2021 NFL season, Week 13: What we learned from Cowboys' win over Saints on Thursday night

Dallas Cowboys
2021 · 8-4-0
New Orleans Saints
2021 · 5-7-0

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  1. Give Micah Parsons the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award right now. With due respect to the Broncos’ Patrick Surtain, the Browns’ Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, and some other promising rookies, this isn’t even a race. Parsons can do it all -- pressure the quarterback, play the run, cover the flats, he’s up to the task whatever the ask. He can even blanket wide receivers downfield; it was Parsons who was all over wide receiver Kenny Stills on a first-half interception by Jayron Kearse. He also dropped Taysom Hill for a loss of 11 on a third-down sack, giving him 10 sacks on the year, and notched six tackles, five pressures, and two QB hits. The sky is the limit for this kid.
  2. CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper make the difference. There’s no underestimating the impact wide receivers Lamb and Cooper make for Dallas’ offense. Thursday night marked the first time both played a full game since a Week 10 blowout of the Atlanta Falcons. They combined for 163 total yards, most of it courtesy of Lamb, who had a long reception of 25 yards and broke a hitch pass for 33 that was ruled a rush as a lateral. Cooper caught just two passes, but one went for 41 yards and helped set up the Cowboys’ first touchdown, and he also drew a defensive pass interference call on Saints cornerback Paulson Adebo. Coming off the COVID-19 list, Cooper only played about a third of Dallas’ offensive snaps. The Lamb-Cooper duo is going to have to deliver for this team, especially if injuries continue to nag running back Ezekiel Elliott, and on Thursday they did so with aplomb.
  3. Taysom Hill’s toughness can’t go unmentioned. The Saints quarterback had a downright miserable game as a passer, throwing four interceptions, all after injuring a finger on his throwing hand in the first half. He’ll want to forget this one ASAP. That said, in the era of athletic quarterbacks wisely protecting themselves by sliding at the end of a run, the rushing show Hill put on was unicorn-level unusual. The rough-and-tumble quarterback left himself open to plenty of shots in the name of extra yardage, and while it might not have been advisable, the toughness demands appreciation. He ran for 101 yards on 11 carries, highlighted by a hurdle over Damontae Kazee in the middle of the field that he managed to finish without getting annihilated. He moved a lot of chains on the ground, and did it with a painful plantar fascia injury. His passing night flat-out stunk, but the guy has throwback guts and fortitude.
  4. Tony Pollard put the outcome to bed. The Cowboys running game was going absolutely nowhere until Pollard broke a 58-yard touchdown that opened a 20-10 lead. At the time, the clock showed more than a quarter remained -- plenty of time for a Saints comeback -- but the flow of the game said otherwise. Pollard’s burst around left end was the backbreaker. The Saints’ offense plodded along with as much help from Hill’s rushing exploits as anything else, and that wasn’t going to be enough to overcome a two-score deficit. Pollard finished with a seven-for-71 rushing night, but minus the breakaway, he and Elliott both found tough sledding, especially between the tackles.
  5. Albeit in a losing effort, the Saints showed up to play. Battered by injuries and unquestionably outmanned in this game, the Saints managed to grind their way to what should’ve been a tighter game against a better team. The primary factor driving a competitive night for New Orleans was a defense that tightened its belt on third and fourth down. The Saints held Dallas to a brutal 2-of-13 night on third down conversions, and also stuffed the Cowboys early in the game on their lone fourth-down attempt. It set up a busy night for Cowboys punter Bryan Anger, who launched seven punts to lead a solid special teams effort for Dallas, averaging 48.1 yards per punt with a long of 60 and two downed inside the Saints' 20-yard line. The New Orleans defense deserved better, to be sure, especially given Hill’s late flurry of turnovers.


Next Gen stat of the night: Cowboys QB Dak Prescott threw his 17th TD pass against this blitz this season, which leads the NFL.

NFL Research: Pollard’s 58-yard TD run in the second half was the Cowboys’ longest rush since Alfred Morris' 70-yard run against the Rams in 2017 (Week 4).


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