The Dallas Cowboys’ upcoming Sunday Night Football game against the New Orleans Saints is shaping up to be a shootout. Have you heard that a dozen times already this week? It’s true, but not in the sense that these are just two pass-happy offenses facing off in primetime. The Cowboys’ offensive play-calling will make sure this game goes the Saints’ way and considering Sean Payton has Dallas’ number (in more ways than one), this will easily turn into just another New Orleans party.
In the Cowboys’ Week 9 win over the lowly Minnesota Vikings, Romo dropped back to pass 55 times while handing off to a running back only eight times. That is statistically the worst single-game balance shown by the Cowboys’ offense in franchise history — and they didn’t even need to pass in that game.
That win over the Vikings was the Cowboys’ 10th during the Romo era in games in which the polarizing signal-caller threw 40 or more passes; Dallas is 10-16 overall in such contests. On the flip side, the Cowboys are 10-0 in games that saw DeMarco Murray carry the ball at least 20 times; he had four carries against Minnesota, including a 27-yard scamper in the first quarter.
But despite those incredibly simple numbers that constitute an incredibly simple formula, Dallas’ coaching staff insists on passing the ball like it’s going out of style. Ask them why and they’ll point to games like the Cowboys’ 51-48 loss to the Denver Broncos in Week 5 — the fourth-highest scoring game in NFL history. They’ll point out the fact Romo threw for 506 yards and five touchdowns in that game to keep pace with Peyton Manning, but they’ll purposely leave out the fact Romo only threw 36 passes in that contest.
So when the Cowboys take on the Saints in Week 10, expect a very similar outing, even though New Orleans’ pass defense ranks fifth in the NFL while giving up 211.9 yards per game through the air and its run defense is a friendly 25th (121.2 yards per game). When looking at those stats — and the ones that suggest the Saints win when Drew Brees has the ball in his hands a lot — one would think the Cowboys would try hard to establish the running game to control the clock and throw the Saints off their game.
Ha. Yeah, right.
Once this game gets underway, the Cowboys’ coaches will see Brees flinging the ball all over the field against their 31st-ranked secondary and they’ll lose all control of their itchy trigger fingers. Put simply, it will be all downhill from there.
So instead of talk about how the Cowboys must establish balance against an unbalanced team like the Saints (so simple), members of the Dallas faithful just need to bite the bullet and accept the fact the Cowboys will live and (mostly) die on the right arm of Romo, especially in games like this one.
Hey, as long as Romo and the Cowboys are “relevant,” Jerry Jones doesn’t care. Welcome to life as a fan of America’s Team.