The New Orleans Saints face the Dallas Cowboys tonight in NFL's Thursday night football. This is the 28th meeting between the two, who were Capitol division rivals upon the Saints 1967 entry into the NFL. The Cowboys hold a 16-12 record against the Saints, including a 10-4 record against them in Dallas, site of tonight's contest. The first game against each other was on October 15, 1967, a Capitol division matchup. The game was played in the Cotton Bowl, home of the Cowboys. Despite taking on a Dallas team that would go on to narrowly lose the NFL Championship game, the New Orleans defense would play competitively. Defensive back Dave Whitsell, who intercepted 10 passes in that inaugural season, a team record that still stands, returned one of his two interceptions on the day for a touchdown. The Saints defense would hold Dallas quarterback Craig Morton to only 11 completions in 29 attempts, sacking him twice, and forced three turnovers. Unfortunately, New Orleans was not able to generate any offense to compliment their defensive effort, and the Cowboys were able to pull off a 14-10 victory. Dallas powered their way to 202 rushing yards in a 27-10 victory during the rematch later that year, the first game between these two in New Orleans. The Saints would lose their first five contests against their Texas counterparts before the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
The first time New Orleans would play Dallas after the merger was on October 17, 1971 in New Orleans' Tulane Stadium. The Cowboys, who were defending NFC champions, would go on to win Super Bowl VI later that year, but were pummeled by the New Orleans defense this day. The Saints were outgained in total yardage, 300-157, but sacked Dallas quarterbacks Morton and Roger Staubach five times and forced six turnovers on their way to a 24-14 victory. Coach Tom Landry's Cowboys were one of the NFL's powerhouses from the late 1960's through the early 1980's, advancing to the playoffs in 16 of 17 seasons, winning 14 division titles, advancing to 11 conference title games, going to five Super Bowls, and winning 2 world championships. Ironically, both of Landry's championships would take place in the city of New Orleans. They defeated the Miami Dolphins 24-3 in Super Bowl VI played in Tulane Stadium. On January 15, 1978, his Cowboys would beat the Denver Broncos 27-10, in the first of seven Super Bowls that would be played in the Superdome. Between 1967-1984, the Saints would go 1-11 against those Cowboy teams, including an 0-7 record in Dallas, a place where they would lose 9 straight between 1967-1991. The '84 game provided probably the biggest frustration for Saints fans. New Orleans would race out to a 27-6 lead as the fourth quarter began, powered by 235 rushing yards. The Cowboys gathered themselves for an unlikely comeback though, which was punctuated when Jim Jeffcoat recovered a late fumble from a sack of Saints quarterback Ken Stabler in the end zone to tie the game, where Dallas would win in overtime 30-27.
By 1988, Landry's great Dallas teams had aged and deteriorated into mediocrity. The '88 season would be his last, a 3-13 finish to a Hall of Fame career. The Saints on the other hand were coming off of the first winning season and playoff berth in their history in 1987, and would be bonafide contenders under coach Jim Mora. New Orleans would host Landry's Cowboys for the final time in a Monday night matchup on October 3, 1988. Two first half touchdown passes from quarterback Bobby Hebert to Lonzell Hill and Brett Perriman gave the Saints an early lead, but Dallas clawed back to tie the game late. Hall of Fame kicker Morten Anderson booted a 49-yd. field goal as time expired to give New Orleans a 20-17 win, and their first victory over Dallas since 1971. Landry would be replaced by another championship coach in Jimmy Johnson, who drafted future Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman with the first overall draft pick. Their very first NFL game would be in New Orleans to open the 1989 season on a Monday night. The Saints, led by their stifling defense and menacing Dome Patrol linebacking corps, beat up on Aikman and the Cowboys all night, holding them to just 10 first downs and 20 yards rushing. The Saints would rush for 199 yards in a 28-0 win, the only shutout by either team in the series. Johnson would build his own Super Bowl powerhouse teams, and would defeat the Saints three times between 1990-94, but New Orleans would win the final two meetings between the two teams as the decade closed out in 1998 and 1999. They would be the first two of five straight victories by New Orleans against Dallas, their longest winning streak in the series, as the new millennium dawned in more than one way.
Dallas was led by yet another iconic coach in 2003, Bill Parcells, who had a respected young coach on his offensive staff named Sean Payton. The Saints would defeat Parcells and the Cowboys in New Orleans during the final game of the 2003 season by bludgeoning Payton's offense in a 13-7 win. The following year, on December 12, 2004, they would again meet up, but this time in Dallas, a site the Saints had failed to win in 9 tries. New Orleans held Payton's quarterback, Vinny Testaverde, to only 14 completions in 35 attempts while sacking him three times and forced 3 turnovers, but the game was tied 13-13 entering the fourth quarter. Saints running back Deuce McAllister ran for a short touchdown run to give the visitors a lead, then quarterback Aaron Brooks hit wideout Joe Horn on a 31-yd. scoring strike to give the Saints a 27-13 victory, their first ever win in Dallas. Payton would leave the Cowboys a little more than a year later, when he was hired to be the head coach of the New Orleans Saints in 2006. The first time head coach would sign a free agent quarterback to build his team around. That signal caller's name, of course, was Drew Brees.
