-- QB Vinny Testaverde completed an erratic 14 of 35 passes for 160 yards and an interception in the 27-14 loss to the Saints. He has thrown 13 interceptions in his last seven games.
But the Saints game was different. The 18-year veteran entered the game hoping to limit his mistakes, which explains his many throwaways. Yet, he also came up with an interception, a lost fumble and a punchless attack that could score only one touchdown against the league's worst defense.
It was simply a conservative game plan that had the Cowboys more concerned with preventing mistakes than trying to make plays.
"I was trying to play smart football," Testaverde said. "At the end, it resulted in not enough attempts to make plays."
It certainly wasn't what was expected from a Cowboys offense that had gotten new life of late from the running of rookie Julius Jones. With the Saints focused on keeping Jones in check -- he rushed for 83 yards after gaining 348 in the previous two games -- it should have paved the way for plays to be made on the outside.
Coach Bill Parcells, however, said the blame for not making plays in the passing game is not all on Testaverde. He said the offensive line had a lot of negative plays in the running game and the passing game. He said receivers were unable to get separation on the outside.
"I don't think Vinny played real well," Parcells said. "But it's not all the numbers, not all what you saw exactly. We didn't get much separation, they got pressure. It's always more than what the naked eye perceives. I'm not sticking up for him in that regard, I'm just saying there was more to this thing than what it appears to be."
Receivers Quincy Morgan and Keyshawn Johnson combined for five catches 71 yards. Yet, that could also be attributed to the conservative game plan and the hesitance to force the ball into coverage rather than just a lack of separation.
Johnson's 29-yard catch late in the fourth quarter came in a crowd of three defenders. But it was desperation time then. He didn't get many opportunities early in the game.
-- That safety Keith Davis and cornerback Terence Newman combined for four of the team's five special-team penalties is reason to believe that the officiating crew was a bit overzealous in calling the game on Sunday. Neither Newman nor Davis had drawn a flag on special teams in the previous 12 games.
They couldn't have been doing anything different, so the officials must have called the game different. Right?
Not so, according to head coach Bill Parcells.
He said Davis' two penalties were both flagrant and unnecessary. At least on one holding call, Newman tugged the back of the gunner's jersey before letting it go.
The bottom line, Parcells said, is the hidden yardage lost and the field-position damage because of the penalties.
"I'm not complaining about the calls," Parcells said. "What I am complaining about is that we gave up 78 yards of field position. It's hidden yardage people don't realize. We started drives on our 1, 8 and 9. Chance of scoring from inside your own 10 is 8-10 percent. So field position was affected dramatically by what happened."
-- LB Al Singleton, who missed much of the second half against the Saints, was scheduled to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam on Monday. Coach Bill Parcells believes it's some form of an abdominal strain. He said it has been bothering Singleton for a while and they want to find out exactly what it is.
Singleton was replaced by second-year man Scott Shanle, who got significant playing time for the first time. Parcells said Shanle could have done better but was not "terrible" under the circumstances.
-- RB Eddie George had a feeling he might be a healthy scratch against New Orleans. But knowing did nothing to soften the blow for the Cowboys running back when Sunday, for the first time in his nine-year NFL career, he found himself inactive for a game. "It is disappointing, not being able to compete, perform, dress," said George, who had not been inactive in 149 previous games. "But this is (coach Bill Parcells') team, and he just put together the best team on the field, and unfortunately I wasn't part of it."
A lot of streaks have ended for George since signing with the Cowboys in the offseason.
His NFL-best consecutive regular-season starts streak was snapped at 130 in Washington in Week 3. His streak of 148 consecutive games played (including playoffs) was snapped last week in Seattle when George was active but did not play. Then came Sunday.
George has 128 carries for 424 yards this season but has only 13 yards on six carries since rookie running back Julius Jones returned to the lineup against Baltimore. And while George is not likely to be back in Dallas, he is not planning on retiring.
"Oh yeah, I'm definitely going to play, being in the right situation, given the opportunities," George said. "The good thing of this is I'm not banged up and not sore, no major injuries. I was put in a situation where I wasn't able to show what I am really good at, and that's wearing a defense down, and unfortunately I didn't make the right fit."
-- The Saints used two players in coverage on tight end Jason Witten, who finished with four catches for 59 yards. Witten, who came in needing six receptions to set the club record for catches by a tight end in a season, said he was hit so hard in the stomach on one play that he threw up.
He returned and caught another pass but was disappointed he couldn't do more to help quarterback Vinny Testaverde.
"It wasn't all Vinny's fault," Witten said. "I'm behind him 100 percent. I don't know about everybody else, but I'm there every day. I know what the guy does every day."
-- RB Julius Jones appeared ready to close in on another 100-yard game, finishing the first half with 16 carries for 59 yards and a touchdown. But Jones had only seven carries for 29 yards in the second half and none in the game's final 10 minutes.
"One of our goals on defense was to make sure that their running game didn't get an early kick-start," Saints cornerback Mike McKenzie said.
The Cowboys did not use Jones in their two-minute offense, opting for Richie Anderson. Jones had rushed for 150 or more yards in his previous two games, against Chicago and Seattle.
-- K Billy Cundiff kicked field goals of 34 and 41 yards and missed from 42 yards. For the season, Cundiff has made 15 of 20 field goals but is 6-for-11 from 40 yards or more.
-- FB Richie Anderson, who missed the last two games with a concussion, caught three passes for 17 yards and ran twice for 7 yards.
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