Saints/Cowboys Preview: Turnovers, not Pie, for Dessert

Despite Brees’ four touchdowns in the big win over Seattle, both his and Coach Payton’s post game comments were of the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” variety. They woulda been happier if they coulda put the game away in the first half, and they shoulda scored at least 17 more points – Julius Jones’ called back TD run, the two interceptions in the red zone, and another Hartley miss. And this after they won by 15! I woulda liked it too, as it coulda made the final score a lot closer to last week’s 49-21 prediction (shoulda).

But there was a lot to like about this game. The offense, finally, is starting to look like the offense we’ve been spoiled by. Maybe it was the extra time they’ve had to get healthy, or to work with a host of replacements, notably Chris Ivory and rookie tight end Jimmy Graham, but this engine is starting to fire on all cylinders. The offense is starting to dictate the game rather than take what defenses are giving them.

The defense, playing again with many new faces, shut Seattle down in the red zone. They are now adding takeaways to their already impressive stats and really kept the game comfortable. Every time the Seahawks threatened, they either held them for a field goal or took the ball away.

Chris Ivory is making the case that if/when Pierre Thomas gets healthy, he might not get back on the field as much as you would think. Will Ivory be/should he be the back of the future for New Orleans? I’m sure GM Mickey Loomis is weighing the cost of his rookie contract versus the big payday P.T. will ask for. While the Saints sorely miss P.T.’s screen game, Ivory has become the power back they’ve been looking for since Deuce retired. Pierre is a proven NFL starter and deserves – and will likely get – the contract he seeks. From another team.

Finally, when the voice of the Saints Jim Henderson feels he must comment on the kicking woes, it’s officially serious. I hope, just for the sake of not going through the kicker carousel of the ’07 and ’08 seasons, that Hartley gets it together. Fast.

The Dallas game reminds me a lot of this last one, except the Cowboys have a lot more talent at the skill positions. Felix Jones is fast, tough and shifty, and Williams, Austin, Bryant and Witten are all major threats in the passing game. Kitna is playing well, and interim coach Jason Garrett has all of the Cowboys playing like their jobs depend on it (it does). Their defensive line wreaked havoc on the Saints game plan last year, and it was probably the most uncomfortable Brees has looked in the last season and a half. I’m sure Payton has been showing this game to the team and getting them fired up. Drew holds grudges, in case you didn’t notice (see San Diego, Miami) and will be in full-on terminator mode. In addition, the Thanksgiving primetime stage means Reggie time, so expect him back to dazzle the national audience and hopefully not fumble in doing so. The Saints need to step on the Cowboys’ throats early, then step on the gas. Don’t let the Cowboys even entertain the thought of the upset. With that in mind, the front seven for the ’Boys is pretty tough to run against, and have a good pass rush, while their secondary is very suspect. Here’s what Madden had to say about the game:

Patrick Robinson starts things off right.

Dallas gets the ball first, and on second and 10, here comes the blitz. Robinson picks it off for a TD! Good start, Kitna! Dallas gets it again, then – let’s get ready to fuuuuuuumble! Felix Jones puts it on the ground and Alex Brown recovers on the Cowboys 16. A few plays later, Ivory catches a swing pass and beasts his way into the end zone.

Ivory slams into the end zone.

Dallas goes three and out, then Brees goes 80 yards in four plays and Graham scores from the 16. It’s 21-0 as the second quarter starts. Dallas, now one dimensional, finally finds their offense and drives to the Saints four when M. Austin fumbles. Brown gets the fumble recovery again. Brees marches 96 yards and connects with Colston on play action make halftime score 28-0.

Play action to Colston.

In the second half, The D collects three more sacks of Kitna (for a total of four), Vilma recovers another fumble, and blanks the Cowboys. Player of the game P. Robinson has 3 tackles, 1 for loss, 1 sack, and an INT for a TD. Brees is 21-26, 312 yards for 3 TDs, 1 INT. The Saints red zone troubles continue as they have to settle for two Hartley field goals in a Brokeback Cowboys pounding that could have been much worse than the final score of 34-0.

Looking forward to: Passing out in front of the TV (and all of my wife’s family) after gorging on food and football. “Mommy, is he dead?” “No dear, just drunk.”

Not looking forward to: I happened to be in Atlanta for last week’s game and watched the Falcons beat the Rams on the TV next to the Saints game. They look really, really, really good. Not in an explosive, big play way, but in a wear you down with first downs, force a lot of three and outs, own the clock kind of way. Beating them in the Georgia Dome will be a very tough assignment. Come on, Packers!

Media Prediction: Is it just me, or is Fox going overboard with their “Salute the troops” packages? Okay, we get it. You’re the most frigging patriotic network of all time. You really show up those commies at NBC, ESPN, and CBS every week. Wait, aren’t you owned by an Australian? Does that guy even have a green card? We need to build a fence between America and Australia.

Madden Tip: Madden in Doritos 3D is a gyp. I bought a bag of Doritos (munch), got the code off of it, then entered it into the game (munch, munch). Madden says, “Go online to enter this code” (munch, lick my fingers, decide to put bag away). So I do, and have to enter my email (change my mind, munch). Then I get an email with another code to enter into Madden (clean orange muck off of my controller, computer, munch). I do this as well. This took me about an hour to figure out, by the way (munch, munch, lick, munch, turn bag upside down and empty crumbs into my mouth, lick, lick). Then I get the message that the servers are busy, try again later (feeling a little sick). When I do, it says, “This code is already in use.” And now I get about 40 Doritos-related emails a day and in no way am I playing Madden in 3D (and now I feel shame). What a rip off!

Rock Tip: Come see Supagroup (12am) at Tipitina’s, next Friday, December 3, with special guests Happy Talk (11pm), and Brah (10pm), for free as part of Tips’ Free Fridays series.

UPCOMING: Next week I’ll be having a very special guest columnist, my friend in Saints lore, and colleague in rock, Phil Anselmo, give us his thoughts on the outcome of the Dallas game.