To say that we expected a well-played game between two teams in the Saints and Cowboys who had combined for 13 consecutive wins heading into Thursday night would be an understatement.
While we did see a ton of drama unfold in Big D, the game itself was not well played. Dallas fumbled the ball three times — losing two in the process. Drew Brees struggled to do anything of substance against a swarming Cowboys defense. That included pretty much a game-ending interception late in the final stanza.
In the end, Dallas came out on top by the score of 13-10 in a huge win for Jason Garrett’s squad. Here are our winners and losers from ‘Thursday Night Football’ in Week 13.
Winner: Byron Jones continues breakout season
Jones didn’t necessarily shadow Michael Thomas during Thursday night’s win over the Saints. But he played a large role on the star receiver catching just five of eight targets for 40 yards. It’s in this that the Cowboys were able to do something no team has done this season — stop Thomas from going off. After all, the third-year receiver entered this week’s action having caught 89 percent of his targets on the season.
For fans in Dallas, Jones’ performance is not surprising. He’s been among the best cornerbacks in the NFL this season. Opposing quarterbacks posted a 67.4 passer rating when targeting him through 12 weeks. Drew Brees found out firsthand in Big D just how good this former first-round pick is.
Loser: Randy Gregory costs Cowboys big time
Gregory had played well in the first half of Thursday’s game, recording a quarterback hit and getting into the Saints’ backfield multiple times. Unfortunately, it was one dumb mistake late in the third quarter that cost Dallas big time.
With his Cowboys up 13-3 and the Saints set to punt, Gregory was called for a roughing-the-punter penalty. It was as obvious as they come. And three plays later, the Saints connected on a 30-yard touchdown to pull the game to within 13-10. Earlier in the quarter, Gregory was also called for a 15-yard facemask penalty. These are the types of mistakes that will get you jettisoned from a roster.
Winner: Demarcus Lawrence comes up huge
With New Orleans down 10-0 in the second quarter and deciding to go for it on 4th-and-goal from the Cowboys’ one, this All-Pro performer more than earned his bucks. Known more as a pass-rusher, Lawrence stuffed stud Saints running back Alvin Kamara before the goal line — ending the New Orleans possession without a point being scored. Dallas would go on to drive nearly the length of the field to take a 13-0 lead into the half.
Taking on a quarterback in Drew Brees who has been sacked only 10 times this season, Lawrence didn’t make a huge impact from a pass-rush perspective. But he saved seven points in stuffing Kamara. That’s no small accomplishment.
Loser: Drew Brees not sharp for first time all season
By: Vincent Frank