NEW ORLEANS -- The Dallas Cowboys' defense was beaten up badly on Sunday night.
The defense allowed an NFL-record 40 first downs and a franchise-record 625 yards in the 49-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night. The Saints scored on seven of 10 offensive possessions, and it would have been eight if not for a missed 37-yard field-goal attempt.
"Well, a little bit of everything, run and pass, they did a really good job and we didn’t do a really good job, a combination of both," Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said.
Starting linebackers Sean Lee and Justin Durant were lost to hamstring injuries in the game, and starting defensive tackle Jason Hatcher didn't play because of a stinger. The Cowboys were also missing nickle corner Morris Claiborne (hamstring) and rookie starting safety J.J. Wilcox (knee).
At one point the Cowboys were playing rookies Jeff Heath, B.W. Webb and Jakar Hamilton in the secondary. (Webb was benched for Micah Pellerin in the nickel defense.) The defensive line, which got a boost from the return of DeMarcus Ware after he missed the last three games with a thigh injury, had players such as Jarius Wynn, Drake Nevis, Everett Dawkins and Everette Brown chasing Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
"We had a lot of young guys out there, there’s no doubt about it," Kiffin said. "That’s no excuse. That doesn’t explain it. You still got to play better than that. This is the NFL. If you're on our football team and you're in there, you need to play like a starter. You may not be able to do it because you're on the bench, but still, you can't put on a display like that, it's not good at all, not good."
Kiffin said the defense had a solid Thursday practice that carried over to Friday, which sometimes can be a little sloppy since it's the last practice of the week. Kiffin was impressed with the Cowboys' walk-through practice Sunday in the ballroom of the team hotel.
"It certainly didn’t look like that," Kiffin said. "So it doesn’t matter what you do in the ballroom or Friday practice, you better play on Sunday night when you kick if off at 7:30, and we didn’t play very well. We didn’t coach very well or play very well."