Rob Ryan said it wasn’t personal. Sure didn’t look that way. No, Ryan wasn’t outwardly excitable during the New Orleans Saints’ 49-17 thrashing of the Dallas Cowboys. At least not any more than usual. He let his defense do all the talking.
The Saints defense allowed 193 total yards. They made Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant irrelevant, allowing him just one catch. They sacked quarterback Tony Romo three times. The game ended with tight end James Hanna — that’s backup tight end James Hanna — as the Cowboys’ leader in receptions with three.
It was Ryan’s way of saying, “I know your offense better than you know your own offense.”
Former Dallas Cowboy defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has turned the Saints into a top 10 defense this season.
This after Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett assured everyone that Ryan’s two years in Dallas didn’t provide that much of a window to the soul of this team’s offense. So much for that.
It’s not fair to assess the effectiveness of the Cowboys’ most controversial move of the offseason after 10 games. That was Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones’ firing Ryan and then hiring Monte Kiffin to install the 4-3 defense. It takes time for those changes to take hold.
But, fair or not, Sunday’s game sure made it look like the Saints got the better end of the deal. In fact, one Saints fan held up a sign that said, “Thanks, Jerry,” a gesture of gratitude for Jones’ firing Ryan, who has turned the Saints into a top 10 defense this season.
Meanwhile, Drew Brees made Kiffin and his scheme look, well, obsolete.
For the second time in three games, an opponent set a Cowboys franchise record for most total yards. The Saints ended up with 626 total yards. They set a new NFL record for most first downs in a game with 40.
Brees had seven incompletions and was eight yards away from becoming the fifth 400-yard passer against the Cowboys this season. Mark Ingram had his first 100-yard rushing game in the NFL, gaining 145 yards with a touchdown.
“They ran the ball when they wanted to run it,” Garrett said. “Brees did a great job of reading coverage and getting the ball to the right guy. They did what they wanted to do in the passing game.”
The Saints did whatever they wanted to anytime they wanted to, especially after linebacker Sean Lee left the game with a hamstring injury in the second quarter with the Cowboys up 10-7.
Lee is their indispensable one on defense, just as Romo is on offense. Losing Lee seemed to cut out the heart of these Cowboys, and their play slipped quickly from there. The longer Lee is out, the harder it will be for the Cowboys to rebound.
But in truth, this defense has been slipping for weeks, and the loss to the Saints may be the wake-up call. Injuries are a factor — the Cowboys had three opening-day starters on the field at the end of the game — but the NFL leaves little time for excuses.
This Cowboys defense is shaping up to be as historically bad as the Saints defense was last year, when it gave up more yards than any team in NFL history.
Ryan can head down to Bourbon Street and have one of those tropical drinks he was sipping on when Jones called him in January and fired him while Ryan was on vacation. He can do it with a sense of satisfaction.
Jones, meanwhile, gets to think about this loss for two weeks and wonder went wrong after he spent the offseason making things “uncomfortable” at Valley Ranch.