The New Orleans Saints went old school to win their third game of the season, beating the previously undefeated Dallas Cowboys 12-10 in a Prime Time slugfest. The Saints won their second game without the injured Drew Brees, doing so without scoring a touchdown in a win since the 1998 season. With Teddy Bridgewater again in relief of Brees, New Orleans would convert some key first downs and control the ball, but were held out of the end zone by the tough Dallas defense. The Saints would win this physical battle with four Wil Lutz field goals and an outstanding defensive performance that made onlookers recall the intimidating Dome Patrol and early 2000 defenses from the franchise's past. Let's have a look at a few of the biggest performances from this big Saints throwback victory.
Lattimore has come under much scrutiny this week for the amount of yardage he has given up so far this season. The 2017 Defense Rookie of the Year responded to his critics with an outstanding game against the Cowboys top receiver Amari Cooper. Lattimore would play tight man coverage on the talented Cooper all evening, rarely allowing him to get freed up and holding him to just 5 receptions for 48 yards. As one of this team's best defensive players and one of the better cornerbacks in the league, Lattimore stepped up on the prime time stage to shut down one of the NFL's most productive receivers, limiting the Cowboys offensive options.
Bell has been the team's most consistent defensive back over the last two seasons and had another standout performance Sunday night. Finishing with a team high ten tackles and assisting in good coverage from the entire secondary all game, Bell again made a few plays that caused big momentum shifts in a tight contest. He recovered a second quarter fumble to halt one Dallas drive. Then later in the quarter, Bell stripped Cowboys All-Pro running back Ezekiel Elliott of the football on a fourth and short, recovering the ball himself to set up a Saints field goal going into halftime. The underrated 4th year safety may not be talked about among the NFL's top defensive backs, but Bell continues to be a playmaker for this defense, particularly when the team needs a momentum changing play.
Davis again led the Saints pregame huddle in the absence of Brees, and once again backed up his words with an intense and sharply played football game. He finished with 9 tackles, and was seemingly in on every play. Davis was terrific in pass coverage, aggressive at the line, and was particularly outstanding against running back Ezekiel Elliott in the open field, holding Elliott to only 65 total yards and just 2.7 yards per touch. Davis' fierce intensity, athleticism ,and physical play has set the tone for the entire New Orleans defense to take over games in the absence of their star quarterback.
Klein may have been the most underrated performer of the Saints outstanding defensive game against Dallas. It was Klein's hustle and strip fumble of the Cowboys Jason Witten that led to Vonn Bell's first recovery. On the next Dallas drive, Klein had a big 3rd down tackle on tight end Blake Jarwin that stopped him just shy of a first down. That stop set up the defensive stand and fumble recovery by Bell on the next play, boosting the Saints momentum into halftime. Klein finished with seven tackles on the night, playing well against the run and providing adequate intermediate coverage to limit Dallas yardage after the catch.
On a night when star back Alvin Kamara was contained (although his 69 yards rushing were a game high), it was Thomas alone who was the Saints biggest offensive threat. Catching all 9 of his targets for 95 yards, the All-Pro wideout picked up a number of key first downs, and bested the physical Dallas secondary to be the night's best offensive player. His ability to make plays in traffic uplifted the confidence of his quarterback Bridgewater, and was instrumental for the Saints to control the ball and pace of the game.
Saints defensive line
The defensive storyline going into this game was the return to the lineup of defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins following his postseason Achilles injury. While Rankins played well, the postgame story was how well the entire Saints defensive front played against a Dallas line considered one of the best in the league. New Orleans got just one sack, a big one from David Onyemata on the first play of the Cowboys final possession, but they got good disruption on quarterback Dak Prescott all evening. End Marcus Davenport would lead all defenders with 3 qb hits, and was a handful for Dallas tackle Tyron Smith. Saints defensive tackle Malcom Brown keyed a powerful interior group that stonewalled the Cowboys rush attempts all game. Elliott would pick up only 35 yards on 18 rushing attempts, a paltry average of less than two yards per carry. The entire New Orleans defensive line was the most dominant unit on both sides of the ball for either team. They were key in shutting down arguably the best runner in the league, and their ability to pressure Prescott without necessarily having to blitz allowed the Saints coverage packages to contain the pass. The outstanding effort of the New Orleans talented defensive line was representative of another huge team effort in all three phases of the game. This Saints team is proving that they have more than enough talent on both sides of the ball, and have now beaten two playoff teams in each of the last two weeks without their Hall of Fame quarterback by multiple players making plays in big moments.
Who had the biggest performance in the Saints big Sunday night win over Dallas?
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The Saints defensive line