Tony Romo passed for 312 yards and DeMarcus Ware was superb despite playing with a neck injury as Dallas beat New Orleans 24-17, handing the previously unbeaten Saints their first loss.
The Cowboys compiled a 21-point lead and then held off a New Orleans’ rally for the victory, keeping their playoff hopes alive.
The loss by the Saints (13-1) left the Indianapolis Colts (14-0) as the National Football League’s only unbeaten team this season.
“We all know how good their offense is so we had to move the ball on them,” Romo said.
Dallas (9-5) came out quickly on Saturday, dominating the first quarter, and jumped out to a 17-3 lead at halftime.
New Orleans rallied in the fourth after trailing 24-3 at the end of the third quarter. They scored two quick touchdowns in the fourth to get back in it.
Dallas kicker Nick Folk missed a 24-yard field goal wide right with just over two minutes left in the game.
Quarterback Drew Brees then moved the Saints into the Cowboys zone late in the game in an attempt to tie it, but on second down, Ware sacked Brees and the ball was recovered by Dallas with six seconds on the clock.
“We’ll digest this,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “Nonetheless, it is what it is and we’ve got to get back to work next week.”
Ware almost missed Saturday’s game after injuring his neck last week. Doctors gave him the green light to play and he was a key part of a Cowboys defense that stymied the Saints’ attack.
“It came down to the mistakes. We eliminated them and the turnovers,” Ware said.
Marion Barbour ran for two touchdowns for the Cowboys, who ended a two-game losing skid. The win spoiled a record-setting night for Brees, who hit Lance Moore for a seven-yard touchdown pass late in the game. It gave Brees a franchise-leading 121 touchdown passes since he joined the Saints three years ago.
“This is going to sting for a while, but we’ve got to be able to put this behind us,” Brees said. “It’s all about the next game.”
Brees finished with 298 passing yards with a touchdown and an interception on 29-of-45 passing. He also had two lost fumbles as the Saints offense had their worst game of the season. New Orleans’ Marques Colston had five catches for 86 yards, while David Thomas grabbed eight catches for 77 yards.