Ware’s Unlikely Return Leads To Stunning Win Over Unbeaten Saints
Concerning atmospheric intensity, the Louisiana Superdome was at an all-time high on the night of December 19, 2009. The 13-0 New Orleans Saints were back in their own backyard and those hated Dallas Cowboys were there to meet them in a primetime showdown on NFL Network. It was loud. It was proud. And it was sure to intimidate the Boys from Big D.
The Saints were striving for perfection, while the Cowboys were clinging to their playoff lives, and stepping into what appeared to be a no-win situation. Losers of two straight, Dallas was an 8-5 football team that had prognosticators forecasting another December collapse.
But instead of folding as anticipated, the Cowboys came out firing on all cylinders while playing their best game of the year, defeating New Orleans 24-17 in a game that was hardly as close as the final score indicates. It was Dallas’ first win in the Superdome since the 1994 season.
Tony Romo’s 49-yard first quarter touchdown pass to Miles Austin got the evening started on the right note for the Cowboys, and a rejuvenated Dallas defense took it from there. Sparked by the unlikely return of All-Pro outside linebacker Demarcus Ware, who only six days earlier had suffered a neck injury against San Diego, the Cowboys’ defensive front unleashed an overwhelming pass-rush that made New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees look every bit the part of a pedestrian signal-caller.
When he wasn’t being thrown to the ground, Brees was being forced into making many a hurried and frantic decision. Dallas cornerback Mike Jenkins finally made Brees pay, intercepting a woefully under-thrown pass along the left sideline in the first half.
The good times continued to roll for Dallas, as running back Marion Barber III scored from 3 yards out to give the Cowboys a surprising two-touchdown advantage after the first quarter.
Late in the half, New Orleans tried to cut into what was then a 14-3 Dallas advantage, but that’s when Ware put his first big imprint on the outcome of the game, sacking Brees from behind and jarring the ball loose. Anthony Spencer’s recovery at the Saints 24-yard line led to a Nick Novak field goal and a 17-3 halftime lead for the Cowboys.
After the break, Dallas wasted no time in extending their advantage. After completing passes to four different receivers to get inside the opponent’s ten-yard line, Romo then handed off to Barber and watched his tailback snamper into the end zone around the left end from 2 yards away.
New Orleans scored twice in a five-minute span in the fourth quarter, leaving Romo and the Dallas offense with one goal, that being to eat up the few minutes remaining on the clock. After completions of 32 and 23 yards to Austin and tight end John Phillips, the Cowboys appeared content to settle for a field goal and a ten-point cushion, rather than stay aggressive and possibly eat up the remaining time.
But Nick Folk bounced the 24-yard trey off the right upright, much to the delight of the Saints faithful. It was the sixth consecutive game in which Folk had missed a field goal, and proved to be his final kick in a Cowboy uniform.
With one last chance, Brees moved the Saints offense past midfield and, with twelve ticks showing on the game-clock, was preparing to throw a couple of bullets into the end zone. Brees never got another pass off, as Ware stormed around the edge and forced the Saints quarterback into yet another fumble. Jay Ratliff’s prompt recovery sealed the win for Dallas.