Quarterback Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints were accustomed to dictating a game to opponents entering Thursday night's game against the Dallas Cowboys.
When the dust settled, the league's top-scoring team and fifth-ranked offense managed just 10 points and 176 yards, the latter marking the Saints' fewest total yards of offense since Week 17 of the 2001 season.
"I felt like we didn't really find a rhythm for pretty much the whole game," quarterback Drew Brees told reporters after the game, via the Saints' official website. "I mean, I guess we may have had one decent drive. But for the most part, I felt like we just didn't really find a great rhythm with what we were doing, so credit to them."
The Cowboys' defense shut down the Saints early and often en route to a 13-10 win, forcing the Saints to start off the game with two three-and-out possessions and Brees to misfire on his first four pass attempts.
Dallas forced the Saints to punt on their first three possessions and limited Brees, the NFL's all-time career passing leader, to complete 7 of 13 passes for 39 yards in the first half.
Brees' 39 passing yards marked his fewest in a first half since Week 3 of the 2004 when he was a member of then-San Diego Chargers.
"A little bit of it was execution on our part," Brees said. "I felt like we had some opportunities to connect on some pass early and we didn't. First drive, I know there was a least a few that would've gotten things going. So, you start off a game with two three-and-outs and that's not the way you want to start, and then on the other side they were able to put together some decent drives.
"For us, as an offense, we think complementary football. Let's put together a drive, let's keep our defense off the field, let's control the game, control the clock, control the ball. It just felt like we really did that as an offense like we've done this year."
Brees entered the game completing a league-best 76.4 percent of his passes, but finished the game completing 18 of 28 passes (64.3 percent) for 127 yards and a touchdown against an interception for a 71.6 passer rating. The 127 yards was the second-fewest in a game this season and a significant drop from his 285 yards passing per game average on the season.
A dependable running game, which entered the game ranked sixth in the league (133.1 yards per game), also failed to get going. Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara combined for 18 carries and 63 yards on the game, setting up numerous third-and-long situations and the Saints converted just 3 of 11 third-down attempts (27 percent).
"Tip your hat to Dallas," Saints head coach Sean Payton said. "I thought those guys did a good job tonight. They played a heck of a game, deserved to win the game."
The loss dropped the Saints to 10-2 on the season, a half-game behind the Los Angeles Rams (10-1) in the race for the NFC's No. 1 playoff seed with four games remaining.