W2W4: Saints at Cowboys

METAIRIE, La. -- Who are these guys?

The New Orleans Saints (1-2) and Dallas Cowboys (2-1) have both learned to embrace their run games this year. And their potent offenses have become much harder to defend as a result.

Here's What 2 Watch 4 when they meet Sunday night in Dallas:

Pick your poison: When you think of Dallas, you think about dynamic receiver Dez Bryant first and foremost. But the Cowboys have stubbornly stuck to their run game this year -- even when they were down 21-0 last week at the St. Louis Rams before rallying for a victory. DeMarco Murray leads the NFL in rushing yards (385) and carries (75).

That means the Saints' defense will have to be on its best behavior. They struggled with things like missed tackles and blown assignments in their first two losses. They can't afford either at Dallas.

Meanwhile, the Saints offense has been making defenses pay for sitting back in deep coverage to guard against big plays from the likes of Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston and Brandin Cooks. New Orleans ranks sixth in the NFL with 140.3 rushing yards per game, using a committee of Mark Ingram (who is out for Sunday night with a hand injury), Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson.

Dallas' defense has been hit and miss this year -- though it's better than last season, when the Saints set a NFL record with 40 first downs in a 49-17 victory over the Cowboys in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Get the ball: Forcing more turnovers has been arguably the Saints' No. 1 objective since the offseason, when they signed ball-hawking safety Jairus Byrd in free agency. But they have a grand total of one takeaway so far this season -- which came in the first quarter of Week 1.

The Saints inexplicably have just five takeaways over their past 14 games. Asked what they can do differently, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said, "That's a great question."

"Right now, man, nobody's doing worse than the Ryan brothers," Ryan said of his brother Rex, whose New York Jets have forced only two turnovers this year. "We might say we are two of the best coaches, and I believe that, and I know that. We're doing everything we can to do it, but we have to do more. There's got to be something else out there.

"We keep emphasizing it and all of that, but that's lip service. We need to start getting turnovers and it needs to start happening this week."

The Cowboys could provide an opportunity. They've turned the ball over seven times, with four interceptions by Tony Romo.

Bryant vs. Lewis: This is a potential "get your popcorn ready" matchup. Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis has quietly become one of the NFL's best cover men -- and one of his signature performances came against Bryant last year, when he stymied him with press coverage while a safety often shadowed behind. Bryant said this week that he was surprised by that double coverage, but he has plenty of respect for Lewis.

It will be curious to see, however, if the Saints stick with that approach, which could leave them vulnerable against weapons like Murray, tight end Jason Witten and speedy receiver Terrance Williams. In Week 1, the Saints actually used Lewis in man coverage against the Atlanta Falcons' No. 2 receiver, Roddy White, while using more double teams on No. 1 receiver Julio Jones. Although the Saints got burned in that game by underneath throws, they didn't get beat deep much by those potent weapons.

Who's who?: Although the Saints have faced Dallas in each of the past two years and four of the past five years, they've got to get used to a lot of new faces in the Cowboys' front seven. Longtime pass rusher DeMarcus Ware is now in Denver. Fellow pass rusher Anthony Spencer is questionable for Sunday night. And standout middle linebacker Sean Lee is on injured reserve.

The Cowboys' front is now led by free-agent newcomers like end Jeremy Mincey, tackle Henry Melton and middle linebacker Rolando McClain (though Melton and McClain are also questionable with injuries).

"I think more than anything, they're playing really assignment sound," Saints offensive tackle Zach Strief said. "When we watched the tape from last year I think there was a lot of indecision, linebacker reads coming slow, which let us get to the second level. You don't see that with them this year."