Saints survive Cowboys’ late surge for OT win

Updated: December 24, 2012

Garrett Hartley drilled a 20-yard field goal in overtime as the New Orleans Saints recovered from a late rally by the Dallas Cowboys to take a 34-31 victory at Cowboys Stadium.

The Cowboys rallied from a 14-point deficit in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter and then received the ball first in the extra period, but they could not score, leading to Hartley’s game-winning kick.

Drew Brees completed 37-of-53 passes for 446 yards and three touchdowns for the Saints (7-8), who have won two straight.

“To go out there with really nothing on the line and to play like we played, to play for each other, that’s what we talked about. We talked about being a New Orleans Saint and playing for each other like a brotherhood,” Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said.

Marques Colston finished with 153 yards on 10 receptions, while Darren Sproles added 104 yards on seven catches to go along with 48 yards on nine carries.

Tony Romo threw for 416 yards and four scores on 26-of-43 efficiency for Dallas (8-7), which fell a game off the pace for the top spot in the NFC East after the Washington Redskins defeated the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

The Cowboys head to Washington to face off with the Redskins in next week’s regular season finale. The winner will capture the division crown as the New York Giants lost to the Baltimore Ravens later Sunday to fall out of contention.

Dez Bryant hauled in nine catches for 224 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Cowboys had their three-game win streak snapped.

Jason Witten finished with six receptions for 60 yards, which gave him 103 catches on the season to snap Tony Gonzalez’s record for receptions by a tight end (102) set in 2004.

The Cowboys started a drive at their own 20 trailing 31-17 with less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter, and a 41-yard reception by Bryant set up a 16-yard touchdown grab by Dwayne Harris in the front corner of the end zone to make it a one-score game with 3:35 remaining.

The Cowboys would get the ball back at their own 36-yard line with 1:29 left after a 25-yard punt return by Harris, and receptions of 22 and 19 yards by DeMarco Murray and Witten, respectively, moved the ball to the New Orleans 19.

Faced with a 4th-and-10 following a spike and two incomplete passes, Romo found Miles Austin in the right side of the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown to knot the game at 31-31 with 15 seconds to go in regulation, forcing overtime.

Dallas won the coin toss and received the ball first in overtime, but the Cowboys would manage just one first down and were forced to punt after Romo’s pass intended for Bryant on a 3rd-and-5 fell incomplete.

Brees then found a wide open Graham near the right sideline for a 26-yard gain on the first play of the ensuing drive to move the Saints across midfield.

After converting a 3rd-and-3 with a 7-yard reception by Graham, Colston caught a quick slant and immediately had the ball punched out of his hands.

The ball was kicked forward and bounced towards the Dallas end zone, and Graham was able to chase it down and fall on it at the Cowboys’ two.

The play was reviewed to see if Colston had full control of the ball before he fumbled, but the play was upheld and Hartley split the uprights on the very next play to give the Saints the win.

“Ultimately, they made more plays than we did,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “We battled on offense, we battled on defense and we battled on the kicking game, but ultimately we didn’t get it done.”

The Saints received the ball first to open the game and Brees converted a pair of third downs through the air, including a 15-yard strike to Colston on a 3rd-and-7 at the New Orleans 23, during a 10-play, 80-yard march Mark Ingram capped with a 9-yard touchdown run up the middle.

New Orleans regained the ball at its own nine following a Dallas punt, and Sproles kept the drive alive by converting a 3rd-and-14 with a 14-yard gain on a screen pass.

Brees would later connect with Graham and Pierre Thomas on double-digit gains to move the ball deep inside Dallas territory, but the Saints could not push the ball into the end zone and Hartley’s 36-yard field goal attempt missed wide left to keep it a 7-0 game with 14:15 left in the second quarter.

The Cowboys then needed just three plays to tie the game as Romo found Bryant deep down the right sideline following a play-action fake and Bryant avoided a defender before racing across the goal line for a 58-yard touchdown.

Dallas took over on offense again at its own 25 after New Orleans was forced to punt and on the fifth play of the drive, Romo hit Bryant on a quick slant and the receiver broke a pair of tackles en route to his second 58-yard score of the game, giving the Cowboys a 14-7 lead with 5:43 remaining in the half.

New Orleans answered with a 12-play, 90-yard trek that was kept alive with an offsides penalty on Dallas when the Saints opted to go for a 4th-and-1 at the Dallas 23 and was finished with Lance Moore’s 6-yard touchdown grab.

Colston led the way in the drive with three receptions for 33 yards.

The Saints got the ball back at their own 30 with 47 seconds left in the second quarter after the Cowboys were held to a three-and-out, and a 44-yard catch-and-run by Sproles on the first play of the drive set up Hartley’s 37- yard field goal as time expired to give New Orleans a 17-14 lead at the break.

Dallas countered with a 47-yard kick by Dan Bailey on the opening drive of the third quarter to knot the game at 17-17.

The Cowboys later took over on offense at their own 3-yard line late in the third quarter, but Murray had the ball ripped out of his hands on the first play of the drive and New Orleans recovered the loose ball at the Dallas five.

Three plays later, Brees found Pierre Thomas wide open over the middle for a 5-yard touchdown after the running back snuck out of the backfield, giving the Saints a 24-17 lead with 4:03 left in the third quarter.

New Orleans regained the ball at its own two following a Dallas punt, and a 16-yard grab by Graham gave the Saints some breathing room before Colston hauled in a pass over the middle, broke a tackle and raced down the right sideline for a 60-yard gain to place the ball at the Dallas three.

David Thomas capped the 9-play drive on the next play with a 3-yard scoring grab to put New Orleans on top, 31-17, with 11:10 left in the fourth quarter.