Wednesday, 24 November 2010 15:15

Cowboys, Saints Hope No Turkey Of A Game

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The Cowboys are used to playing a game on Thanksgiving Day, but this will be a first for the Saints (7-3).

The Saints will go after their fourth straight victory against the Cowboys at 3:15 p.m. in billion-dollar Cowboys Stadium on Fox. The Cowboys have won two straight under new coach Jason Garrett, who was on the Saints practice squad after finishing Princeton in 1990.

Instead of recovering from Sunday's 35-19 victory over the Lions, the Cowboys spent Monday preparing for the Saints, who had the day off.

Usually when there's a mid-season coaching change it is a bad thing and a team has trouble for the rest of the season.  But not  in the Cowboys' case. New interim coach Garrett is showing some magic and the Cowboys have won two straight games under his leadership.

{quote}"We played the Saints last year, so we're familiar with their offense somewhat," {/quote} said Garrett. The Cowboys rushed their outside linebackers to pressure Drew Brees and upset the Saints, 24-17, and ended the Saints 13-game winning streak.

Dallas has not lost on Thanksgiving Day since 2003 when Denver won the 24-21 game in overtime. Dallas has hosted a Thanksgiving game for 42 of the past 44 years. The 'Boys are 27-14-1 on Turkey Day.

"I like these kind of games, the Thursday games," said Cowboys quarterback Jon Kitna, who spent three seasons in Detroit, which has had an annual Thanksgiving Day game longer than the Cowboys. "It doesn't give you time to over analyze and overthink the game. You just go play.."

Garrett, who coached alongside Saints coach Sean Payton when Payton was offensive coordinator  of the Cowboys, has mentioned that he has a lot of respect for the Saints. He understands that the Saints' attempts to rush the passer and force turnovers and that their aggressive defense could threaten a trigger-happy Kitna.

The Saints are coming into Thursday's game after beating the Seahawks 34-19.

Prediction: The Saints will extend their winning streak to four and will cover the 3 1/2 points..Brees have found a new target..he likes rookie tight end Jimmy Graham. Reggie Bush is expected to play after missing nine games recovering from a broken fibula..

 Drew Brees

Drew Brees said he wouldn't want to have to tackle Saints running back Chris Ivory and said Ivory could have a good day against the Cowboys, who rush big outside linebackers. They had a lot of success against the Saints last season.

