With Win Over Saints, Cowboys Prove Their Defense Can Compete With NFL’s Offensive Juggernauts

As we all penciled in offensive firepowers to make this year’s conference title games, the Cowboys and their defense made a huge statement on Thursday night.

Stewart love

DeMarcus Lawrence had said it earlier in the week, but who took him seriously? The Saints, winners of 10 straight and owners of the best record in football with the likely MVP under center, entered AT&T Stadium averaging 37.2 points per game.

Dallas didn’t care. With the fourth-best red-zone defense, third-best scoring defense and certainly the best young linebacking duo in football, the Cowboys choked out the Saints on national TV 13-10 just as Lawrence had earlier promised.

They’re going to have to match our intensity,” Lawrence told reporters earlier in the week. “S—, for 60 minutes straight. If you hit a m—–f—– in the mouth and then they ain’t doing what they’re regularly doing, putting up 50 points, they start to get a little distressed. Now you got them where you want them at, and then you f—ing choke their ass out.”

The Saints managed just 176 yards of total offense against the Cowboys. Not only was it a season low, but also a low in the Sean Payton-Drew Brees era. The Saints hadn’t finished with fewer than 170 yards of offense in a game since 2002, when Aaron Brooks lost to the 49ers and Brees was a Charger.

Brees started the game 0-for-4 passing, something he’s never before done. The Saints, who started the night with just 14 three-and-outs all season, began the game with consecutive three-and-outs. By the end of the night, Brees would throw a game-sealing interception to Jourdan Lewis—just his third of the season—and head back to New Orleans with a 10-2 record.

Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith ran to the ball as well as they have all season long, and they’ve been running to the ball spectacularly all season. Vander Esch had 10 tackles, Smith had nine and, by the end of the night, Troy Aikman was wondering where—if?—Sean Lee will fit in when he returns from injury. It’s possible the two young linebackers will be the best duo at the second level in football by 2019.

In its most impressive outing of the season, there were still two glaring errors by the Dallas defense. And they both came from the same player.

KAHLER: How It All Went Wrong in Packerland

The Cowboys took a chance and held on to Randy Gregory because of what he would do on the field. Sure, the multiple suspensions for violating the league’s substance abuse policy are headaches, but the thought went that he made your team better and he was worth it.


The embattled defensive end roughed punter Thomas Morstead late in the third quarter at midfield. It was to be Morstead’s fourth punt of the night, which would have tied his season high. Instead, Gregory’s penalty took the ball away from the Cowboys and gave it back to Brees. Three plays later, Keith Kirkwood had a 30-yard touchdown catch and the Saints trailed 13-10.

The next time Dallas’s defense took the field, the unit was nearly off it in four plays. Lawrence strip-sacked Brees and Tyrone Crawford recovered it at the New Orleans 32-yard line. But Gregory was lined up just offside and the play was negated. The Saints would go on to punt and eventually—obviously—lose, making Friday morning not as terrible for Gregory.

While the defense did its part to hold the Saints to just 49 offensive plays, the Cowboys’ offense maximized its 66 plays. Dallas owned time of possession all night, almost tripling the Saints in the first half and finishing with a nearly 14-minute edge on the clock.

Payton decided a dubious Michael Thomas catch and an incorrectly called Dan Arnold incompletion were worth using his two challenges on in the first 18 minutes of the game. While Payton was correct that Arnold did make a football move, fumbled and had it recovered by Michael Thomas, there was a cost associated with proving how right you are.

The Saints were left without a challenge for the rest of the game. New Orleans got a first-and-goal inside the 10 by virtue of winning the challenge, but would have had second-and-10 from the 22 without the challenge. The Saints failed to punch it in on fourth down with Alvin Kamara and the Cowboys took over. Was the challenge worth it?

With five minutes left in the game, Cole Beasley would be more than a yard short of the line to gain on third down on a P.J. Williams tackle. But the officials missed Beasley’s knee touching the ground and only saw him lunge for the first down. Beasley was gifted the first down and Payton would be handcuffed to his fate as Dallas extended the drive and bled more of the clock.


