Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Five things to watch: Saints at Cowboys
By Matt Mosley
This should be an intriguing matchup between the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints (7-3) and the resurgent Dallas Cowboys (3-7).
Here are five things to watch from the Cowboys:
1. What will defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni do to neutralize the Saints' speed on offense? Pasqualoni has played a lot more zone coverage since Wade Phillips was sent packing three weeks ago and it has paid off immediately. The Cowboys are getting more takeaways and quarterbacks appear to be more confused. With an elite passer such as Drew Brees, the Cowboys have to do things to disrupt his rhythm. That's what they did when Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware got to him several times in last December's upset in New Orleans. The Saints are getting Reggie Bush back for this game, so the Cowboys have to do a good job on the screen passes. I like how cornerback Orlando Scandrick has played against screens and shorts crossing patterns lately.
2. Sean Payton has payback in mind. Jerry Jones and Payton have engaged in a prank war over the last year. They're good friends, but they also love beating each other. No matter how poorly the Cowboys have played this season, Payton always had this game circled. He remembers coming into Texas Stadium and humiliating Bill Parcells' Cowboys in his first season with New Orleans and he'll be looking to do the same to his old pal Jason Garrett.
3. I think Garrett could go a long way in securing the head-coaching role for good with a win: We know that Jones wants this to happen, so Garrett can make a huge statement Thursday. Jones loves the changes he's made with this team and I'm sure he's regretting that he didn't make the change earlier. If the Cowboys win this game, I truly think Garrett will lose the interim tag. I know that can't happen per NFL rules because of the Rooney Rule, but I think it would happen behind closed doors.
4. Dez Bryant will test the Saints cornerbacks in a big way. You've heard quarterback Jon Kitna say it. Dez Bryant is a "violent" receiver. Kitna already has so much faith in the rookie that he'll throw into tight coverage. With all of the nation tuning in, I could see Bryant doing something special. But Kitna can't afford to stare anyone down. Tracy Porter will be sitting on every route. That's why some double moves could help. Cowboys running back Felix Jones could be limited in this game, so that will put even more pressure on Kitna and the passing game. But perhaps a miracle will occur on this Thanksgiving and Tashard Choice will get more than five carries.
5. Cowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins will be tested in a big way in this game. I don't think Payton respects what Jenkins has done this season and he'll try to get Marques Colston in one-on-one matchups with him. And Lance Moore actually leads the Saints with five touchdowns this season. Five receivers with 23 or more catches for the Saints have averaged more than 10 yards per reception this season. That's a pretty impressive total.