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Notes on Cowboys 30-27 Loss Against the New Orleans Saints

It was definitely one of the best games I've seen this year. There was a comeback, there were turnovers, there was defensive strength, but all that was missing for Dallas was a win in this year's Thanksgiving game. This was Dallas' first loss on Thanksgiving since 2005 when they had Drew Bledsoe as a quarterback.

The Cowboys lost to the Denver Broncos that day in overtime by a score of 24-21 where Champ Bailey, arguably the best cornerback of the past decade, had an interception returned for a touchdown to start the the scoring for the Denver Broncos. Since then, Dallas had won four of its annual Thanksgiving day games in a row.

Dallas was less than five minutes away from its fifth. The Cowboys were up 27-23 at their own 42 yard line, it is third and six, and Roy Williams catches the pass and it is a footrace.

Immediately, I thought that's the game, Dallas is going to score right here as Williams is running with the football, and even if he is caught, they'll be in the redzone.

What happened was Williams was running and he had Miles Austin, in front, putting a block on Saints cornerback Tracy Porter. Williams decides to switch the ball from his right arm to his left so that Porter can't get to it because Porter is on his right side.

Well, the safety Malcolm Jenkins came behind Williams from behind on his left side, got his arm in there, and makes a play that saves the game. Miles Austin tackled Jenkins immediately, but the damage was done. The catch and run was for 47 yards, but the Saints had the ball on the 11-yard line with 3:03 left to go in the fourth quarter.

Roy Williams said to reporters, and I got the exact quote from Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback article from today, ""I lost the ballgame. I let my teammates down. That was the nail in the coffin. That was a W.""

The ironic thing was moments before the play, Joe Buck, who was calling the game for FOX, said that this was a "big opportunity for the Saints defense to get a stop." Well, they didn't get the stop, they got the strip.

As a fan, I kept hope, but you can imagine that the writer in me saw that this foreshadowed a very distressing defeat. A few plays later, Terence Newman fails on the coverage, and wide receiver Robert Meachem, gets a 55 yard bomb to the 12-yard line, and the Saints hit Lance Moore for a 12-yard touchdown on the next play.

Dallas still tried hard to get the game back. They drove down the field, but a few playcalls did not go there way, and David Buehler barely missed a 59-yard field goal.

It was a hard loss to take, and as a writer, I'm going to put the lion's share of the blame on Roy Williams. He's got to hold on to that ball. The game was won, and that fumble gave the Saints life.

The team still lost. There are mistakes that the team made, but it was definitely a fun game to watch, and this loss was not as bad to me as the other losses this year.

The other losses this year just were awful. It looked like there wasn't even an effort at times by the Cowboys. This game showed true grit by these players. They were down 17-0 in the first quarter, and the nightmare is about to get worse, but they came back.

The Cowboys did not do these kind of things against Jacksonville or Green Bay. They gave up on themselves once the score board started to look disheartening. The Cowboys did not give up this time, and almost won the game. Granted, they fell short, but I see reason for hope on this team.

The biggest mistake I saw myself was Dallas needs to address its secondary. I've been saying it all year long, and I'll probably keep saying it, but the secondary is our weak point. There were several times I saw Drew Brees be a split second away from being sacked, and he just fires the ball away for a completion. DeMarcus Ware should be well into double-digit sack numbers, but he can't get there because the coverage isn't sustaining.

When a sack is recorded by the defense, it is a combination of two things: Pressure by the front seven or just the defensive line at times, and good coverage by defensive backs so that there isn't any target for the quarterback to throw to. Most quarterbacks are not going to throw a very risky pass into coverage because they don't want an interception.

The hesitation to throw to a man is the time needed for the linebacker or lineman to capture the quarterback in his grip and sack him. There always has to be at least some coverage and some pass-rushing. Sometimes you can have better coverage and the pass-rushers eventually get the quarterback, and sometimes you the pass-rushers get to the quarterback before he can even try to find a receiver, let alone throw the ball.

Dallas has great pass-rushing by DeMarcus Ware, but the coverage isn't keeping up with the receivers often enough for Ware to get to the quarterback in time, and a lot of times, he is being double-blocked and sometimes even triple blocked.

The secondary also had a key error in the game. Drew Brees threw a ball into coverage, and Mike Jenkins had his hands up to intercept it, but the safety Alan Ball also tried to go for the pick, and they collided with the ball hitting the ground. That is a huge mistake on Ball's part in my eyes because Mike Jenkins had that ball. I know he was going to catch it because he's picked of Brees before and that ball was spiral right into his hands.

Dallas lost a turnover there, so you have to address that in practice because the safety is, in my eyes, supposed to let the cornerback get that ball because he's in better position to get it.

There is another issue that Dallas had, and I'm going to use the little bit of an actor in me to express a fan's emotions about it.

I'm going to try, and pardon me if I slightly misquote, but I'm going to echo the sentiments of Herman Boone, the coach from "Remember The Titans," "You fumble the football, and I'll break my foot up in your John Brown hind parts... and then you will run a mile."

A fumble is what cost the Cowboys the game in the end, but they could have been blown to bits because they fumbled the ball seven times. Seven times really? Were the gloves dipped in grease or something?

Dez Bryant fumbled the ball on a reverse, and I'll except that because I heard Troy Aikman point out that receivers are not used to handling the ball like a running back, and he's a rookie. Thankfully, the ball bounced right back to him.

Two fumbles are attributed to Andre Gurode, the center, because he snapped the ball at the wrong time twice, and both led to an eventual fourth down. Dallas had to punt on one, and the other, the Cowboys kicked a 21-yard field goal. You have to wonder if Gurode doesn't screw up there, does Dallas get the touchdown and win the game?

I don't think I've ever seen a center who snaps the ball at the wrong time as often as Andre Gurode. It is very peculiar that he is a Pro Bowl center who goofs up like that.

Two fumbles came back to back when Felix Jones managed to recover his own mistake after a 13-yard catch, and Martellus Bennett picked up a fumble that Kitna had after being hit, and he actually ran forward five yards with it.

The other fumble was the mishandled punt by McBriar who just kicked the ball forward, which is against the rules, and the Cowboys managed to survive that, but you can't expect all the fumbles to be recovered when they shouldn't be fumbling to begin with.

Overall, the team did not win, but there was some great performances. Jesse Holley forced a fumble off of Reggie Bush that led to a touchdown, DeMarcus Ware recorded a 12-yard sack, Jay Ratliff got another sack, so those two guys improve to 9.5 and 2.5 on the year respectively.

Jason Witten had 99 yards receiving with 10 catches, Miles Austin had a 60-yard wide receiver reverse touchdown run, and David Buehler recorded his longest field goal of his career at 53 yards.

Great game, but bad result in the end for the Dallas Cowboys

James Williamson's thoughts on the game: If you watch Dallas every week, then you'll probably agree with me that there is a new attitude about this set of Boys. They have talent, they just need to find the discipline in themselves and win ball games. After that game, I became a hardcore supporter of Garrett for the head coaching job. This team almost beat the Super Bowl champs after being down 17-0. That just shows you that Garrett is the right guy for this job. He's got them playing to where they will have a chance to win every game. I want Jason Garrett to lead this team going forward. Forget about Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden, Brian Billick, or whoever else might be a candidate. I want Jason Garrett.

Nonfootball thought for the article: Not a big turkey fan, so I had ham for Thanksgiving. It begs the question: Do any of you have a unique dish you eat at Thanksgiving? If you do, please share.


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