NFL week 13 play off scenarios

Week 13 Playoff Scenarios

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (10-1) (at Dallas (6-5))

New Orleans clinches NFC South division title with:

1) NO win + CAR loss or tie OR

2) NO tie + CAR loss

New Orleans clinches a playoff berth with:

1) NO win OR

2) NO tie + WAS loss + SEA loss OR

3) NO tie + WAS loss + MIN loss OR

4) NO tie + WAS loss + SEA tie + MIN tie

LOS ANGELES RAMS (10-1) (at Detroit (4-7)

Los Angeles clinches NFC West division title with:

1) LAR win OR

2) SEA loss OR

3) LAR tie + SEA tie

Los Angeles clinches a playoff berth with:

1) LAR tie + WAS loss + MIN loss or tie OR

2) LAR tie + WAS loss + CAR loss OR

3) LAR tie + DAL loss + MIN loss or tie OR

4) LAR tie + DAL loss + CAR loss OR

5) LAR tie + MIN loss or tie + CAR loss

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (9-2) (at Oakland (2-9), Sunday, 4:05 PM ET)

Kansas City clinches a playoff berth with:

1) KC win + MIA loss or tie + IND loss + HOU loss + TEN loss or tie OR

2) KC win + MIA loss or tie + IND loss + HOU loss or tie + BAL loss or tie + CIN loss or tie OR

3) KC win + MIA loss or tie + IND loss + HOU loss or tie + BAL loss + LAC loss


November 29, 2018

Week 13 kicks off on Thursday, November 29 (8:20 PM ET, FOX/NFL Network/Amazon Prime) with the New Orleans Saints travelling to Dallas to take on the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Thursday marks the 29th meeting between the teams, with Dallas leading the all-time series, 16-12. In their last game, Saints quarterback DREW BREES passed for 359 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning 80-yard touchdown pass to running back C.J. SPILLER in overtime, in New Orleans’ 26-20 home win on October 4, 2015. 

In Week 12, Brees threw four touchdown passes to four different receivers and running back ALVIN KAMARArushed for 89 yards in the Saints’ 31-17 victory against Atlanta. New Orleans enters Week 13 leading the league in points per game (37.2) and point differential (+153), while Brees ranks first in completion percentage (76.4) and passer rating (127.3). Since 2017, Kamara (28) and running back MARK INGRAM (17) are the only pair of NFC teammates with 15 or more scrimmage touchdowns each. 

Last week, Dallas quarterback DAK PRESCOTT passed for 289 yards and accounted for three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) and wide receiver AMARI COOPER had eight receptions for 180 yards with two scores, including a 90-yard touchdown catch, in the Cowboys’ 31-23 win over Washington. Since entering the NFL in 2016, Prescott has seven games with at least two passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown, the most in the league over that span. Running back EZEKIEL ELLIOTT, who has at least 100 scrimmage yards in each of his past four games, leads the NFL with 1,074 rushing yards this season and linebacker LEIGHTON VANDER ESCH, Dallas’ first-round selection (19th overall) in the 2018 NFL Draft, ranks second among NFL rookies with 91 tackles. 

Texans vs. Titans final score, takeaways: Houston runs wild to take control of AFC South

The Tennessee Titans have been the NFL’s most inconsistent team this season. The kind of team that could respond to a dispiriting season-opening loss with three straight wins, including one over the defending champion Eagles. The kind of team that could follow those three consecutive wins with three consecutive losses, including one to the Bills. The kind of team that could return from a post-London bye week with convincing wins over the Cowboys and Patriots, only to get blown out by the Colts a week later.  

For a while there, it looked like the Good Titans were the ones that were going to show up against the division rival Houston Texans on Monday night. Tennessee marched right down the field for a field goal on its first drive, held the Texans to a three-and-out on their first possession, and then got a 61-yard touchdown from second-year tight end Jonnu Smith on the next drive.  

They were even on the verge of responding to a Demaryius Thomas with a score of their own … but they were stopped on a 4th and 1 from inside the Texans’ 5-yard line when they called for a jumbo set hand-off to tight end Luke Stocker, who was lined up as the up-back on the play. Stocker was stuffed, the Titans turned the ball over on downs, Lamar Miller took the next snap 97 yards to the house, and save for a Corey Davis touchdown that provided the Titans a momentary glimmer of hope, it was pretty much all Houston from there.  

