A Painful Setback

The 2004 season essentially came crashing down Sunday afternoon at Texas Stadium. <BR>

Charles Grant and Mike McKenzie had the New Orleans Saints' defense playing nothing like the worst in the league.

The Saints forced five turnovers and allowed just three points over the final three quarters in a 27-13 triumph over the Dallas Cowboys.

Coming into the game, New Orleans had allowed 416.0 yards and 29.0 points per contest. But against the Cowboys, the Saints gave up just 253 yards, and held a team under 20 points for the first time this season.

"We came out today and had nothing to lose," Grant said. "No one thought we would win another game this year. Our defense had an outstanding day. Now, we need to use this as a self-motivator. We've had our backs to the wall, so that's nothing new."

A defensive end, Grant forced one of the Cowboys' four fumbles - three were recovered by the Saints - while disrupting the offense with penetration. McKenzie, a cornerback, had an interception that led to the first of two touchdowns by Deuce McAllister six minutes into the second quarter.

McAllister, who ran for 83 yards on 30 carries, gave New Orleans its first lead when he capped an 11-play, 73-yard drive with a four-yard TD run to snap a 13-13 tie with 5:13 remaining. On the drive, Aaron Brooks had completions of 25 and 14 yards to Donte Stallworth.

Stallworth had five receptions for 113 yards. Just under two minutes later, Joe Horn sealed the victory with a spectacular grab and run for a 31-yard TD.

Brooks threw for 252 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions for the Saints (5-8), who stopped a three-game losing streak.

"I really think we played with great emotion and great passion today," Saints coach Jim Haslett said. "We have been going through some tough times, but the coaches and players have really worked hard over the last few weeks. As a whole, the defense was outstanding, the best I have seen in a long time."

Rookie Julius Jones rushed for 88 yards and a touchdown for the Cowboys (5-8), whose playoff hopes took a major hit. He had rushed for 348 yards and five TDs in the last three games.

Jones, who was coming off a 198-yard rushing performance Monday at Seattle, scored on one-yard plunge late in the first quarter, giving Dallas a 10-0 lead.

"Our guys took a lot of pride in the way we played today and practiced this week," said McKenzie, who was acquired earlier this season from Green Bay. "One of our goals on defense was to make sure (Dallas') running game didn't get an early kick-start. We went with a lot of man-to-man coverage and wanted to force them to throw the ball.

"We needed a win in the worst way. It was just time for us to come together."

Penalties continued to haunt Dallas, especially on special teams. Dallas was assessed five flags on both punt returns and punt coverage.

"I told the players before the game that I was nervous," Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said. "I got a sense from them that we weren't sharp. It was a short week (after the Monday night game), so it's hard. You try to give them energy, (but) we weren't ready to go in my mind."

Dallas' Vinny Testaverde went 14-of-30 for 160 yards and an interception.

"(The Saints) have some good pass rushers and it seemed like they were getting back there," Testaverde said. "I just tried to not to force mistakes and be smart with the football, but we had trouble getting separation."

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