Rapid Reaction: Cowboys 24, Saints 17

The Cowboys ended the Saints' hopes of a perfect season and in doing so pumped life back into their playoff hopes with a stunning 24-17 win in the Superdome. Dallas silenced the raucous crowd by scoring the first 14 points of the game. On the Cowboys' first possession, Miles Austin scored on a 49-yard pass and Dallas served notice that this would not be another runaway win over an NFC East opponent by the Saints.

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was brilliant for most of the game, going 22-of-34 for 312 yards and a touchdown. He made plays with his legs to extend drives and he and Austin hooked up on several key plays. The Saints staged a furious rally in the fourth quarter, but this time they dug themselves too deep a hole.

The Saints only managed a field goal in the first half, in part, because of the poor play of quarterback Drew Brees. Even when he had time in the second quarter, he made some awful throws. Cowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins, who had an excellent game, intercepted Brees to end one drive. And late in the first half, Brees fumbled when he was hit by DeMarcus Ware. The ball was recovered by Anthony Spencer and Nick Folk nailed a 44-yard field goal.

Brees was sacked by Ware on the Saints' final play and the ball was recovered by Jay Ratliff. The offense put up some big numbers but I thought the defense is what won this game. They held Brees down for three quarters. Now, the Cowboys are alive and well in the race for the NFC East title.

And if the Cowboys and Eagles keep winning, that final game between the two teams could be for the NFC East title. The Cowboys won the first meeting, so they'd own the tie-breaker if the teams both finish with the same overall record.

Romo has taken a ton of heat for his performances in December but he came through in the clutch against the Saints on Dec. 19.