Thursday, December 3, 1998
Cowboys Extra: Next up, the Saints
By Jean-Jacques Taylor
The Dallas Morning News
DALLAS -- COWBOYS at NEW ORLEANS:
Sunday, 12:01 p.m. CST
Series: Cowboys lead, 14-3.
Last meeting: Cowboys won, 24-16, on Dec. 19, 1994, at the Superdome.
PLAN OF ATTACK
How the Cowboys might approach the Saints:
OFFENSE: After struggling to run the ball against Minnesota,
look for Coach Chan Gailey to try to establish Emmitt Smith early
against New Orleans. The Saints allow 106.3 yards rushing per
game. Smith is in the midst of his best season since 1995. He
has six 100-yard games this season, equaling his combined total
from the past two seasons. The Cowboys are at their best when
they can run the ball, because no one has figured out how to
regularly stop Troy Aikman and their multi-faceted passing attack.
After being shut out for the first time in 117 games two weeks
ago, Michael Irvin has caught 18 passes for 235 yards.
DEFENSE: If the Cowboys need a confidence boost after Minnesota
torched them for six touchdowns, New Orleans should provide the
perfect tonic. Until Kerry Collins became their starting quarterback
three weeks ago, the Saints were inept on offense. Now, theyve
improved enough to be called bad. The Cowboys have been consistent
about shutting down poor offenses and should have similar success
against New Orleans. Collins has been held to 150 yards or fewer
passing in two of three starts and he has five interceptions
the past two games. Running back Lamar Smith has gained 412 yards
and averages 3.4 per carry. The Cowboys shouldnt have to
use safety Darren Woodson to stop the Saints running game,
which means he can play a bigger role in pass defense. Receiver
Sean Dawkins is averaging 16 yards per catch, but has had problems
catching the ball.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The coverage units had their worst performances
of the season against Minnesota, so the odds are good they will
rebound against New Orleans. Richie Cunningham is finding his
groove after struggling a little the first half of the season.
He has six field goals in the past two games, including four
of more than 40 yards. Punter Toby Gowin continues to punt well
(43.9 average), and his deep kickoffs have helped the Cowboys
kickoff coverage be the NFLs best. Kevin Mathis returns
from a broken forearm this week, but the Cowboys dont know
if the pliable cast hell sport will prevent him from returning
kicks. Deion Sanders status this week is iffy, which means
the Cowboys could be forced to use a fifth-string punt returner.
SPOTLIGHT ON ...
The Saints Kerry Collins.
College: Penn State.
Experience: fourth season.
THE LOWDOWN: Has there been a more controversial player in the
NFL this season? Dont think so. In Mid-October, Collins
walked into Carolina Coach Dom Capers office and told him
that his heart wasnt in playing any more. In effect, he
quit. The Panthers released him a few days later, and Collins
signed with New Orleans. The Saints had started six quarterbacks
since Coach Mike Ditka arrived two seasons ago. Then, Collins
was arrested for driving under the influence a day after the
Saints traveled to Carolina for a game. He has struggled during
his three starts with New Orleans. Collins is a free agent after
the season, but he has done little to generate more than moderate
interest given his performance and off-the-field problems. But
given the difficulty in finding a franchise quarterback, it will
be interesting to see what offers await him. Still, he is 2-0
against Dallas, including a playoff victory over the Cowboys
in the 1996 season.
Kerry Collins has struggled since becoming the Saints starter
three weeks ago:
OPPONENT ATT COMP YDS INT TDS
St. Louis 13 26 150 0 1.
San Francisco 22 44 328 2 0.
Miami 9 24 110 3 0.
TOTALS: 44 94 588 5 1.
BREAKING DOWN THE SAINTS
OFFENSE: The Saints dont have any play-makers on offense.
