Saints hand Cowboys first loss of season in defensive slugfest

Saints hand Cowboys first loss of season in defensive slugfest
Saints safety Vonn Bell celebrates with teammates after a fumble recovery in New Orleans 12-10 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. (Source: WLOX Sports; NBC Sunday Night Football)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WLOX) - It wasn’t pretty, but neither was last year’s game in Dallas. Despite not being able to finish in the red zone, the Saints held a hot Cowboys team in check for a gritty 12-10 victory in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

“There’s an old saying it doesn’t have to be aesthetically pleasing to be effective," Saints head coach Sean Payton told WLOX. "I think we did what we needed to do to win tonight, but we’re going to have to improve in a number of areas.”

Heading into Sunday, Dallas had the third best rushing attack in the NFL while averaging 32 points per game. The black and gold put on a clinic defensively, containing Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott to just 35 yards on the ground and a touchdown while neutralizing wide receiver Amari Cooper to 48 receiving yards.

“We knew that was the driving force of their offense and I think we did just that. I think we got Dak off the spot a couple of times, we came up with a big sack in the late one," Saints defensive end Cam Jordan said to WLOX. "I thought I had a sack strip fumble. Somebody review the tape, I’m sure it’ll probably be there. When it comes down to it, we’ve got to create pressure where we can. We’ve got to come up big and we did just that in the fourth quarter.”

New Orleans offense never got into a rhythm, partly because of their own doing. The Saints committed nine penalties for 80 yards and that’s an area Sean Payton says they need to fix.

“I don’t know who you put in there, it’s going to be hard to overcome some of those penalties," Payton said. "Those have to get cleaned up and they’re going to get cleaned up, I promise you. It’s been too difficult to overcome.”

What they lacked on the score board, New Orleans made up for with the clock. The Saints won the time of possession battle, keeping the football for over 36 minutes including a 9-minute drive in the second half. The drive ended in one of the Will Lutz’s four field goals, but it was enough to make Teddy Bridgewater 2-0 as Drew Bree’s replacement.

“In this league we know how hard it is to win football games. No one said it was gonna be pretty the only state that matters is the wind keep stacking up," Saints backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater told WLOX. "We’re going to get back to work tomorrow watch the tape find some things we have to improve on and continue to do the things we did right.”

The Saints now lead the NFC South at 3-1. Looking ahead, New Orleans will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2) for their first divisional test of the season.