Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

November 29, 2018 at 2:10 am.

On short week, Saints face improved Dallas defense

The New Orleans Saints lead the NFL with a scoring average of more than 37 points per game.

They have won 10 games in a row. Each of the last five wins has come by a margin of at least 10 points and the average score in those games has been 41-19.

They have remarkable balance, ranking sixth in rushing yards, sixth in passing yards and fifth in total yards. The balance on offense, the ability to consistently play from ahead and an offensive line that has allowed just 10 sacks are all factors in quarterback Drew Brees having the most efficient of his 18 seasons.

The Saints sometimes lean on the run more, sometimes they lean on the pass more, but in either case it’s usually the result of the game plan for that particular opponent or the manner in which the game develops – not because either phase isn’t working.

In other words, it seems as if the opponent is almost irrelevant. If New Orleans keeps preparing and executing as it has been, the success is likely to continue, beginning with a game at Dallas on Thursday.

“Obviously, what the defense does to a degree dictates how we play, what we’re calling or maybe how we’re doing things,” Brees said, “but for the most part as we go throughout the week of preparation, we talk about our execution, we talk about our tempo, we talk about our in and out of the huddle, in and out, up and down, getting the ball snapped, guys knowing what to do so they can play fast, play confidently.

“We feel like if we do that, it doesn’t matter who the defense is, that we can outplay them, out-execute them. You’re obviously, conscious of certain guys and situations and what does this team do on third down? What does this team do in the red zone? What does this team do in certain situations? But for the most part, we just focus on detailing our stuff.”

The Saints’ stuff has produced the second-longest winning streak in franchise history. The only longer one came when the 2009 team started 13-0 on its way to winning New Orleans’ only Super Bowl.

The Saints haven’t lost since Sept. 9, but they’re facing a team that is on a bit of a roll of its own in the resurgent Cowboys, who have won their last three games.

“You don’t begin to count (games), but then you start beginning to do the things that are necessary to win,” Saints head coach Sean Payton said of his team’s streak. “Some of it is confidence and some of it is playing well down the stretch. This will be a challenge. A much different challenge then we have had as of late.”

It has been six weeks since an opponent has held New Orleans to fewer than 30 points and that wasn’t good enough to win as New Orleans beat Baltimore 24-23. Dallas, though, is allowing just 19.4 points per game, fourth best in the NFL.

“The Cowboys defense is playing just as well as any defense in the league,” Payton said. “We are going to have to be able to handle that, handle the noise and their front does a great job of getting on your edge and the movement they present and the challenges they present are difficult.”

SERIES HISTORY: 29th regular-season meeting. Cowboys lead series, 16-12, including a 10-4 mark in Dallas. The Saints have won nine of the last 11 meetings and have a 2-1 mark in AT&T Stadium. New Orleans won the last meeting 26-20 in 2015 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, but Dallas won the last meeting in AT&T Stadium, 38-7 in 2014.