ReFo: Saints @ Cowboys, Week 4
A dominant Cowboy O-line led the way and the Saints' D saw some familiar results. Ben Stockwell shares notes on players that stood out.
ReFo: Saints @ Cowboys, Week 4
Midway through last season, the Dallas Cowboys headed to New Orleans and found themselves on the receiving end of a demolition job from the Saints. Last night they turned the tables, taking the Saints apart early on and recovering their composure after they threatened to let their lead slip early in the fourth quarter.
They recovered and closed out the game emphatically with a touchdown for Dez Bryant and a turnover to seal a comfortable three-score win. This was a return to the bad old days for Rob Ryan’s defense as his former employers rolled up and down the field with ease to move into a tie for first place with the Eagles in the NFC East.
New Orleans Saints – Performances of Note
Khiry Robinson, HB: +2.0
Breakdown: With the commanding lead that the Cowboys built, Robinson was pushed very much to the periphery of the Saints’ play calling, carrying the ball only eight times in his second start. One big play early in the fourth was a gentle reminder of the ability the Saints have to make plays on the ground, and the vulnerability of the Dallas defense, that was marginalized last night by play calling and scoreboard pressure.
Signature Play: His 62-yard gain with 14 minutes left in the game saw him set up his blocks nicely at the line of scrimmage before bouncing outside off of Marques Colston’s block on Orlando Scandrick to bust down the sideline for a big gain.
Kenny Vaccaro, SS: -4.1
Breakdown: Poor tackling has been a hallmark of Saints’ defenses for a few years now and after a better season last year that prior form has returned. Combined with struggles in coverage Vaccaro missed three tackles to take his season total to nine after missing half a dozen in the season opener.
Signature Stat: Vaccaro has nine of the Saints’ 44 missed tackles through four games, last season they only missed 77 in 16 games.
Cameron Jordan, DE: -4.5
Breakdown: A revelation since Rob Ryan’s arrival in New Orleans last spring, Jordan was ineffective last night. Muscled around by the Cowboys’ powerful offensive line, he was blanked as a pass rusher after chipping in with a hit and three hurries in the return matchup last season.
Signature Stat: This is the first time under Rob Ryan that Jordan has failed to register a pressure, the last time he was blanked also came in Dallas in Week 16 of the 2012 season.
Dallas Cowboys – Performances of Note
DeMarco Murray, HB: +2.4
Breakdown: The Saints may have forgotten their ground game but there’s no sign of the Cowboys failing to maximize Murray’s workload. Taking a terrific platform from his offensive line, Murray forced seven missed tackles to take his season total 28, just nine shy of the 37 he managed in a strong 2013 season.
Signature Play: Displayed his power and desire at 2:34 in the second quarter, taking a simple dive to drive through some weak New Orleans tackling to collect a 22-yard gain to setup another Cowboys’ touchdown drive.
Henry Melton, DT: +2.0
Breakdown: The Cowboys are managing his snap count and Melton is delivering as a situational pass rusher week in and week out. For the fourth straight game the former Longhorn recorded a positive pass rushing grade, collecting four pressures including his second sack of the season on the Saints’ final drive.
Signature Play: Melton with space on the inside is dangerous as he showed at 10:05 in the second quarter immediately sidestepping Ben Grubbs to pressure Drew Brees before he reached the top of his drop, flushing him to force a throw away.
Travis Frederick, C: +2.4
Breakdown: Here as a representative for the interior of a Dallas offensive line that is paving the way for Murray’s spectacular start to the season. On 15 carries between the tackles, Murray gained 98 yards as — through single and double teams — Frederick, along with his guards Zack Martin and Ronald Leary, got on top of the Saints’ defensive linemen.
Signature Stat: The Cowboys’ offensive line setup Murray with 87 yards before contact last night, 3.6 yards per carry, in a dominant display.
PFF Game Ball
His high workload through the first quarter of the season may be a concern in some sense, but DeMarco Murray is making those carries count with another destructive display on the ground last night.
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Ben Stockwell | Director of Analysis
Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.