Ryan's troops held firm early last season until linebacker Sean Lee's season-ending injury was the first in a line of dominoes to fall on defense.
Kiffin entered Sunday's game without defensive end Anthony Spencer (knee) and Defensive Player of the Year candidate Jason Hatcher (neck). By halftime, Lee was in street clothes with a hamstring injury while All-Pro pass rusher DeMarcus Ware was in and out with an injury of his own.
Although free safety J.J. Wilcox is hardly a household name, his knee injury might have been the most damaging of the bunch. Fill-in starter and nascent Around The League whipping boy Jeff Heath was abused for big plays all night long.
The result was the ugliest in a series of brutal showings for Kiffin's defense this season. Already the only defense in history to surrender four 400-yard passing performances in a season, the Cowboys rolled over for a Saints record 625 yards to go with an NFL record 40 first downs.
In doing so, they also became the first defense in two and a half years to allow a 100-yard performance to 2011 draft bust Mark Ingram. Dallas' defensive futility is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that three of the top five fantasy running-back performances of Week 10 came from the Saints' backfield.
While Ryan's defense is arguably the most improved unit in the NFL, Kiffin's enters the bye week licking its wounds.
For all of their defensive woes, the Cowboys didn't hold a lead at some point in the fourth quarter for just the second time this season. They've been the most competitive team in a weak NFC East. As long as the week off heals what ails Hatcher, Lee, Ware and Wilcox, the remaining schedule is light enough for Dallas to keep pace with a revitalized Eagles team.