So its no surprise wonder they rank 28th in the NFL, averaging
less than 270 yards a game. Running back Lamar Smith has been
stopped for a loss 26 times in 120 carries. Without fear of the
running game, teams play conservatively in the secondary and
force New Orleans to drive the length of the field. The Saints
have two rushing touchdowns this season. Starting receivers Sean
Dawkins and Andre Hastings have combined for 64 catches, but
only four have gone for more than 25 yards. Consider that the
Cowboys have three receivers with at least six catches for more
than 25 yards. The Saints best offensive player has been
rookie tight end Cam Cleeland, who has 35 catches for 498 yards
and four touchdowns. His 14.2 average is impressive for a tight
DEFENSE: The Saints are a scrappy bunch, but Steve Young and
Dan Marino have torched them the past two weeks. Thats
good news for Troy Aikman, whos played well since returning
from his broken left collarbone three weeks ago. Defensive end
Joe Johnson leads the Saints with six sacks, and his 55 tackles
mean hes active in the running game. But Larry Allen has
dominated every player hes faced this season. Linebacker
Mark Fields is probably the Saints best defensive player
with 85 tackles, five sacks and 8.5 tackles for losses. Cornerbacks
Tyronne Drakeford (four interceptions) and Alex Molden (two interceptions)
can be burned, but they make plays occasionally.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Andre Hastings is underrated as a punt returner,
but Coach Chan Gailey should know how dangerous the former Pittsburgh
Steeler can be. Hastings averages 14.0 per kickoff return with
a long of 76. Kicker Doug Brien has missed one kick this season,
making each of his 22 extra points and 16 of 17 field goals.
Punter Mark Royals is third in the NFC with a 45.2 average.
New Orleans: 18.0.
New Orleans: 83.6.
New Orleans: 185.8.
New Orleans: 22.1.
New Orleans: 106.3.
New Orleans: 240.5.
Passing ATT COM PCT YARDS TD INT
Troy Aikman 210 133 63.3 1,635 10 3.
Jason Garrett 147 86 58.5 1,155 5 3.
Rushing NO. YARDS AVG. LONG TD.
Emmitt Smith 255 1,107 4.3 32 11.
Chris Warren 57 273 4.8 49 4.
Sherman Williams 36 112 3.1 24 1.
Receiving NO. YARDS AVG. LONG TD
Michael Irvin 62 868 14.0 43 1.
Billy Davis 30 568 18.9 80 3.
Ernie Mills 28 479 17.1 43 4.
Emmitt Smith 20 124 6.2 24 1.
David LaFleur 19 164 8.6 24 2.
Daryl Johnston 18 60 3.3 9 1.
Passing ATT COM PCT YARDS TD INT
Billy Joe Toliver 134 75 56.0 1,049 5 3.
Danny Wuerffel 119 62 52.1 695 5 5.
Kerry Collins 94 44 46.8 588 1 5.
Rushing NO. YARDS AVG. LONG TD
Lamar Smith 120 412 3.4 33 1.
Ray Zellars 56 162 2.9 15 1.
Troy Davis 36 106 2.9 14 0.
Kerry Collins 18 103 5.7 20 1.
Receiving NO. YARDS AVG. LONG TD
Sean Dawkins 39 651 16.7 64 1.
Cam Cleeland 35 498 14.2 53 4.
Andre Hastings 25 271 10.8 23 2.
Keith Poole 21 462 22.0 82 2.
Aaron Craver 20 158 7.9 49 1.
RESULTS - SCHEDULE
S 6 Arizona W 38-10.
S 13 at Denver L 42-23.
S 21 at NY Giants W 31-7.
S 27 Oakland L 13-12.
O 4 at Washington W 31-10.
O 11 Carolina W 27-20.
O 18 at Chicago L 13-12.
O 25 open.
N 2 at Philadelphia W 34-0.
N 8 NY Giants W 16-6.
N 15 at Arizona W 35-28.
N 22 Seattle W 30-22.
N 26 Minnesota L 46-36.
D 6 at New Orleans 12:01.
D 13 at Kansas City 3:15.
D 20 Philadelphia 3:15.
D 27 Washington 7:20.
X X X
S 6 at St. Louis W 24-17.
S 13 Carolina W 19-14.
S 20 open.
S 27 at Indianpls W 19-13.
O 4 New England L 30-27.
O 11 San Francisco L 31-0.
O 18 at Atlanta L 31-23.
O 25 Tampa Bay W 9-3.
N 1 at Carolina L 31-17.
N 8 at Minnesota L 31-24.
N 15 St. Louis W 24-3.
N 22 at San Francisco L 31-20.
N 29 at Miami L 30-10.
D 6 Dallas 12:01.
D 13 Atlanta 12:01.
D 20 at Arizona 3:15.
D 27 Buffalo 12:01.
(c) 1998, The Dallas Morning News.
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