Opportunity Lost

Cowboys linebacker Dat Nguyen walked off the field staring and wincing at what he saw on the video screen at Texas Stadium.

The final statistics were the glaring reality of a major opportunity lost. And the fourth-quarter collapse was still fresh in his mind.

The Cowboys' defense crumbled late, like it did last week against Seattle. The Saints scored two touchdowns in the final six minutes to strut out of Texas Stadium with a 27-13 victory, their first road win against the Cowboys.

"I'm pretty much embarrassed," Cowboys defensive tackle La'Roi Glover said. "I'm at a loss for words. We had opportunities to be successful and we didn't take advantage of them."

Bill Parcells warned all week of the Saints' offensive firepower. It showed when it counted most.

The Saints took their first lead at 20-13 with 5:21 remaining on Deuce McAllister's 4-yard touchdown run. New Orleans, given the chance to hang around, took advantage with an 11-play, 73-yard scoring drive that chewed 5:26 off the clock.

The Cowboys knew the Saints were a second-half team but did little to slow that trend.

"Bill said it, and we knew it," Cowboys defensive end Greg Ellis said. "The Saints are a team that has enough offensive power to capitalize in crucial moments."

The Cowboys defense, which allowed 22 points in the fourth quarter to Seattle, simply couldn't make a play. On the go-ahead drive, New Orleans had only one third down and had seven plays of 4 or more yards.

Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks, who threw for 252 yards, used a 25-yard pass to Donte Stallworth to help set up the score. The Cowboys blitzed, and Brooks quickly fired a pass to Stallworth, who juked Cowboys rookie cornerback Lance Frazier near the sidelines. Without help because of the blitz, Frazier was alone and Stallworth reached the 20.

"Major island," Frazier said of being one-on-one against Stallworth. "But that's what they pay you for, to make those plays. I was really trying to buy some time."

Three plays later, Saints receiver Joe Horn had a 14-yard reception after slipping away from Cowboys rookie nickel back Nathan Jones on third-and-10.

"You let them hang around, they'll make a play," Glover said.

Horn and Brooks had more. They put away the Cowboys on a 31-yard scoring connection as Horn beat cornerback Terence Newman with 2:47 left to complete a three-play drive. The score was set up by Michael Lewis' 43-yard punt return to the Cowboys 35.

"Our offense can score in one or two plays, or we have the potential to go on a drive for 14, 15 or 16 plays," Stallworth said. "It may take us awhile to get started, but once we get started, we just keep on going."

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