Saints-Cowboys Preview

September 24, 2014

The timing could be better for the Dallas Cowboys to be dealing with a disciplinary issue with their secondary since Drew Brees is coming to town.

The New Orleans Saints star is 3-0 in road games against the Cowboys and turned in a flawless four-touchdown performance versus them last season heading into this matchup Sunday night.

Dallas (2-1) welcomed back Orlando Scandrick in last Sunday's 34-31 win at St. Louis after the cornerback's four-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy was cut in half. Scandrick and Morris Claiborne played a similar number of snaps against the Rams.

Claiborne started the first three games but walked out on the Cowboys on Tuesday when told that Scandrick would take his place against New Orleans (1-2). He was back at practice Wednesday and will play against the Saints.


The former top-10 pick was beaten for several big plays before making the clinching interception. Coach Jason Garrett said the team would discipline him, but didn't specify how.

"We informed Mo yesterday that his role was gonna change, and he didn't take that news very well by his own admission," Garrett said. "And he left the building and didn't participate in the meetings and our short walkthrough that we have on Tuesdays.

"He did come back to the building last night. He and I visited, and he was here early this morning and has been going through everything."

Claiborne said he apologized to his teammates.

"My apology went to nobody but those guys, but those guys that are in the locker room with me and it doesn't go outside the locker room," he said. "Because I let those guys down by leaving yesterday, I could have been here getting some work but they understand what went on as well and it is what it is."

It's not hard to believe that Garrett didn't decide to suspend Claiborne since Brees is off to another strong start with the league's second-best completion percentage at 70.9 and the fifth-most passing yards with 863.

Brees has thrown for 14 touchdowns and two interceptions while going 4-1 against the Cowboys with the Saints, with at least 352 yards in three consecutive wins. He threw for 392 yards last year at home, completing 34 of 41 passes in a 49-17 rout.

Brees was sharp last Sunday, completing his first nine passes for 108 yards while engineering touchdown drives on the Saints' first two possessions in a 20-9 win over Minnesota in their home opener. He finished 27 of 35 for 293 yards.

"I thought our tempo was good, balance was good, and I thought we were running it pretty well," coach Sean Payton said.

The Saints have a new weapon for Brees in rookie Brandin Cooks, who has 18 catches for 168 yards to lead all New Orleans receivers. Tight end Jimmy Graham leads the team with 24 receptions for 254 yards and two scores, though he has yet to find the end zone in three games against Dallas.

New Orleans has lost five straight regular-season road games but has taken its last four on the road in this series with wins by 30-27 in 2010 and 34-31 two years later in its first two games at AT&T Stadium.

Dallas seeks its third win in a row and first at home after rallying from a 21-point deficit last weekend. Tony Romo threw two second-half touchdowns after his lone interception was returned for a score in the first half.

"We had some clutch performances on both sides of the ball," owner Jerry Jones said. "I was pleased to see, you had redeeming plays, you had guys who had negative plays and all of a sudden, you have got guys that are making the plays that make the difference."

NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray gained 100 yards to take his season total to 385. He has one touchdown and one lost fumble in every game.

Romo sat out Wednesday's practice due to his ongoing back issues, though he will be on the field Sunday. He was badly outplayed by Brees in last season's matchup, completing 10 of 24 passes for 128 yards.

The Saints rushed for a season-high 242 yards in that contest. They are sixth in the NFL at 140.3 per game this year, with Mark Ingram scoring three TDs.

New Orleans rushed for a season-low 108 yards against the Vikings, though Payton liked its season-best 32 attempts.

''I was happy we were able to finish the game running the football (and then) taking a knee, because that's often times challenging in our league,'' Payton said.