The Saints earned a dramatic 30-37 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving in Cowboys Stadium. After opening with a commanding 17-0 lead to start the game, the Saints found themselves trailing 27-23 with two minutes left in the game.
With Cowboys WR Roy Williams racing to the endzone for potential game-clinching touchdown, S Malcolm Jenkins stripped the wideout of the ball and recovered at the New Orleans 11-yard line to give the Saints life.
QB Drew Brees led the Saints down the field by connecting with WRs Marques Colston, Robert Meachem and hit WR Lance Moore on a game-winning 12-yard strike.
"It's a credit to our team's fight by hanging in there the way they did and getting this win," said Head Coach Sean Payton. "I was proud of them."
Brees finished the game by completing 23 of 39 passes for 352 yards, a touchdown and interception. Colston had a game-high 105 receiving yards on six receptions. WR Devery Henderson had a strong performance with four receptions for 97 yards.
RB Julius Jones had a team-best 45 yards on 10 carries. RB Chris Ivory shinned with two touchdowns in the first quarter and finished with seven rushes for 38 yards.
DE Will Smith led the way on defense with an interception, three tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. LB Jonathan Vilma had a game-high 11 tackles.
Brees opened the game with two consecutive passes to TE Jimmy Graham and Henderson for first downs. Following a holding penalty on T Jon Stinchcomb, Brees completed a 57-yard bomb to Henderson to put the Saints inside the ten-yard line. An offside penalty on Cowboys LB DeMarcus Ware advanced the Saints to the three-yard line, where Ivory ran up the middle into the end zone.
When the Cowboys got the ball for the first time, they advanced the chains once on a pass play from QB Jon Kitna to WR Sam Hurd, but Smith came up with an interception two plays later, dropped the ball after advancing it two yards, but it was recovered by CB Tracy Porter at the Cowboys 31-yard line.
Upon getting the ball back, Ivory rushed for four yards on first down, but on second and six, Brees was dropped by Cowboys LB DeMarcus Ware for a 12-yard loss. On third down, Brees threw a screen to RB Julius Jones, for which he got a seven-yard gain. K Garrett Hartley in his hometown, drilled a career-long 50-yard field goal through the uprights.
After Hartley kicked a touchback on the kickoff, setting up Dallas at their 20, Kitna overthrew WR Roy Williams on first down. On second down, Dallas RB Felix Jones gained four yards up the middle. On a crucial third down, there was an issue with the snap exchange and the ball was recovered by Kitna at the Dallas seven, forcing the Cowboys to punt. After a fair catch by Moore, New Orleans would take the ball at their 42.
Jones took the opening handoff of the possession for a five-yard gain. On second down, Ivory rushed for a gain of three. On third and two, Jones rushed up the middle for a six-yard gain and the first down. Brees went the play action route and found Colston up the middle for a 16-yard gain. Brees then found Henderson for a 22-yard gain at the six-yard line. With their second trip inside the ten in the first quarter, Brees handed off to Ivory, a native of nearby Longview, Texas and he rushed into the end zone for his third score in the past two weeks.
Hartley had his second touchback on a kickoff. However, Dallas' possession was nearly short lived as Kitna threw a pass up the middle to WR Miles Austin for a six-yard gain. Initially it was ruled that LB Danny Clark had forced a fumble, but it was ruled following a Dallas replay that Austin was down on contact. Austin suffered a right arm injury on the play and was forced to leave the game to get X-rays.
Kitna then completed a screen to Jones for a two-yard gain, and a throw to TE Jason Witten for the first down. With a fresh set of downs, the 38-year old Kitna scrambled to the 45 for a 13-yard gain before being taken down by DT Sedrick Ellis. Jones took the next handoff for a two-yard gain before he was taken down by Vilma and LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar.
Dallas advanced past midfield for the first time in the contest as he gained six yards. On the next play, Kitna, completed a 17-yard pass to Witten where he was knocked out of bounds at the 30 by S Roman Harper. Kitna followed up on the first down by throwing an incomplete pass up the middle intended for TE Martellus Bennett. On second down, an end around to rookie WR Dez Bryant resulted in him getting tripped up for no gain by Dunbar in the final play of the first quarter. On the third down play, he found Bennett for a nine-yard gain, where he was pushed out of bounds. With the Cowboys going for it on fourth down, RB Marion Barber was tripped up by Dunbar without gaining a yard to give New Orleans the ball back.
