You’ve probably heard by now the New Orleans Saints set an NFL record with 40 first downs in their 49-17 romp over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. That stat tells the whole story — the Saints dominated the Cowboys in almost every aspect of the game, which added insult to all the injuries suffered by Dallas in the loss. So with their bye week looming, the Cowboys need to forget about what happened in the Big Easy in Week 10 and focus on how to overcome Sean Lee’s injury.
The Cowboys’ star linebacker left the game in the second quarter with what initially looked like a left ankle sprain as he rolled over the foot awkwardly while making a tackle. He immediately got up hobbling, unable to put any pressure on the heel of his foot and before he even headed to the locker room, the team declared him out for the rest of the game.
After an exam by the team doctor, Lee was diagnosed with a hamstring injury, which is just as bad — if not worse — than an ankle sprain and initial reports are that he’ll miss a month. The fact the Cowboys have a bye in Week 11 is now more important than ever.
At 5-5, the Cowboys are tied with the Philadelphia Eagles for first place in the lowly NFC East with six games to go. The good news for Dallas is all of those contests are very winnable, but something will have to be done about the Cowboys’ terrible defense for the team to win any of them.
In 2012, the Cowboys’ defense floundered after Lee underwent season-ending toe surgery and despite the fact it was playing against one of the best offenses in the league, the unit looked incredibly flat after he left the game in New Orleans on Sunday night.
Fortunately for Cowboys fans, Jason Garrett and Bill Callahan figured out how to run the ball effectively in the loss, which will help tremendously in the absence of Lee if they stick to it. DeMarco Murray ran all over the Saints’ defense and he’s got a lot of favorable matchups against poor run defenses for the remainder of the season.
No one remembers, but the Cowboys took a 10-7 lead over the Saints in the first quarter with an eight-play, 72-yard drive that ate up over four minutes of clock and saw six runs by Murray for 67 yards. That drive kept Drew Brees and company off the field and put points on the board; that is the kind of drive that can make the Cowboys a Super Bowl contender if they will utilize it more often.
More importantly for the next month, the Cowboys need to lean on Murray to keep their defense off the field, which is the only way they can beat teams like the New York Giants and Chicago Bears, whom they’ll likely have to face without Lee. Contrary to popular belief, the Cowboys’ fate now rests in the hands of their coaching staff, not Tony Romo.