NEW ORLEANS — Dez Bryant sat on the Dallas bench midway through the third quarter Sunday night, a slight lean forward the only sign of emotion.
How devastatingly efficient was New Orleans’ defensive performance against the Cowboys?
Bryant didn’t even have an emotional sideline breakdown.
There was no point.
New Orleans’ effort in a 49-17 win over Dallas was as brilliant a defensive performance as has been delivered in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in years.
Against the franchise that unceremoniously dumped him in January, Rob Ryan devised a scheme that allowed very little to a prolific Dallas offense.
The league’s fourth-best scoring offense was held to 17 points. It gained just 193 yards. It went 0-for-9 on third down. One of the best receivers – Bryant – had just one catch for just 44 yards.
Ryan might still be out buying rounds of drinks at Ms. Mae’s and other dark, smoky drinking establishments. He certainly had as of midnight, when Mary Sonnier (@chefmarysonnier) tweeted he had just done so.
If the Cowboys weren’t concerned about the decision to him go before, they certainly were wondering about the decision after Sunday night.
Owner Jerry Jones, to assembled reporters afterwards, told them, “We thought it was best for us to go in the direction that we are and it doesn’t look good right now,” ESPN.com’s Tim MacMahon reported.
And yet, Saints players all described a Ryan during the week that was as normal as anyone, or at least as normal as he’ll ever be.
“He comes in every week and he prepares us the same way,” defensive end Akiem Hicks said. “I couldn’t really see a change. He talked about how he felt and what he wanted to do coming into this game but he still treated it like every other game.”
Dallas only had two drives all game, both combining for 156 yards.
The rest of the game?
Seven drives were three-and-outs, one was a four-and-out and two others went five plays and six plays. They combined for 37 yards.
And then there’s Bryant, who had three games of 100-plus yards this season and there with two touchdowns.Ryan knew Bryant and Tony Romo so well that the receiver was non-existent.
“I have to give hats off to our coaches,” said New Orleans cornerback Keenan Lewis, who drew the task of taking on Bryant one-on-one. “They told me all week how to play him. He’s a good receiver. He is one of the best in the league and we knew that’s who they wanted to go to.
“I just make sure he didn’t get the ball.”
He didn’t and neither did his teammates and Sunday night, no one could have been as happy as Ryan.