Stats & Info preview: Cowboys vs. Saints

The Dallas Cowboys, in winning five of their last six games, have operated by the maxim that the best defense is a good offense. The Cowboys’ increased offensive production and efficiency has spurred their winning ways as they averaged 29.5 points per game since the start of Week 10. The Cowboys’ points per drive average in their last six games is 2.2, fifth in the NFL. In their first eight games, the Cowboys averaged 1.7 points per drive, 21st in the league.

Here are four other statistical areas to watch Sunday:

  • A loss by the Saints would guarantee their first losing season since 2007 and officially eliminate them from playoff contention. Saints quarterback Drew Brees needs 165 yards to become the first player in NFL history with at least 4,500 passing yards in three consecutive seasons. Brees has picked up his fair share of yards throwing the ball more than 10 yards downfield this season, but the Saints’ fortunes have been tied to whether Brees throws an interception on such passes. Brees has thrown 12 interceptions on passes 10-plus yards downfield, including 11 in the Saints’ eight losses. The Cowboys have four interceptions on passes 10 or more yards downfield this season, tied for second fewest in the NFL.

  • Play-action passes have been successful for the Cowboys with running back DeMarco Murray on the field this season. Quarterback Tony Romo has gone 15 of 21 with four touchdowns on play-action passes since Murray returned from injury in Week 13. Overall, when Murray has been active this season, Romo is averaging 10.5 per play-action pass attempt and has not thrown an interception on such passes. When Murray has been inactive, Romo has only thrown one play-action touchdown and has averaged 3.9 yards per attempt. The Saints have allowed the highest yards per pass attempt (10.9) on play-action passes this season.

  • Dez Bryant has a touchdown catch in each of his last six games. That is the longest streak for a Cowboys player since Terrell Owens had a streak of seven straight games with a touchdown in 2007. Since the start of Week 10, Bryant leads the NFL in touchdown catches with eight. Bryant has done nearly all of his damage after halftime this season, recording all 10 of his touchdowns while putting up more than twice as many receiving yards as in the first half.

  • Jason Witten has 97 catches and with six more, he will set the record for most receptions in a single season by a tight end. Witten could also become just the second Cowboys player to record 100 catches in a single season. Michael Irvin set the franchise record with 111 receptions in 1995. Witten has been able to pile up the receptions after an early season case of the drops. Witten had seven drops in his first 46 targets this season but has none in last 80 targets.