Going nowhere: Only three times in their first 10 games have the Cowboys converted on at least 40 percent of their third-down opportunities. They were 0-for-9 against the Saints. Tony Romo missed on all six of his third-down passes, continuing a poor season-long trend for the quarterback. Romo was the 30th-ranked quarterback in third-down passer rating before Sunday, ranking ahead of only Matt Schaub and Brandon Weeden. Winning on third down is a must, and the Cowboys don't win nearly enough.
"Typically you have to get yourself in favorable third-down situations," coach Jason Garrett said. "I believe you have to make first downs on first down and drive the football and stay out of some of those third-down situations. But when the time comes you've got to convert and you've got to make some plays, and we've just got to do a better job. We'll evaluate what we're doing and see if we can put our players in better positions to do that."
Dallas gave up three scores on the ground and 242 rushing yards to the Saints.
Pounded on the ground: The Saints ran for 282 yards against the Cowboys. Mark Ingram had 145 yards. Pierre Thomas had 87 yards. It was the second time this season the Cowboys gave up 200-plus rushing yards. Washington had 216 yards on Oct. 13 but lost. The Cowboys have given up at least 84 yards on the ground in six of their last seven games. The Cowboys had eight players in the box Sunday, dropping a safety, but the line was of no help with the running backs often not getting touched as they broke through to the second level. That's where they missed Sean Lee, but the tackling was atrocious.
"It's not good when they can just line up and run it right at you," defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said.
Slowing down:Terrance Williams was able to catch a 21-yard touchdown pass from Romo, but it was his only catch of the game on five targets.
In the last three games, Williams has caught just five of the last 22 passes thrown his way. Not all targets are created equal and viewing them purely in a batting average fashion can be dangerous, but Williams has to be more efficient. If teams are going to do whatever they can to take away Dez Bryant, then Williams has to win more. If he wins, then Bryant cannot be doubled as easily as he has been doubled. A healthy return of Miles Austin would also help the offense and Williams.
What's the deal? Maybe the Cowboys don't lead the league in hamstring injuries, but they must be close. Lee was forced from Sunday's game in the first half. Justin Durant was forced out in the second half. Claiborne did not play against the Saints because of a hamstring injury. Austin missed his fifth game in the last seven weeks because of a hamstring injury.
Garrett is confounded by the issue that has cropped up and has said the Cowboys examine all of their stretching issues before and after practices as well as before games.
"I think they're fairly common around the league," Garrett said, "but we've certainly had our share of them."