Miller, Alfred Blue, and Deshaun Watsoncombined to rush for 282 yards on 33 carries. DeAndre Hopkins did his usual dominating. The defense eventually was able to pin its ears back and consistently come after Marcus Mariota, sacking him five times. It was all too much for the Titans to overcome.  

The Texans ended up with a 34-17 victory, their eighth consecutive win after starting the year 0-3. Some of those wins were of the by-the-skin-of-their-teeth variety, but this one was pretty convincing. The Texans now have a hold on the No. 3 seed in the AFC, and are in firm control of the AFC South. They have a year-ending schedule that’s quite favorable. They have a quarterback-receiver duo that is capable of breaking a big play from anywhere on the field. They have a defense that boasts star talent along the front line. They’re not yet in the mix with the best teams in the AFC, but they’re likely in that next tier, just behind the Chargers. Considering how they began the season, that’s pretty impressive. 

Here are a few more things to know about the Texans’ 34-17 win.  

Lamar Miller busts out 

It’s been a strange season for Lamar Miller. He’s gotten a ton of carries all year, but before Monday night, he hadn’t done much with them except in a two-game stretch where he ran for 233 yards on 40 carries against the Jaguarsand Dolphins. In his other seven games, he’d combined to take 105 carries for just 378 yards.  

This game, however, was much different. Miller got only 12 totes, but he did a lot with them, racking up 162 yards on the ground. In so doing, he joined Arian Foster on an exclusive Texans list.


Most of the damage came on this play


That carry gave Miller sole possession of a pretty cool NFL record. He’s now the only player in NFL history with at least two rushing touchdowns of 95 yards or more, according to the NFL’s internal research department. 


Miller had a 97-yard touchdown run back in 2014, when he was still a member of the Miami Dolphins. The most recent non-Miller player with a 95-plus-yard touchdown run is Chester Taylor, who did it for the Vikings back in 2006. Corey Dillon, Ahman Green, and Tiki Barber are the only other players this century with touchdown runs of 95 yards or more.  

Controversial ruling helps the Texans 

Early in the fourth quarter, Deshaun Watson stepped up through the pocket and scampered through the Titans defense for a 34-yard gain. It was typical Watson, first using his legs to keep the play alive and then using them to move his team down the field.


But it sure looked like the ball popped out of Watson’s hands before he hit the ground, and Titans coach Mike Vrabel challenged the play because he felt that way, too. But the initial ruling was upheld on review, Houston kept the ball, and Watson found Demaryius Thomas for a score two plays later. And that was pretty much all she wrote.  

J.J. ups the Wattage 

We were spoiled by J.J. Watt back in the early 2010s. We took for granted that he was a yearly force of nature that did absurd things and wrecked opposing offenses on an every-snap basis. From 2012 through 2015, Watt racked up 315 tackles, 119 of them for loss. He recorded 190 quarterback hits and 69 sacks. He made four Pro Bowls and four All-Pro first teams and was named Defensive Player of the Year three times.  

And then he basically disappeared for much of the 2016 and 2017 seasons as he dealt with various injuries. Watt played just eight games across those two years, and largely did not look like his regular self even when he was on the field. That dude has been fully back this year, dominating on an every-snap basis and he did it again on Monday night.  

Watt had nine tackles, including one for loss. He hit Marcus Mariota twice, sacked him once (his 11th in 11 games), and forced a fumble on that play.


It’s so good to have this dominant version of one of the best defensive players in the league back. Enjoy it.  

Mariota’s weird night 

Go take a look at Marcus Mariota’s box score numbers. Do it right now and then come back. We’ll be here waiting.  

OK. You back? Great. Marcus Mariota was 22 of 23 for 303 yards and two touchdowns! And yet, it didn’t really seem like he played all that well? Mariota checked down pretty much all night. He got 109 of his passing yards and both of his touchdowns on two plays, and the first one featured a busted coverage and long run after the catch, while the second was a good throw but also saw two Texans defenders run into each other, allowing Corey Davis to trot into the end zone.



