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New Orleans Saints' top-ranked scoring offense faces one of NFL's stingiest defenses in Dallas

'They are outstanding, as good an offense as there is in football'

Saints 31- Falcons 17 (W) New Orleans Saints 2018 Season Michael C. Hebert

Dallas' defense must not have gotten the memo.

You know, the one stating that NFL offenses virtually are unstoppable and are scoring at an unprecedented rate this season, especially the one that the Cowboys will see Thursday night at AT&T Stadium in Dallas.

The New Orleans Saints (10-1), winners of 10 straight and leaders of the NFC South Division by four games (with five games left to play), currently are posting points at a level with which even Coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees haven't seen in New Orleans. And, for perspective, keep in mind that since both joined the franchise in 2006, the team never has finished below No. 6 in total offense, and during that time the top three scoring seasons in franchise history have been posted, topped by 547 points in 2011.

That record-setting total averaged out to 34.2 points per game. This year, through 11 games, New Orleans is at 37.2 points per game (409 total points).

The Cowboys (6-5) allow about half of that: 19.4 points per game, fourth-fewest in the league.

No opponent has scored 30 against Dallas. The season high was by Tennessee, with 28 points in a Monday night game Nov. 5. The Saints laid 45 points on the Rams the day before, and have scored 51, 48 and 31 points, respectively, in the three games since.

New Orleans only has scored less than 28 points on offense in three games this season (all victories). One of those was a 30-20 victory over the Vikings; one score resulted from an interception return for a touchdown.

Otherwise, it has been a scoring spree, led by Brees (29 touchdowns, two interceptions, 3,135 passing yards, 76.4 percent completions), receiver Michael Thomas (1,080 receiving yards and eight touchdowns) and running back Alvin Kamara (1,225 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns).

"I think they are outstanding," Dallas Coach Jason Garrett said. "They can beat you in so many different ways. They run the ball really well with a couple of different runners (Kamara and Mark Ingram). They run it a lot of different ways.

"Their passing game obviously is prolific. The quarterback is off the charts. They attack you so many different ways in the passing game. Their offensive line is outstanding. Individually, each of those guys is playing well. Collectively, they play really well together.

"They're always moving the ball. They're always scoring points. They challenge every time they break the huddle. They are outstanding, as good an offense as there is in football."

As highly as Garrett regards the Saints' offense, is as much respect as Payton and Brees offer to Dallas' defense.

The Cowboys currently are on a three-game winning streak, and what they've done defensively is a large part of the equation. Dallas has the league's fourth-best run defense (93.6 yards per game allowed) and it has been at its best the last three games, allowing 77 yards per game.

It has punished opposing quarterbacks (five interceptions, eight sacks) and allowed 20.7 points per game during that time.

"They're playing exceptionally well, they run extremely well," Payton said. "The front gets after the quarterback. I think that their back end is really good, relative to their scheme and understanding what they're doing. I think they're well-coached and I think they're playing with real good passion. It's one of the better defenses we've seen on film."

"Defensively, they fly around, they're very well-coached, disciplined, they are taking the ball away," Brees said. "They are just doing all the things that the great defenses do: Getting pressure on the quarterback, good against the run. So really in every facet of what you would say is winning football, championship-caliber football, these guys are doing it right now."

Offensively, the same can be said of the Saints. They're in an offensive groove, with six games of 40-plus points this season.

"Obviously, what the defense does to a degree dictates how we play, what we're calling or maybe how we're doing things," Brees said. "But for the most part, as we go throughout the week of preparation, we talk about our execution, we talk about our tempo, we talk about our in and out of the huddle, in and out (and) up and down, getting the ball snapped, guys knowing what to do so they can play fast, play confidently.

"We feel like if we do that, it doesn't matter who the defense is, that we can outplay them, out-execute them. You're obviously conscious of certain guys and situations, and, 'What does this team do on third down? What does this team do in the red zone? What does this team do in certain situations?' But for the most part, we just focus on detailing our stuff."

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