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Cowboys’ path to playoffs becomes clearer after stunning Saints – Dallas Cowboys Blog

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ARLINGTON, Texas — In 2009, the Dallas Cowboys went to the Superdome with their season on the line against the undefeated New Orleans Saints and left with a win that propelled them to an 11-5 finish and a wild-card playoff victory.

On Thursday, the Cowboys faced a Saints team that came to AT&T Stadium with a 10-game winning streak and was considered perhaps the best in the NFL. The Cowboys had some momentum of their own and pulled off a signature 13-10 win that gives them an 80.2 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

The Cowboys have won four straight — after a 3-5 start — for the first time since 2016 and when they return to action Dec. 9 against the Philadelphia Eagles, they know they will remain in first place in the NFC East — win or lose — with four games to play.

“The defense played beyond my expectations,” said owner and general manager Jerry Jones. “They played like a championship defense.”

It was not a pretty affair, but there were enough magical moments for Dallas — almost all from the defense. The Cowboys are now allowing 18.6 points per game, which is second-best in the NFL behind only the Ravens (18.0), according to ESPN Stats & Info.

“It was a collective effort,” Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith said. “The one thing about our defense, what makes us elite, is that we run to the ball like no other team. We put that on display.”

The offense was stifled for most of the night, and the defense sealed the win with a Jourdan Lewis interception with 2 minutes, 35 seconds to play. A pass interference penalty against the Saints allowed Dak Prescott to take a knee and kill the clock.

In their first 11 games, the Cowboys used their dime package sparingly, which cut back on Lewis’ snaps. He nearly had a pick on the first series of the game, but he did not let the ball get out of his grasp in the fourth quarter.

As Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli waxed poetic about the Saints’ offense all week — and with good reason — there was always a feeling that the Cowboys’ defense was ready for a breakout performance.

On the first series, Anthony Brown, Chidobe Awuzie and Lewis had pass breakups. In the first half, the defense kept the Saints out of the end zone, coming up with a stifling goal-line stand in the second quarter, stopping the Saints on four plays from their 7. On fourth-and-goal from the 1, DeMarcus Lawrence tracked down Alvin Kamara from behind and Tyrone Crawford set up a wall in front to change over the possession. Entering the game, the Saints converted 11 of 12 fourth-down opportunities.

Lawrence effectively ended the half with a sack of Saints quarterback Drew Brees, forcing a fumble that the quarterback recovered.

There were wobbly moments in the second half with the Saints scoring on their first two possessions. Randy Gregory had three penalties, including a roughing the punter penalty that allowed the Saints to keep their drive alive. Brees capitalized with his only touchdown pass of the game.

On the next possession, Gregory lined up in the neutral zone, wiping out a Crawford fumble recovery after a Lawrence sack.

While the defense in the past may have cracked, this defense stiffened. Anthony Brown sacked Brees for an 8-yard loss with a blitz off the edge. Leighton Vander Esch stoned Mark Ingram in the flat for a 1-yard gain. On third down, Jaylon Smith hammered Kamara short of the first down marker.

Vander Esch and Smith combined for 19 tackles.

As well as the defense played, they needed more magic after Prescott was sacked for the seventh time with Brees, the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards and second in touchdown passes, staring at them.

It didn’t take long for the Cowboys’ defense to end the threat with Lewis stepping underneath for his first interception of the season.

The Saints gained 176 yards, picked up just 14 first downs, converting three of 11 third-down chances.

The Cowboys’ defense, which was fourth in points allowed entering the game, stole the headlines and took a big step toward the postseason.

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Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys OL, missing first game ever

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For the first time in his career, Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowl right guard Zack Martin is inactive as he deals with a sprained MCL in his left knee.

Martin, an Indianapolis native, will be out for the Cowboys’ road game against the Indianapolis Colts in what will be his first missed game at any level — high school, at Notre Dame or in the NFL.

He will be replaced in the starting lineup by Connor Williams.

Martin suffered the knee injury last Sunday against the Eagles and doctors determined that he did not need surgery, but he does need rest to return later this season. Martin wanted to try to play, especially in Indianapolis, where he is from. But the Cowboys are taking the smart approach and now Martin will do something he never has before.

Martin played every game at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis, then every game at Notre Dame, then every game with the Cowboys. But when Martin hobbled off the field last Sunday, it meant that he would not get to play in his hometown.

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Fantasy football – NFL Week 15 inactive players for Sunday

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Chad Williams WR ARZ Hammy Q Trent Sherfield gets boost if he can’t go. Ito Smith RB ATL Knee Q Limited practice Friday. Still may play. Joe Flacco QB BAL Hip Q Should be able to backup Lamar Jackson. LeSean McCoy RB BUF Hammy Q Unlikely to play. Ivory is game-time call. Chris Ivory RB BUF Shldr Q Marcus Murphy/Keith Ford tandem? Stephen Hauschka K BUF Hip Q Should be active and kicking on Sunday. Allen Robinson WR CHI Hip Q Practiced fully Friday. Expected to play. Tavon Austin WR DAL Groin Q Hasn’t played since Week 6. Geoff Swaim TE DAL Wrist O Still not practicing after almost a month. Matthew Stafford QB DET Back Q Limited practice. Expected to fight it out. Kerryon Johnson RB DET Knee O Another LeGarrette Blount start. Bruce Ellington WR DET Hammy O Andy Jones/Brandon Powell get bumps. T.Y. Hilton WR IND Ankle Q Game-time call, but not promising. DJ Chark WR JAX Quad O Dede Westbrook might shine again. Josh Lambo K JAX Groin Q Kai Forbath insurance signing this week. Odell Beckham Jr. WR NYG Quad O Once again, both Shepards see more value. DeSean Jackson WR TB Thumb O Chris Godwin/Adam Humphries merit looks. Chris Thompson RB WAS Illness Q Expected to be fine in time to suit up. Josh Doctson WR WAS Cncssn Q Finally out of protocol, has been practicing. Jordan Reed TE WAS Foot O Vernon Davis to start in his place.

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Denver Broncos coach Vance Joseph defends kicking field goal on fourth-and-1 vs. Cleveland Browns — ‘I wanted points there’

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DENVER — The Denver Broncos went with math over a gut feel Saturday night, and many of their faithful left the 17-16 loss to the Cleveland Browns talking about a fourth-and-1 on which the team didn’t go for it in the closing minutes as the Broncos dropped to 6-8 and the brink of postseason elimination.

With 4 minutes, 39 seconds remaining, trailing 17-13 and with a fourth-and-1 on the Cleveland 6-yard line, Broncos coach Vance Joseph sent kicker Brandon McManus out for a field goal as boos cascaded down from the stands.

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