Mariota threw just three passes longer than 15 yards down the field — all to Davis. His big night also put him in some strange company, as he became just the second quarterback to attempt at least 15 passes, complete at least 90 percent of those passes, and still lose. Per ESPN: 


Like we said above: strange night.  

Welcome to the offense, Demaryius Thomas 

On his first drive with the Houston Texans, Demaryius Thomas had two catches for 49 yards. Later in the first quarter of that game, he caught another pass for 12 yards. For the rest of that game he was not targeted even once. For the entirety of Week 11 he was not targeted.  

This week, Thomas was brought back into the fold. Things started off with a 12-yard touchdown catch on a really nice route in the red zone, where he beat Adoree’ Jackson‘s inside leverage and broke toward the back corner and made a nice grab.


On the next drive, he took a screen pass, evaded a few tackles, and got the Texans a first down. He disappeared for a while after that, but came up with a big third-down conversion in the fourth quarter, making a contested catch over the middle to extend a drive, burn some more time off the clock, and eventually get the Texans some points — which he did himself with a 10-yard touchdown catch. 


Slot man Keke Coutee left the game with yet another injury, so the Texans could end up depending on Hopkins even more over the next few weeks.   

Your weekly DeAndre Hopkins absurdity 

Thomas got in the end zone twice, but Hopkins led the Texans in both catches and receiving yards, as he almost always does. Two plays in particular stand out. There was a leaping grab on a crossing pattern in the first quarter, which he made look incredibly easy. And then there was some ridiculously fancy footwork and glove-work on the right sideline late in the second quarter, setting up a Texans field goal that extended their lead to 14 points.



This dude is just really, really good.  

What’s next?  

The Texans are now 8-3 and in control of both the AFC South and the No. 3 seed in the conference. They have a home date with the Browns next week (1 p.m. ET, CBS, stream on CBS All Access or fuboTV (try for free), and finish up the season with contests against the Colts, Jets, Eagles, and Jaguars. One more win should wrap up a playoff spot, but if they can go something like 4-1 or better, they can perhaps get themselves a first-round bye if the Patriots falter. The Titans, meanwhile, are now 5-6. They’re on the fringes of the playoff picture and their upcoming schedule (Jets, Jaguars, Giants, Washington, Colts) is favorable, but it’s difficult to count on any of those games being sure victories, given how inconsistent the team has been all season.  

Seven from NFL Sunday


A look at seven statistical highlights from games played before midnight on Sunday, November 25.

New England quarterback TOM BRADY completed 20 of 31 passes (64.5 percent) for 283 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions for a 115.4 passer rating in the Patriots’ 27-13 victory at the New York Jets.

Brady has 79,416 career passing yards (including the postseason) and surpassed PEYTON MANNING (79,279) for the most passing yards in NFL history, including the playoffs.

Patriots tight end ROB GRONKOWSKI had 56 receiving yards and a touchdown catch in the team’s Week 12 win. Gronkowski, who is 29 years old, has 78 career touchdown receptions, tying Pro Football Hall of Famer TERRELL OWENS (78) for the third-most touchdown catches by a player prior to turning 30 years old in league annals. Only Pro Football Hall of Famers RANDY MOSS (101) and JERRY RICE (95) had more career touchdowns prior to the age of 30.

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback PHILIP RIVERS completed 28 of 29 passes (96.6 percent), including his first 25 pass attempts, for 259 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions for a 138.4 passer rating in the Chargers’ 45-10 victory over Arizona.

Rivers’ 25 consecutive completions are the most by a quarterback in a single game in NFL history and are tied with RYAN TANNEHILL (25 consecutive completions from Weeks 6-7 in 2015) for the most consecutive passes completed at any point in league history. Washington’s MARK BRUNELL previously held the record for the most consecutive completions to begin a game, completing his first 22 passes against Houston on September 24, 2006.

Rivers’ 96.6 completion percentage is the highest by a quarterback in a single game in league annals (minimum 20 attempts), surpassing the previous high of 92.3 percent (24 of 26 passing) set by Pro Football Hall of Famer KURT WARNER against Jacksonville on September 20, 2009.

Cleveland rookie quarterback BAKER MAYFIELD completed 19 of 26 passes (73.1 percent) for 258 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions for a 143.9 passer rating in the Browns’ 35-20 victory at Cincinnati.

