One of these teams was going to fix itself.
The New Orleans Saints came into their Thursday night home game against Dallas having lost four straight. The Cowboys could not pretend they’ve been much better, having lost three of their past four games.
Lose again here, and the Cowboys would be forced by reality to quit talking about flukes and bad luck as Super Bowl dreams.
Dallas 27, New Orleans 17 at the Superdome puts a lid on “woe is us” vibes for the Cowboys.
And yes, it probably once again pops a Mardi Gras cork on Super Bowl talk as well.
Said Dallas sensation Micah Parsons: “The Super Bowl, playoffs, you got five games left. There’s stuff to be done ... I don’t think it’s time for me to sit on my couch, smiling, eating Cheetos. I’m trying to do something way bigger than anybody thought we could do this year.”
For now, Dallas jumps to 8-4 with a win that keeps the rest of the NFC East at arm’s length, while doing the same for the Cowboys’ pursuit of NFC leaders.
And speaking of “arms”? Dallas QB Dak Prescott didn’t have his coach, as Mike McCarthy (COVID) was replaced by defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. But Prescott did have his weaponry, with receivers Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb back in action, joining toe-tapping Michael Gallup, and with running back Ezekiel Elliott fighting through a bum knee.
And yet, offense was a struggle. Zeke got nowhere, and not until Tony Pollard exploded for a second-half 58-yard TD burst did Dallas do anything on the ground.
Before the game, the absent McCarthy theorized on his team’s reaction to adversity.
“I think with all the change going around us,” he said, “it is making our team focus tighter.”
And indeed, with a handful of players out with COVID and two handfuls of coaches dealing with the same, there were challenges in change.
Amid it all? “I didn’t want to let him down,'' said Quinn of McCarthy, adding, "“I’m glad to give the keys back to Mike.''
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Might Quinn not have wanted another job? It doesn’t matter now. He is “where his feet are,” and he is also where Jerry Jones’ wallet is.
Cowboys Star Micah Parsons Gets His Dan Quinn Wish: Coach Staying
Parsons: “Q, brother, I hope you stay if you see this, man. I hope we get another shot at this. If you go, I’m going to miss you, brother, and I wish you nothing but success.”
Good for Quinn. But owner Jerry Jones is in the mood for some funnin'.
“With the win,'' Jones said, "I told him he’s right there with Tom Landry. He now can say he’s head coached the Cowboys.”
But seriously, there was also positive change, for along with Cooper (COVID) and Lamb (concussion) back to help the offense, DeMarcus Lawrence was back after Week 2 foot surgery.
Up until recently, two-time Pro Bowler Lawrence was this team’s best defensive player. As he’s rehabbed, he’s watched two kids, second-year corner Trevon Diggs and rookie linebacker Micah Parsons, mature to stardom.
They all did it under the national-TV lights here, victimizing Saints coach Sean Payton’s grab-bag QB Taysom Hill, leading an offense robbed of injured studs Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas. ... and robbing New Orleans in another way, with an astounding four interceptions, including D-lineman Carlos Watkins' late-game-sealing pick-six.
"When the ball was in the air,'' said defensive difference-maker Micah Parsons, "our guys went up and got it.''
“They played their asses off,'' Dak said of his defensive mates. "Credit this win to them.”
So now the Saints are 5-7 with five straight loses, and the Cowboys get a 10-day break before playing at Washington in Week 14, a chance to all but end the NFC East race.
“The cavalry,” as Cowboys owner Jerry Jones termed his team’s rehabbing players, is back.
And so are Super Bowl aspirations.
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