Brees also said the Cowboys  have played as well as any team in the league the past two weeks.
Is this a game where there is adjustment based on everything from an unconventional work week to playing in a new stadium?
“I definitely think being prepared as best as you can (is important). I don’t think any of us have been to this stadium before, maybe a guy that we signed as a free agent this year that played there last year, but all I hear is that there’s so much going on at this stadium, that the jumbotron is as long as the field almost. There are all these potential distractions. I think once the game starts it’s football. It’s all about the game. The fact that it’s a short week and it’s going to be here before we know it is another thing. Also the fact that it’s a Thanksgiving day game. I’ve never played in a Thanksgiving day game. I remember watching just about every one of them when I’m with my family at home eating turnkey. I know that as Sean (Payton) said, the television’s on and you’re watching it throughout the day.”
Have you ever played on a midseason Thursday game at all?
“We played Chicago two years ago on a Thursday.”
Were you on a four-day turnaround?
“Yes, we were. It was on a Thursday night.”
Is that tough?
“Yes, it is, because you don’t get all the practice reps that you would normally get. So much of the preparation is mental. It’s five or six days of preparation kind of condensed into about three days. It’s a lot more time consuming with a lot packed into it.”
Is your play list a little shorter?
“I think by the time gametime comes around it will be. Since we had the bye week a few weeks ago, I think the coaching staff was able to put down a lot of thoughts on Dallas when we had that free time. Last week it was all about Seattle and then you had that stuff waiting for you when you came to work yesterday. I think that the list at this point is just like it would normally be. As you get closer to gametime you chip away at it and trim it down to what you really feel good about it.”
Can you talk about the power of Chris Ivory. It seems Marcus Trufant of Seattle got a concussion in the game trying to tackle him?
“I wouldn’t want to tackle Chris Ivory. The guy’s a big physical guy. He runs hard. You rarely see him go down with the first hit. He’s a young back who’s strong and runs hard. He has a lot of natural instincts when it comes to running the football.”
Do you think defenders fear that collision?
“I think they have to know who they’re hitting. A lot of these 3-4 teams are built with these big outside backers and big inside backers. I think that’s something that they pride themselves in, tough physical matchups. I think that will be a good test for Chris Ivory.”
Is it our imagination or is he running lower? At one time he seemed like more of an upright runner like Mike Bell. This week, it looked like he was running with a lower pad level and breaking more tackles?
“Yes, he can stay at that low level and still generate a lot of speed and force, especially on impact and you always talk to running backs about that pad level and being able to square your shoulders to the line of scrimmage and that way when you’re taking on defenders, if you’re square to the line of scrimmage, you’re giving them more of a pop than they’re probably giving you. They’re coming at an angle to hit you and you’re coming at them shoulders square to the line of scrimmage. That makes you very tough to tackle and might have some guys thinking twice about how they’re going to hit you.”
Is it tough to think that maybe only 19 players have thrown for more yardage than you and that you have the all-time Saints completion record?
“I try not to think about it, because I hope there’s quite a few more years left for me and we can count it up in the end. Certainly as those things come about, it’s a pretty neat deal.”
Is Dallas’ pass rush as good as it was in years past and can you talk about the season Jermon Bushrod’s having?
“I think the Dallas pass rush is exceptional when you look at those two outside linebackers in DeMarcus Ware and (Anthony) Spencer and inside with (Jay) Ratliff and some of the other guys they rotate through. You see them getting pressure with a four-man rush. More than anything you see that every game the team they’re going up against has a plan for how they’re going to defend that rush. I think it’s something where you play these guys, priority number one has to be protection.”
“Bush is having a great year. Playing that left tackle position, you typically face the best pass rushers in the league. Go back to Bush’s short career here, starting every game last year and then this year, you see him getting better and more confident each week. It’s fun to see a young guy like that who’s working at it just continue to improve.”
How much do you draw upon watching last year’s game with Dallas to watching more recent tape or do you draw upon both?
“Yes. You definitely watch last year’s game, how they defended us, what worked, that kind of thing.. There are plenty of things we wished we would have done differently coming out of that game. I felt like they played very well. We didn’t execute very well at all, especially on third down. This year, it’s interesting, because it’s the tale of two teams when you look at pre-Jason Garrett and then the last two weeks. You’re able to study their personnel from this year, but obviously, (you look at both) how did they defend us last year and how have they defended lately. You try to take a peek at all of it.”
The Cowboys are 3-7 and have made a coaching change. How dangerous are they?
{quote}“These last two weeks I think they’ve played as well as any team in the league{/quote} and I think we knew it was only a matter of time before they turned it around and got things figured out and started playing with more confidence. It seems like Jason Garrett’s done a really good job. (Paul) Pasqualoni on the defensive side (has done a good job). You see a renewed enthusiasm. They have a lot of veteran players on their team, leadership, guys that have played a lot of football. You knew it was only a matter of time.”
Have you seen a difference on tape from Wade Phillips to Jason?
“Yes, you can in the scheme a little bit, but I think more so than anything, when a change is made for the most part, you as a team take a deep breath and say we can wipe the slate clean. It’s starting new and fresh. I’m sure in their mind, they’re preaching that they’re 2-0 right now. They’re not talking about the 1-7. We’re undefeated. That gives you a lot of confidence as you move forward.”
Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware said the Saints have the best receivers in the league on Tuesday in a conference call with the media.. Ware, who gave Drew Brees fits last season, talks about their game with the Saints on Thursday:
Is there anything from last year’s game that you can take into Thursday?
“You’re looking at and playing the Super Bowl champs. You’re going to have your hands full. You can’t look at anything that’s positive. We won the game, but we’ll have our hands full with Drew Brees, the leader that’s leading their team. They’re trying to get a win.”
What has been different for you guys after Wade Phillips’ firing and Jason Garrett’s elevation? Have you been motivated differently?
“I don’t think it really motivated us. It’s change. When you’re going through adverse times, the change of a new coach and new philosophy around here gave us a new spark.”
Do you guys feel a chip on your shoulders given that a lot of people have written your team off for the season?
“Every game you’re backed up against the wall. Win, lose or draw you have to give it your all. That’s the mentality that we have. It’s knowing that every game you play you have to get it done.”
Can you talk about some of the things the Saints offensive line does that makes it so successful?
“They don’t give up many sacks. I was looking at some of their plays. Drew Brees gets rid of the ball pretty well. They don’t give up a lot of pressure on him. They give him a chance to make big plays down the field. The receivers they have, they’re the best corps in the league I think.”
From watching Jermon Bushrod on film, do you see a more grownup version of the one you saw last year?
“I see improvement as a whole offensive line in general. Sometimes when you have new guys come in there’s a little not discomfort, but now all those guys are picking up their reads, especially blitz reads, when you run stunts up front, they’re picking it up well. They’re playing really well up front.”
Last year the Saints admitted they were caught a little bit off guard after you played as much and as well as you did after your injury. Do you remember going into that game knowing all along you were going to play or almost being surprised at how quickly you recovered?
“I was surprised in that going into the game I didn’t think I was going to play at all and going out there, I felt really good about the situation, but the thing is going out there and having a good game. They now know I’m playing and to get ready for me, but they’re saying they have to get ready for the Cowboys. I know they’ll be ready.”
Has the pass rush been happy with the way they have performed this year?
“Right now with the last two games, yes. We’ve been up and down all season. We’ve played two pretty good games. There are some things we need to work on. Right now we’re playing at a high level and trying to get the job done and get the ball for our offense back as much as we can.”

Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography. | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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