Mayfield, who recorded a 151.2 passer rating in Week 10 and had a bye in Week 11, is the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to record a 140+ passer rating in consecutive games (minimum 20 attempts).

Browns rookie running back NICK CHUBB rushed for 84 yards with a touchdown and had three catches for 44 yards and a score in the victory.

Chubb, who rushed for 176 yards with a touchdown and had a touchdown catch in Week 10, is one of four rookies in NFL history with both a rushing and receiving touchdown in consecutive games, joining KINK RICHARDS of the 1933 New York Giants, RODNEY CULVER of the 1992 Indianapolis Colts and SAQUON BARKLEY of the 2018 New York Giants.

Barkley, who scored both a rushing touchdown and receiving touchdown in Week 11, rushed for 101 yards with a score and had a touchdown catch in the Giants’ loss at Philadelphia in Week 12.

Baltimore rookie running back GUS EDWARDS rushed for 118 yards, rookie quarterback LAMAR JACKSON had 178 passing yards and 71 rushing yards and linebacker TERRELL SUGGS scored on a 43-yard fumble-return touchdown in the Ravens’ 34-17 victory over Oakland.

Edwards, who rushed for 115 yards last week, is the sixth undrafted rookie in the common draft era to record at least 100 rushing yards in consecutive games, joining BRANDEN OLIVER (2014), LE GARRETTE BLOUNT (2010), DOMINIC RHODES (2001), FRED LANE (1997) and CLARK GAINES (1976).

Jackson, who rushed for 119 yards in his first-career start in Week 11, has 190 rushing yards in his first two NFL starts, the most by a quarterback in his first two career starts in the Super Bowl era.

At 36 years, 45 days old, Suggs is the second-oldest player in league history with a fumble-return touchdown of at least 40 yards, trailing only Carolina’s SAM MILLS who returned a fumble 41 yards for a touchdown against the Houston Oilers on November 24,1996 at 37 years, 174 days old.

Tampa Bay wide receiver MIKE EVANS had six catches for 116 yards in the Buccaneers’ 27-9 victory over San Francisco.

Evans has 1,073 receiving yards this season and joined Pro Football Hall of Famer RANDY MOSS (six consecutive seasons from 1998-2003) and A.J. GREEN (five consecutive seasons from 2011-15) as the only players in NFL history with at least 1,000 receiving yards in each of their first five seasons.

Philadelphia tight end ZACH ERTZ had seven catches for 91 yards and a touchdown in the Eagles’ 25-22 victory over the New York Giants.

Ertz has 84 catches this season, the most by a tight end in franchise history, surpassing the previous record of 81 set by KEITH JACKSON in 1988.

Ertz has 405 career catches since entering the league in 2013 and joined JIMMY GRAHAM (434 catches), JASON WITTEN (429) and ANTONIO GATES (400) as the only tight ends in NFL history with at least 400 catches in their first six career seasons.

Other notable performances from Sunday include:

Indianapolis quarterback ANDREW LUCK completed 30 of 37 passes (81.1 percent) for 343 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions for a 109.8 passer rating in the Colts’ 27-24 win over Miami.

Luck has thrown at least three touchdown passes in eight consecutive games, tying PEYTON MANNING (eight consecutive games in 2004) for the second-longest streak of consecutive games with at least three touchdown passes in a single season in NFL history. Only TOM BRADY (10 consecutive games in 2011) had a longer such streak in a single season.

Seattle quarterback RUSSELL WILSON completed 22 of 31 passes (71 percent) for 339 yards with two touchdowns, including a game-tying 35-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver DAVID MOORE with 3:26 remaining in the fourth quarter in the Seahawks’ 30-27 victory at Carolina.

Wilson, who completed a 43-yard pass to wide receiver TYLER LOCKETT to set up the game-winning 31-yard field goal by SEBASTIAN JANIKOWSKI as time expired in the fourth quarter, has led 22 game-winning drives in the fo​urth quarter or overtime in his career, the most in franchise history.

Panthers running back CHRISTIAN MC CAFFREY rushed for 125 yards with a touchdown and had 11 catches for 112 yards with a score in the Panthers’ loss to Seattle.