The Saints have a 5-2 record against the Cowboys since Brees and Payton joined them in '06, including a 3-1 record in Dallas. Payton would face his friend and mentor Parcells during his first season, in a Prime Time match up on December 10, 2006 in Dallas. The Cowboys would start the scoring with a 77-yd. touchdown run from Julius Jones in the first quarter, but New Orleans would score 42 points through the second and third quarters on their way to a 42-17 win. Brees would throw for 384 yards and five touchdowns, and Deuce McAllister would rush for 111 yards as the Saints rolled up 536 yards of total offense. The two would not play again until the 2009 season, once again in front of a national audience, but this time on a Saturday night in New Orleans. The Saints came into the game with a 13-0 record, in a year that would end with a Super Bowl XLIV championship. Dallas, who was now coached by Wade Phillips, shocked the undefeated home team by jumping out to a 24-3 lead entering the fourth quarter behind quarterback Tony Romo's 312 passing yards and receiver Miles Austin's 7 catches and 139 receiving yards. Brees would throw for 298 yards and lead his team to two late scores, but was sacked four times as the comeback attempt fell short and the Saints fell to their first of three straight losses to end the year by a 24-17 score.
The Saints and Cowboys would face off in a Thanksgiving day thriller in Dallas during the 2010 season. Receivers Devery Henderson and Marques Colston, who would have some outstanding games against Dallas during their careers, combined for over 200 of Brees' 352 passing yards. The Cowboys would rally from a 20-6 halftime deficit behind quarterback Jon Kitna's 313 passing yards to take a 27-23 fourth quarter lead, but Brees threw a touchdown pass to Lance Moore in the final minutes for a 30-27 victory. The teams provided more holiday fireworks in Dallas on December 23 of the 2012 season. The Saints and Cowboys combined for over 1,000 yards of total offense, as Brees (446 yards, 3 touchdowns) and Dallas quarterback Tony Romo (416 yards, 4 touchdowns) lit up the scoreboard. The Saints got 10 catches for 153 yards from Colston and 104 yards receiving from running back Darren Sproles, but were outdone by Cowboy wideout Dez Bryant, who had 12 receptions for 224 yards. Dallas would tie the game late to send the shootout into overtime, where kicker Garrett Hartley would boot the Saints to a 34-31 victory.
New Orleans endured many one-sided losses at the hands of the Cowboys in the early decades of this series, but would flip that script on November 10, 2013 in New Orleans during a Sunday night national television audience. The Saints defense would hold Dallas to just 9 first downs and 193 total yards for the game, while New Orleans would steamroll to 625 yards and an NFL-record 40 first downs. The Saints would get 392 yards passing and 4 touchdowns from Brees, 107 yards receiving from Colston, and 232 yards rushing from running backs Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas during a 49-17 embarrassment. The Cowboys would return the favor a year later on national tv, the last game between these teams in Dallas, with a 38-17 route, but the two would meet up for another overtime heart stopper the following year. The Saints and Cowboys last met on October 4, 2015 in New Orleans, on yet another primetime showdown on Sunday night. The Saints had opened the year with a disappointing 0-3 record, but Brees would again produce big numbers, throwing for 359 yards and two scores. The Cowboys would tie the game with a late touchdown though, and the contest would go into overtime. On the very first play of the extra period, Brees would find running back C.J. Spiller open down the right sideline. Spiller would take his only reception of the game and sprint 80 yards for the winning touchdown in a thrilling 26-20 finish.
Drew Brees has averaged 367 yards passing and has completed 71% of his passes in seven games against the Cowboys while with the Saints, throwing for 18 touchdown passes and only 3 interceptions. He has been as great as ever in 2018, completing over 76% of his throws, averaging 284 yards per game, and tossing 29 touchdowns against only two interceptions. Brees leads a balanced attack that is near the top of the league in both rushing and passing, and has averaged an NFL-leading 37 points per game. Running backs Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, and wideout Michael Thomas are among the best at their positions, and the Saints have broken down opponents with a dominating offensive line. The Cowboys counter with a physical defense that ranks in the top 10 in most categories and allows less than 20 points per game. They are strongest against the run, and can bring good pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Offensively, the Cowboys have one of the best running games in the league with 1,000-yd. back Ezekiel Elliott and a powerful offensive line that will square off with a Saints defense that is the NFL's best at stopping the run. Dallas has struggled a bit to protect their quarterback, Dak Prescott, and ranks just 28th in passing yardage. They did add dynamic wideout Amari Cooper at the trading deadline, and could test a New Orleans secondary that gave up many big plays earlier this season. The Saints have shored up their secondary as the year has progressed, creating more turnovers and have put heavy pressure on opposing backfields with a talented front seven.
New Orleans comes into this game with a 10 game winning streak, the second longest in franchise history. The longest in team history was 13 games in 2009, which came to an end at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys. History will not repeat itself. The Saints have too much firepower and balance on each side of the ball, and have been playing with razor sharp focus, intensity, and precision.