Pass D's concerns run deep vs. Saints

The Dallas Cowboys’ defense didn’t fare well against the San Diego Chargers’ vertical passing game. If those flaws aren’t fixed, they will be exposed Saturday night by the New Orleans Saints.

The Saints are the best in the league in lot of offensive categories. Downfield passing is one of them.

According to Stats, Inc., the Saints have the most completions (28), yards (1,089) and touchdowns (10) on passes that are thrown more than 20 yards downfield. And there is a gap of more than 300 yards between the Saints and Chargers, who rank second in yardage on such throws.

Drew Brees does not have a cannon by NFL quarterback standards, but he is incredibly accurate in the vertical passing game. New Orleans has completed 57.1 percent of plus-20-yard passes this season. To put that into perspective, Tony Romo has completed 22.9 percent of such throws this season. The Saints are the only team with a completion percentage higher than 44.

Why are the Saints so successful throwing deep?

“They’re so effective throwing it everywhere,” Wade Phillips said. “They hit a lot of short passes on you, and you get frustrated. You get frustrated with them hitting it in front of you, hitting it in front of you, and all of a sudden, they make a short-route move and go deep. They’ve hurt a lot of people on that.”

Now Brees has the Cowboys’ secondary in his cross-hairs.