​McCaffrey is the fifth different player since 2000 to have both 100 rushing and receiving yards and score both a rushing and receiving touchdown, joining ARIAN FOSTER (October 23, 2011), BRIAN WESTBROOK (September 23, 2007), STEVEN JACKSON (December 24, 2006) and PRIEST HOLMES (December 9, 2001 and November 24, 2002). He is the first player in franchise history to accomplish the feat.

NFL WK 12. What to look for.

What to look for Week 12:

TOP PASSER: New England quarterback TOM BRADY has 79,133 passing yards and 576 touchdown passes in 300 career games, including the postseason.

Brady, who faces the New York Jets on Sunday, needs 147 passing yards and four touchdown passes to surpass PEYTON MANNING (79,279 passing yards and 579 touchdown passes) for the most passing yards and touchdown passes in NFL history, including the postseason.

CONSISTENT COLTS: The INDIANAPOLIS COLTS rank second in the NFL with only 10 sacks allowed this season and have not given up a sack in five consecutive games.

On Sunday against Miami, Indianapolis can become the fourth team to allow zero sacks in six consecutive games within a single season since 1963 when team sacks became an official statistic.

SACK MASTERS: Carolina defensive end JULIUS PEPPERS recorded a sack in Week 11 and has 158.5 sacks during his 17-year NFL career.

With two sacks on Sunday against Seattle, Peppers would surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer KEVIN GREENE (160 sacks) for the third-most sacks since 1982 when the individual sack became an official statistic.

ROLLING RIVERS: Los Angeles Chargers quarterback PHILIP RIVERS ties for third in the AFC with 23 touchdown passes this season and has thrown for at least 25 touchdowns in 10 consecutive seasons.

Rivers, who faces Arizona on Sunday, needs two touchdown passes to tie DREW BREES (11 consecutive seasons) for the second-longest streak of seasons with at least 25 touchdown passes in league annals.

NORTH STAR: Green Bay quarterback AARON RODGERS has thrown 26 touchdowns against zero interceptions for a 115.6 passer rating in his past 10 games against the NFC North.

Rodgers, who plays at Minnesota on Sunday Night Football, needs three touchdown passes without an interception to have the most consecutive touchdowns without an interception by a player against any division since 2002.

The players with the most consecutive touchdowns without an interception against any division since 2002:

TOUCHDOWN BROWN: Pittsburgh wide receiver ANTONIO BROWN ties for the league-lead with 11 touchdown receptions in 2018 and has recorded at least one touchdown catch in eight consecutive games.

With a touchdown reception on Sunday at Denver, Brown would tie Pro Football Hall of Famer LANCE ALWORTH (nine consecutive games in 1963) and A.J. GREEN (nine consecutive games in 2012) for the third-longest streak of games with a touchdown catch within a single season in NFL history.

THREE FOR THOMAS: New Orleans wide receiver MICHAEL THOMAS ranks second in the NFL in receptions (82) and third in receiving yards (1,042) this season. Thomas has 278 catches for 3,424 yards and 22 touchdowns in 41 games during his three-year NFL career.

Thomas can continue the record-setting beginning to his NFL career on Thanksgiving against Atlanta:

With 58 receiving yards, Thomas would join ODELL BECKHAM, JR. (2014-16) and Pro Football Hall of Famer RANDY MOSS (1998-2000) as the only players in league history to record at least 1,100 receiving yards in each of their first three seasons.

With eight receptions, Thomas would join ODELL BECKHAM, JR. (2014-16) as the only players in league annals to record at least 90 catches in each of their first three seasons.

With 11 catches, Thomas would surpass ODELL BECKHAM, JR. (288 receptions) and JARVIS LANDRY (288) for the most receptions by a player in his first three seasons in NFL history.

MAGIC MIKE: Tampa Bay wide receiver MIKE EVANS leads the Buccaneers with 957 receiving yards this season.

Evans, who plays against San Francisco on Sunday, can join Pro Football Hall of Famer RANDY MOSS (six consecutive seasons) and A.J. GREEN (five consecutive seasons) as the only players in NFL history with at least 1,000 receiving yards in each of their first five seasons.