Saints Loss No Big Deal

The pain was obvious with each slow step, each move Cowboys veteran safety Darren Woodson made in the locker room. He wasn't letting go of a second-quarter play he knew he should have made. He was one of the last Cowboys out of the locker room, and the agony wasn't fading.

Woodson has made more big plays than he has given up with the Cowboys. But he was the culprit behind the defense's longest play allowed this season and the eventual backbreaker in a 13-7 loss to the Saints on Sunday in the Louisiana Superdome that robbed the Cowboys of momentum going into Saturday's Wild Card playoff matchup against the Panthers.

Wide receiver Donte' Stallworth scored on a 76-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Aaron Brooks after he bounced off a flying hit by Woodson. Woodson attempted to knock down Stallworth, who shed the hit and raced to the end zone, giving the Saints a 10-7 lead with 8:23 left in the first half.

Woodson fumed on the sidelines after the play, spiking a cup of water to the ground.

"I think we gave up one play," Woodson said, "and that was the one I missed the tackle on."

Woodson, who was fined $75,000 last season by the NFL for a helmet-leading hit on Seattle's Darrell Jackson, was trying to avoid another similar hit. He led with his shoulder, failed to wrap up Stallworth, and the rest was a foot race he couldn't win. It was the first touchdown the Cowboys had allowed in nine quarters.

"I was just trying to turn my head and not hit him helmet-to-helmet," Woodson said. "I've just got to play the game. I can't worry about if I hit the guy with my helmet or whatever way. I've got to make the play."

Stallworth's play was part of an ongoing first-half struggle for the Cowboys' defense, as Brooks made plays and took advantage of the secondary. Brooks threw for 156 yards in the first half and averaged 17.3 yards per completion.

"The first half we stunk, pretty much," Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman said. "We should have gotten blown out by the way we played in the first half on defense. In the second half, we stepped it up and tried to make it a close game."

That was it: The Cowboys' defense kept it close and kept the Saints from taking hold of the game, but the Cowboys' offense failed to provide support.

Running back Deuce McAllister couldn't turn the Cowboys' defense into a Sunday highlight show as he had done to so many other teams. McAllister was held to 49 yards on 21 carries (2.3 yards per carry) and didn't score. He also failed to break the Saints' single-season rushing record. He needed 83 yards to top George Rogers' mark of 1,674, set in 1981.

The Cowboys were also tough near their goal. The Saints were held to a John Carney 24-yard field goal after a 16-play, 59-yard drive that chewed 7:59 off the clock to start the game. On third-and-goal from the 3, Newman dropped McAllister for a 3-yard loss on a screen play.

In the third quarter, Saints receiver Michael Lewis beat cornerback Mario Edwards on a 38-yard pass to the Cowboys' 2-yard line. Two plays later, tackle Daleroy Stewart and end Greg Ellis combined for a sack of Brooks and a 5-yard loss. Cowboys safety Roy Williams followed with a pass deflection and near-interception on the next play. The Saints had to settle for Carney's 27-yard field goal.

The Cowboys held the Saints to four first downs, 24 yards rushing and 106 total yards in the second half. But they didn't produce any turnovers in the game.

"If we didn't win the game, it wasn't good enough," Cowboys linebacker Al Singleton said. "They won the turnovers battle. We've got to play a little bit better and make things happen."

CowboysHQ Top Stories