Fri, Dec 08, 2006 - Page 21 News List

Saints ready to go marching into Dallas


A Texas homecoming for New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton adds drama to the National Football League's marquis matchup on Sunday while a dozen teams struggling for playoff berths face crucial games.

Payton, who spent the past three seasons as a Cowboys assistant, marches the Saints into Dallas in a showdown of division leaders with 8-4 records.

Together with star rookie rusher Reggie Bush and NFL passing yardage leader Drew Brees, Payton has molded the Saints from the anguish of Hurricane Katrina and a miserable campaign into a legitimate Super Bowl threat.

Brees has thrown for an NFL-best 3,649 yards with 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while Bush comes off his best game, having run for three touchdowns and caught another scoring pass.

"He has gotten better every week," Brees said of Bush. "I think there were times when he got frustrated, like any rookie would. He was used to running circles around people. But he bounced back."

The Cowboys have been impressive as well, winning four games in a row behind quarterback Tony Romo, who is 5-1 since replacing Drew Bledsoe as the Dallas starter. He has completed 131-of-189 passes for 1,683 yards and 11 touchdowns.

It was Payton who prodded the Cowboys into signing Romo in 2003 and tried in vain to swing a deal with Dallas for Romo before this season.

Dallas coach Bill Parcells is pleased with what the Cowboys have done so far but knows the line is thin between victory and defeat.

"We're trying to improve as we go and play our best football, which I think we are right this minute," Parcells said.

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