The Football 101 textbook reads that in order to combat a prolific quarterback and offense like Drew Brees and the Saints, the game plan is to control the ball by sustaining long drives.
But neither Dallas coach Jason Garrett nor running back Ezekiel Elliott nor quarterback Dak Prescott could be drawn into saying that is what Dallas wants to do against New Orleans on Thursday.
Perhaps that’s because the Saints have the NFL’s best rushing defense to this point. And, on the flip side, New Orleans ranks 30th in pass defense. Those rankings could be skewed by the type of pass-heavy games the Saints inflict on opponents on a regular basis.
“They have been in situations where teams have been throwing it because they’ve been ahead,” Garrett said on Tuesday. “But that shouldn’t diminish how good they are against the run.”
That suggest that Dallas needs to complete passes and gain chunk yardage to have a chance on Thursday night. If that happens, Elliott obviously has a better chance of finding running room.
Defensively, the Cowboys appear to be getting healthier along the defensive line. That will be important as they’ll need to send wave after wave of pass rushers to pressure Brees. Dallas has given up its share of long TD passes, so it can’t afford to give Brees too much time in the pocket. It’s also doubtful that the type of blitzes Dallas used against Washington last week will be effective again versus the savvy veteran Saints QB.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys linebackers have to be wary of Saints running back Alvin Kamara, who has more than 1,200 combined rushing and receiving yards this season.
It’s a big challenge and Dallas defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli knows it.
“Our hands are full,” Marinelli said, “but we’re looking forward to it.”