Exposed? Cowboys' 3-0 start doesn't look so great after they struggle in loss to Saints

Are the Dallas Cowboys frauds? Probably not. They’re still a talented team that is going to win plenty of games.

But it might be wise to slow down the talk of the Cowboys being the NFC’s best team, at least for now.

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Dallas, off to a 3-0 start against a soft schedule, went to New Orleans to face a Saints team without Drew Brees. Even without Brees, it was the Cowboys’ first real challenge this season. And on Sunday night, the Saints never scored a touchdown. It was the first time New Orleans failed to score a touchdown in a home game during the Sean Payton era, NBC said. But the Saints still beat the Cowboys, who couldn’t move the ball consistently and lost 12-10.

It was an impressive victory for the Saints, who are finding ways to win without Brees. They’re 2-0 in Teddy Bridgewater’s two starts. Meanwhile, it raised questions about the legitimacy of what we saw from the Cowboys during that 3-0 start.

Saints defense has a great night vs. Dallas

The Cowboys started the season against the Giants, Redskins and Dolphins. The Giants are 2-2, winning both games after Daniel Jones took over at quarterback. Dallas got to face Eli Manning. The other two teams are a combined 0-8.

Dallas looked great in those games, but it was tough to tell how good the Cowboys really were. A lot of teams would look good against the worst franchises in the NFL.

Still, they passed the eye test through those three games. Dak Prescott was fantastic. Ezekiel Elliott was as efficient as ever. Amari Cooper made big plays. The defense was one of the best in the NFL. At least the defense showed up on Sunday night.

Bridgewater wasn’t great. Nobody on the Saints offense was. This is their new reality without Brees. The Saints’ defense and special teams will have to play very well, and to this point that has happened. Last week at Seattle, there was a punt return for a touchdown and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Against Dallas, kicker Wil Lutz hit all four field-goal attempts and the defense was outstanding. They shut down the Cowboys’ predictable runs on first down and cornerback Marshon Lattimore took Amari Cooper out of the game. Elliott had 35 rushing yards on 18 attempts. Cooper had a quiet 48 yards.

In the final six minutes, the Saints defense had a key sequence. Dallas, which was trailing 12-10, got 9 yards on first down. Then Elliott was stuffed for a 1-yard loss on second-and-1 and then Cooper was blanketed on third down and a pass to him was knocked incomplete. Dallas punted, New Orleans ran the clock down under the two-minute warning and Dallas didn’t have a miraculous drive on its final possession.

The Saints’ defense was very good all night. Or, the Cowboys’ offense wasn’t good enough.

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was held in check by the Saints. (Getty Images)

Cowboys were 3-0 but against soft competition

The Cowboys face the Packers at home next. Then after what should be an easy win against the Jets, the Cowboys host the Eagles. The Jets are bad, but the games against the Packers and Eagles should give us an idea what the Cowboys are all about this season.

Dallas still finishes the first quarter of the season 3-1, and most teams would love that. The Eagles have had their own problems, the Giants probably aren’t NFC East contenders and Washington is terrible. Dallas is still the favorite in the division, despite having a rough night against the Saints’ defense.

But before Sunday night, Dallas looked like the best team in the NFC. That’s not the case at the moment, at least as far as the Saints are concerned.

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Frank Schwabis a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

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