Saints rout Cowboys
Drew Brees inspired the New Orleans Saints to a crushing 49-17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Sunday night's NFL showdown.
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Brees completed 34 of 41 passes for 392 yards and four touchdowns as his team moved to 7-2 for the season.
The Saints had an NFL-record 40 first downs and a franchise-record 625 total yards in what marked their 12th straight prime-time victory in the Superdome.
Brees connected with Kenny Stills on a 52-yard touchdown pass, with Marques Colston on a 22-yard scoring strike, with running back Pierre Thomas for a one-yard score and with running back Darren Sproles for a 28-yard scoring play with five seconds left in the first half.
Sproles also had a three-yard touchdown run, and Mark Ingram added a four-yard scoring run en route to a career-high 145 yards rushing.
DeMarco Murray had 82 yards rushing on 13 carries and a touchdown for Dallas (5-5), highlighted by his 35-yard scamper on a fake reverse. That set up his seven-yard scoring run, which gave Dallas a short-lived 10-7 lead early in the second quarter. Dallas did not score again until Tony Romo's 21-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams in the last minute of the third quarter.
The Cowboys' porous pass defense entered the game already having set an NFL record by allowing four quarterbacks to throw for more than 400 yards this season. Brees was on track to become the fifth, but fell just short after the Saints decided to stop throwing with a big lead in the fourth quarter.
At one point, Brees strung together 19 straight completions, tying his personal best and franchise record.
Making matters worse for Dallas was a hamstring injury to linebacker Sean Lee, the Cowboys' leading tackler.
Sproles, whose concussion one week earlier forced him to miss most of the Saints' 26-20 road loss to the New York Jets, caught seven passes for 76 yards.
Getting Colston involved was another encouraging sign for the Saints one week after the veteran receiver sat out the loss to the Jets.
Colston had seven catches for 107 yards. His touchdown catch was the 60th of his career, all coming from Brees.
On Colston's touchdown, Sproles made a key block on blitzing linebacker Barry Church, giving Brees enough time to throw over the middle. Colston then slipped safety Jeff Heath's tackle before diving across the goal line.
For Sproles, the key block was the first of several highlights that atoned for an early muffed punt that gave the Cowboys the ball on the Saints 22 after a diving recovery by Dallas' Dwayne Harris.
But with an energized nighttime crowd in the Superdome roaring, the Cowboys had to call timeout on third-and-short, then came back out an committed a false-start penalty. Dallas was then unable to convert for a first down and settled for Dan Bailey's 37-yard field goal.
The Cowboys arrived in New Orleans with three wins in their previous four games, but faced a tough task in the Superdome, where the Saints have won 12 straight night games (including two play-off wins).
Dallas was frustrated offensively for much of the game. Star receiver Dez Bryant, covered mostly by Keenan Lewis, did not have his first and only catch - a 44-yarder - until late in the third quarter. Jason Witten was held to two catches for 27 yards.