Cowboys lead Saints 24-3 after 3 quarters

BY foxsports • December 22, 2009

The Dallas Cowboys were one quarter away from ending their recent history of December swoons and New Orleans' pursuit of perfection, taking a 24-3 lead on the Saints into the fourth quarter on Saturday.

Marion Barber capped an 8-minute, 13-play drive at the start of the third quarter with a 2-yard touchdown run, his second score of the game, and the Cowboys continued to hold the NFL's No. 1 offense out of the end zone.

Dallas faced a third-and-5 at the beginning of its first second-half possession, but Tony Romo scrambled and found Miles Austin for a 13-yard gain. Third-string wide receiver Kevin Ogletree dragged his feet along the sideline to haul in a 17-yard catch three plays later, and the Saints offered little resistance the rest of the way.

New Orleans had a chance to cut into the deficit after Courtney Roby's 67-yard kickoff return, but Devery Henderson dropped a long pass in the end zone. Anthony Spencer then raced in untouched and sacked Drew Brees to stop the drive.

Romo threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Miles Austin, and Barber scored from 3 yards as the Cowboys took a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Nick Folk added a 44-yard field goal three seconds before halftime.

Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who did not practice all week after suffering a neck sprain that sent him to the hospital six days earlier against the San Diego Chargers, forced a Brees fumble on a sack late in the first half, leading to Folk's field goal.

The Saints lost running back Reggie Bush to an apparent right leg injury in the second quarter. Bush caught a pass in the middle of the field, pulled up, hobbled to the sideline and headed straight to the bench. He did not return in the third quarter.

The Saints got on the board when Brees led a 12-play 75-yard drive, completing a 35-yard pass to Marques Colston to the Cowboys 17. The Saints stalled from there, setting up Garrett Hartley's 34-yard field goal that cut the lead to 14-3.

After holding the Saints to a three-and-out on the opening possession, the Cowboys struck first when Romo hit Austin deep down the sideline. Austin beat rookie cornerback Malcolm Jenkins on a stop and go pattern, and safety Roman Harper could not get over in time to prevent the touchdown.

With the catch, Austin went over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. He had 999 yards entering the game.

The Saints went three-and-out again, and Patrick Crayton returned a punt 28 yards to set up an eight-play, 60-yard touchdown drive. The big strike was a 26-yard Austin catch-and-run to the New Orleans 15. Tashard Choice converted a third down with a 4-yard run out of the wildcat formation before Barber dove across the goal line for a 3-yard score.

The Cowboys have lost their past two games and are 3-7 in December under coach Wade Phillips, but everything went right in the first three quarters.

Romo was 18 for 29 for 245 yards.

Brees was 15 for 15 for 160 yards.