On first down at the 21, Brees first handed off to Ivory, where he gained one yard. Jones took the second down handoff and went forward for four yards. At third and five, Brees attempted a screen to RB Reggie Bush, but Cowboys S Gerald Sensabaugh broke up the pass. Seeing his first action of the afternoon, P Thomas Morstead booted a punt that was finally downed at the 18-yard line for a 56-yard boot.
Jones took the handoff and rumbled for ten yards before he was pushed out of bounds by Porter at the 28. Jones then made runs of seven and three yards up the middle to move the chains again. With a first down at the 38, Kitna found Bennett up the middle on a play action before he was stopped by LB Danny Clark for an eight-yard gain to the 46. On second and two, Kitna threw to WR Roy Williams near the Dallas sideline for a three yard gain, moving the chains. Kitna then threw a pass to Barber who rumbled into Saints territory for a five-yard gain. Kitna handed off to Jones, who was taken down by Porter for a one-yard loss. On third and five, Kitna completed a pass for a first down to Austin at the 40. With a fresh set of downs, Kitna overthrew Williams near the Dallas sideline. A second down screen pass to Jones gained 28 yards before he was brought down by Porter at the New Orleans 12.
A throw out of the backfield to Barber then gained three yards. A mishandled exchange on second down resulted in a fumble that Kitna had to fall down on for a loss of two yards. On third and nine, Kitna completed a throw to Witten that was one yard short of the first down marker following a tackle by Porter and Vilma, forcing the Cowboys and K David Buehler to settle for a 21-yard field goal.
Taking the ball after the kickoff at the 19, Brees started the drive by completing a six-yard pass to Moore. Following a one-yard rush by Bush, Brees and Moore got the first down for the Saints to the 32 with a six-yard completion on a crossing pattern. Brees found Colston around the 45, but it was dropped. Following a bomb that was an incompletion, Brees got a third down pass out to Jones just before getting dropped and he advanced for 12 yards for a first down. Brees then handed off to Jones for a three-yard gain right before the two-minute warning. On second and seven, Brees completed a six-yard throw to Henderson. On third and one, C Jonathan Goodwin was called for a holding penalty. But Brees and Colston connected on a 28-yard pass play to put the Saints in field goal range. On the first down, Brees completed a two-yard screen to Jones. After third and eight, a throw came up the middle for Colston that was broken up by Dallas DB Orland Scandrick, sending Hartley out for a 45-yard attempt, which he made to put the Saints up 20-3.
Dallas would advance into New Orleans territory near halftime in time for Buehler to boot a 53-yard field goal as time expired in the half.
Bryant took the opening kickoff to the Dallas 32-yard line before he was brought down by LB Marvin Mitchell and S Roman Harper. Two plays later, Kitna handed off to Austin for an end around play and he went down the field for 60 yards for a touchdown to put the Cowboys within seven points.
Taking the ball at the 20, Brees immediately completed a 12-yard throw to Bush and then a 13-yard pass to Moore in the middle of the field to get to their 45. With a fresh set of downs, a pass intended for Graham was broken up by Dallas LB Keith Brooking. On second and ten, Brees handed off to Ivory who moved New Orleans into Dallas territory at the 39 with a 17-yard run. New Orleans then moved into field goal range at the 34, with a five-yard completion from Brees to Graham.
Jones took the next run up the middle and gained two yards. On third and three from the 32, Brees threw a perfect pass over Colston's shoulders for a 19-yard gain before he went out of bounds at the Dallas 13. Following a first down throw broken up by Cowboys DE Igor Olshansky, Brees found Moore in the middle of the field for a three-yard gain. On third and seven, a pass up the middle to Bush fell through his hands to send the field goal unit in, where Hartley remained perfect kicking a 28-yarder.
On the ensuing kickoff, Dallas CB Bryan McCann took it out of the end zone, and he was stopped at the 12-yard line by CB Leigh Torrence. Kitna immediately went to work and completed a 20-yard pass to Witten for a first down. Jones then ran up the middle for a three-yard gain before he was stopped by LB Scott Shanle. A second down pass intended for Williams was broken up by CB Jabari Greer.
