Cowboys 27, Saints 17: My Top 10 Whitty Observations, with a bonus courtesy of the man who wasn't there ...
“Obviously just saying he’s proud, and to make sure I let the guys know that,'' said Dak Prescott of the text message he received from absent coach Mike McCarthy, with Dak then adding his response back, "I just told him we missed him. Got it done.''
10. OUT OF A CANNON; OUT OF THE BLUE - The Cowboys' running game was abysmal and stagnant, barely with a pulse late in the third quarter. Ezekiel Elliott had 14 yards on seven carries; Tony Pollard six on four. Then, with no warning and without a hint, Pollard took a toss and zoomed down the left sideline 58 yards for the game's key touchdown, the one that finally gave Dallas some breathing room at 20-10.
More proof of what an outlier the play was: It was the longest run by a Cowboys' running back since Alfred Morris in 2017 and the longest against the Saints this season. One good play, however, doesn't fix a bad running game. Once upon a time this season we were predicting how Elliott and Pollard would become the franchise's first duo to produce 1,000 yards in the same season. But these days - behind a once-revered offensive line - just gaining positive yards has become a challenge.
9. TEXAS HEXES - Conflicted week if you're a fan of both the DFW professional teams and the Longhorns. On Monday it was former University of Texas basketball star Jarrett Allen bludgeoning the Mavericks for 28 points and 14 rebounds in a Cleveland win at American Airlines Center. Thursday night it was ex-Burnt Orange receiver Jordan Humphrey that scored New Orleans' first touchdown on a 24-yard catch-and-run and finished with two catches for 49 yards.
Consider the Metroplex properly "Hooked".
8. WHAT CAN BROWN DO FOR YOU? - These days, um, nothing other than commit penalties and cough up big plays. What started in the season opener when he was repeatedly burned by Buccaneers' receiver Antonio Brown is back with hearty gusto for beleaguered Cowboys' cornerback Anthony Brown.
A week after getting flagged for an unfathomable four third-down pass-interference penalties on Thanksgiving, Brown was at it again against the Saints. After Dallas took a 7-0 lead, Brown got tangled up at the line of scrimmage in man-to-man coverage and allowed the walk-in touchdown to Humphrey. Teams have astutely learned to pick on Brown and leave Trevon Diggs be.
7. THIRSTY THURSDAY - Cowboys broke a five-game, mid-week losing streak that included three losses on Thanksgiving. They won a Thursday for the first time since beating the Saints in December 2018.
6. CONTROVERSIAL CAP - The proud franchise that for 29 years was coached by a man in a snappy fedora on Thursday was led by a stand-in coach who sported a backward baseball cap.
Then again, Dan Quinn never claimed to be the next Tom Landry.
Fashion faux pas notwithstanding, Quinn is now the only undefeated head coach in the history of America's Team after his defense produced four interceptions.
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“I didn’t want to let him down,'' said Quinn of McCarthy, adding, "“I’m glad to give the keys back to Mike.''
5. DREADFUL DAK - Whether it's a lingering effect from the mid-season calf injury or simply a slump, Cowboys' quarterback Dak Prescott is not nearly as sharp as early this season. A little high here. A little behind there. And a lot late in a couple of deliveries.
He threw for only 238 yards, his accuracy was way off and he seemed reluctant to run out of the pocket.
So, what won the game?
“They played their asses off,'' Dak said of his defensive mates. "Credit this win to them.”
4. TRIPLETS 2.0 - The Cowboys' offense was stuck in a first-half quagmire ... until their three receiving stars each made plays to fuel a gorgeous scoring drive. Amari Cooper jolted Dallas out of its slumber with a 41-yard grab on third-and-7. CeeDee Lamb then took a quick backhand-off and swerved 33 yards to New Orleans' 1-yard line, from where Michael Gallup took a perfect pass from Dak Prescott and toe-tapped his way to a touchdown in the back corner of the end zone.
Three highlight-film plays in five snaps by Dallas' receiving corps.
3. PICKIN' IT - With the Cowboys' offense sputtering, it was up to Dallas' defense - fittingly, with Quinn serving as coach - to win this one. And boy did it, to the tune of three fourth-quarter interceptions and four overall, highlighted by defensive lineman Carlos Watkins' 29-yard Pick-Six with three minutes remaining.
Trevon Diggs added his league-leading ninth of the season with a leaping grab of a Taysom Hill floater late in the game.
2. MIGHTY MICAH - With Hill slicing up Dallas' defense on gritty run after run, NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate Micah Parsons had finally had enough. Nursing a 10-point lead, Parsons shot off the edge and sacked Hill for a 13-yard loss that pushed the Saints out of field-goal range.
If the league had any lingering doubts about Parsons, he quashed every single one of them on the Thursday night's national stage.
1. JUST QUINN, BABY - A win is a win is a win is a win. And after losing three of four and suddenly seeing the Eagles and Washington in their divisional rearview mirror, the Cowboys desperately needed any form of W in New Orleans. But, let's face it, for the majority of Thursday night they struggled mightily against a team missing its two starting offensive tackles, star running Alvin Kamara and playing a third-string quarterback with a metal splint on his throwing hand. If not for a missed field goal by former Cowboy Brett Maher and a nifty, diving interception by Jayron Kearse inside Dallas' 10-yard line this would have been even more of an uncomfortable game. This was nothing close to the Big Easy.