No chance, he'd said. There was no chance the Dallas Cowboys could go into New Orleans, into the Superdome, and beat the mighty Saints. The undefeated Saints. The undefeatable Saints. They'd won 13 in a row. The Cowboys had lost two in a row. They had no chance of winning this game.
He was Tony Dungy. Superbowl winning Tony Dungy. No chance, he'd said.
One really couldn't fault him, though. He'd only said what everyone was thinking, even Cowboys fans. Even Cowboys fans knew there was little chance their team could defeat the indomitable Saints.
The Saints won the toss. Let the slaughter begin. But it wasn't the Saints doing the slaughtering. It was the Cowboys who came out swinging. It was the Cowboys who held the Saints to a three and out in their first possession. It was the Cowboys who scored a touchdown on their first possession. It was the Cowboys who held the Saints to a second consecutive three and out. It was the Cowboys who scored a second consecutive touchdown. These first four possessions would set the tone for the entire game.
By halftime, the Cowboys had done something no other team had done this season--they'd held the mighty Saints to just three points. They'd hit Drew Brees more than he'd been hit all season. If it wasn't sacks, it was hits and hurrys. By the last possession of the game, Anthony Spencer had two sacks, and would have had a third if one had not been called back by a penalty. DeMarcus Ware had a sack and a forced fumble--recovered by the same Anthony Spencer.
At the start of the fourth quarter, the score was Cowboys 24, Saints 3. But the Saints have owned the fourth quarter. They'd dug themselves out of huge holes before. It's how they'd gotten to 13-0. There was no reason to doubt that they could do it this time, too. When the Saints scored their first touchdown, Cowboy and Saints fans alike thought, "Here they come." And when the Saints scored another, Cowboy and Saints fans alike said, "They're rolling now."
And when Nick Folk missed what should have been an easy 24 yard field goal to put the game away, Cowboy fans everywhere groaned. This was eerily reminiscent of what had happened in the Saints/Redskins game just two weeks prior. In that game, after Redskins kicker Shaun Shuisham missed a game clinching 23 yard field goal, the Saints came back, tied the game, then won in overtime. Here they had a chance to do the same thing to the Cowboys. But the Cowboys have something the Redskins don't.
They have DeMarcus Ware.
The same DeMarcus Ware who is the heart and soul, not just of the defense, but of the entire team. The same DeMarcus Ware who has what can best be described as a quiet fury. The same DeMarcus Ware who is a beast on the field. The same DeMarcus Ware who once again leads the team in sacks. And yes, the very same DeMarcus Ware who, just six short days ago was strapped to a backboard and carted off the field to the sound of 90,000 Cowboys fans holding their breath.
He hadn't started the game. He'd played mostly on third down situations, working his way slowly back into the game. But on this drive, with the game on the line, yeah, everyone knew he would play every single snap. And the Cowboys needed him. The Saints were driving. They were moving down the field. There were 12 seconds left in the game. Time for one more play.
Drew Brees takes the snap, drops back, and in a moment that is somehow fitting, is sacked by DeMarcus Ware.
Brees fumbles the ball, and it is recovered by Jay Ratliff. All Tony has to do is take a knee, and the game is over. Final score, Cowboys 24, Saints 17.
No chance, he'd said. There was no chance the Dallas Cowboys could go into New Orleans, into the Superdome, and beat the mighty Saints. The undefeated Saints. The undefeatable Saints.
Somebody forgot to tell the Cowboys that.