left to play, Gregory was called for a neutral zone infraction on a play where DeMarcus Lawrence forced a fumble with a sack of Breed that was recovered by Tyrone Crawford.
But Dallas’ defense kept causing problems for the Saints attack. Meanwhile, Dak Prescott carried the Cowboys offensive as the Saints did a decent job themselves of keeping Ezekiel Elliott from breaking out in the ground game.
Prescott completed 24 of 28 for 248 yards and a 16-yard touchdown pass to Elliott, who caught six passes for 60 yards and the touchdown. Elliott was held to 76 yards on 23 carries.
Dallas had full control of the game in the first quarter and carried the advantage through the remainder of the game. New Orleans was held to three-and-outs on each of their first two possession and had to punt on each of their first three drives. Brees was held to just 39 passing yards in the first half and 127 yards overall.
Brett Maher converted field goals from 26 and 46 yards with Elliott’s touchdown sandwiched between as Dallas took a 13-0 advantage into halftime. It was the first time New Orleans had been shut out at halftime since the Cowboys did so in 2014 in a 38-17 win over the Saints.
Will Lutz converted a 33-yard field goal in the third quarter and Kirkwood’s touchdown late in the quarter pulled the Saints within a field goal, but New Orleans was unable to finish off the rally despite some clear opportunities to do so.
The Cowboys now hold a half-game lead over the Washington Redskins in the NFC East with a the Philadelphia Eagles a game-and-a-half back. The Cowboys and Eagles play a week from Sunday in Dallas.
The Los Angeles Rams can now take the conference lead in the race for the No. 1 seed with a win in Detroit on Sunday. The Saints hold the tiebreaker with the Rams due to their 45-35 win over Los Angeles earlier this month, but the Rams still have only the loss to the Saints on their resume while the Saints are now 10-2.