NEW ORLEANS - DECEMBER 19: Linebacker DeMarcus Ware #94 of the Dallas Cowboys sits in the bench during their game against the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome on December 19, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
DeMarcus Ware was listed as questionable leading into tonight's game between the Dallas Cowboys and the unbeaten New Orleans Saints at the Superdome, the result of a scary neck injury suffered in last week's loss to San Diego. It was another dark harbinger, it was thought, for a hopeless game for the sliding Cowboys.
Well, Ware played, had two sacks and two forced fumbles, one to seal an unlikely win for the Cowboys on Saturday night.
Dallas came out firing, silencing the crowd in New Orleans with 14 points and two consecutive three-and-outs on defense to begin the game.
On the Cowboys' opening drive, the offense needed only five plays, the last of which saw Tony Romo hit Miles Austin for a 49-yard touchdown pass. Romo would finish 22 of 34 for 312 yards a touchdown and no interceptions. Austin had a (ahem) quiet seven catches for 139 yards and the score.
After a second New Orleans three-and-out courtesy of the defense, Dallas took over at their own 40-yard-line. Eight plays later, Marion Barber trotted in for a touchdown, and an almost-unbelievable 14-point Dallas lead.
Nick Folk and Garrett Hartley each added a field goal in the second quarter, to put the score at 17-3 at half.
The Dallas defense bent on the night but never broke. The unit provided timely turnovers throughout the contest, the second quarter being a prime example. Mike Jenkins intercepted Drew Brees at the 4-yard-line with about a minute and a half remaining in the first half. On New Orleans' next possession, Ware sacked Brees, forcing a fumble and setting up the eventual Folk field goal.
The Cowboys came out hot again in the second half, driving 74 yards and taking seven minutes off the clock. The drive was capped with Barber's second touchdown on the night, a two-yard run. They would need it.
When the fourth quarter began, the Saints as we've known them came alive. Mike Bell capped a three-minute, nine-play drive with a touchdown run to open the final frame. After a Dallas three-and-out, New Orleans took over and summarily marched down the field on Dallas. On the eighth play of the drive, Brees hit Lance Moore on a screen for a touchdown, to close the lead to seven, at 24-17.
Nick Folk, as you might have heard, has been struggling.
With nine misses before the beginning of the game, Folk was statistically the worst kicker in the league. The struggles continued on Saturday. Romo led Dallas 74 yards down the field on the ensuing drive to set up a probably game-clinching, definitely momentum-shifting chip shot of 24 yards. Folk hit the right upright, missing his tenth field goal of the season, to keep the lead at seven.
Momentum remained in the Saints' favor, and the Superdome erupted.
Fortunately for the Cowboys (and Folk), the defense once again stepped up. New Orleans reached the Cowboys' 42-yard-line with the game clock waning. Ware's second sack and second forced fumble on the day, however--on second-and-ten, with six seconds on the clock--sealed the victory for Dallas, 24-17.
With the win, Dallas moves to 9-5 and remains in control of a wild card spot.