A false start penalty on Dallas C Andre Gurode, moved the Cowboys back to third and 11 at their 31, forcing Kitna to throw a pass up the middle that went off of Bryant's hands up in the air and was nearly picked off by Shanle. On fourth down and 11, Dallas LB Sean Lee was called for a false start on the punt formation, bringing them back to the 26, where they punted to Bush. Bush was rounding the corner, but the ball was fumbled and recovered by Dallas LB Leon Williams at the New Orleans 15.
Taking the ball back, Kitna threw a screen to Jones where he gained eight yards and then Dallas' runner went two yards up the middle for the first down at the five. Kitna's first down throw was intended for Austin and went out of the end zone. Kitna then handed off to Barber, who barreled forward for three yards before being stopped by Harper and DL Anthony Hargrove. On third and goal at the two, Barber took the ball up the middle and was stopped one yard short of the end zone by Vilma, setting up fourth and goal. With Dallas deciding to go for it, Barber pushed the pile into the end zone, putting Dallas within a field goal.
Starting at the 20, Jones took handoffs for nine and four yards to garner a first down. Brees then found Graham near the Saints sideline for a four-yard gain. The signal caller then rolled out and found Colston down the field for a 14-yard gain and a fresh set of downs at the Dallas 49-yard line. Ivory carried up the middle on the fresh set of downs for a four-yard gain. A throw for a six-yard gain was completed to Colston in a middle of the field for another first down at the 39. Jones then carried up the middle for a five-yard gain. Brees found Graham inside the red zone, but the ball was dropped by the rookie, setting up third and five where New Orleans would call a timeout. A third down pass for TE David Thomas was incomplete, putting the Saints in a fourth and five situation, where they would go for it.
The ensuing pass intended for Moore went out of bounds. With the Saints defense back on the field, for the final play of the third quarter, Kitna completed a pass to Jones where he broke a tackle and gained 14 yards. DT Sedrick Ellis forced a fumble that was recovered by the running back. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Kitna was sacked for the first time on the day by Smith and it was coughed up, but recovered by Bennett and advanced five yards. On second down, an illegal motion penalty was called against Bryant, backing the Cowboys back into their territory at the 47. Following a six-yard run by Barber to set up third down and four, Kitna completed a pass to Witten to the New Orleans 40 that moved the chains for a first down.
Kitna then completed a short four-yard throw to Jones and the runner then advanced two yards on a rush. On third and four from the 35, following a Dallas timeout, the pass intended for Bryant was incomplete, sending the punting unit in. The exchange for Dallas P Mat McBriar was mishandled, but he took it up off the ground and kicked it to CB Tracy Porter. The officials ruled that it was an illegal kick called against Dallas with the penalty declined and New Orleans taking the ball back at their 16. The first down pass intended Moore was slightly out of his reach. On second down, Brees handed off to Jones who gained three yards. On third down, a pass went off of Graham's hands into onto the hands of Sensabaugh, who returned it to the New Orleans 39-yard line.
With the Dallas offense coming back out, the first play was a handoff to Barber who was stopped up the middle by Clark with only a gain of one yard. On second and nine, Kitna completed a slant to Williams, who before he was brought down by CB Patrick Robinson gained 24 yards. With first down at the New Orleans 14, Kitna handed off to Barber who rambled up the middle for a four-yard gain to the ten. On second down, a throw was completed to Williams before he was tackled by Shanle setting up first and goal at the three. Barber then took the handoff two yards forward, short of the end zone. On the second down play, Barber was stopped for no gain by Vilma. On a third down play, Choice took his first snap as a s a runner and got in the end zone to give Dallas their first lead of the afternoon.
The Saints went three-and-out on the following drive and were forced to punt. On third and six at the NO 42-yard line, Kita connected with Williams with what would have been a 47-yard gain before Jenkins forced the fumble.
After Moore's touchdown, The Cowboys had one last chance to get back in the game. Kita led his team to NO 41-yard line where Buehler missed on a 59-yard field goal attempt that would have tied the game.