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ARLINGTON, Texas – Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints provided another indication of just how things are going in the wrong direction this season.
They can't even get a boost playing the Dallas Cowboys.
A year after piling up an NFL-record 40 first downs and a team-record 625 total yards against the Cowboys at home, New Orleans trailed by 28 points and was without a touchdown into the fourth quarter Sunday night in a 38-17 loss at Dallas.
Brees wound up throwing for a season-high 340 yards on 32-of-44 passing, but his two touchdown passes came on consecutive drives in the fourth quarter after things were already well out of hand for the Saints (1-3).
All three of the Saints' losses have been on the road — they opened with an overtime loss at Atlanta, then Cleveland kicked a winning field goal with 3 seconds left.
They were coming off a win over Minnesota in their home opener, not allowing a touchdown in that game, but followed that with a Sunday night dud — and far different than the prime-time dominance over Dallas 10 months ago.
The Saints had won eight of the previous nine games in the series, the lone loss in that span coming at home in 2009 when the Cowboys won 24-17 after New Orleans had started that season 13-0.
Brees had led them to three consecutive wins against Dallas since then, and was especially good in the last two. He completed a combined 71 of 94 passes for 838 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions.
This time, Brees' pass was picked off when Bruce Carter tipped a ball that was grabbed by fellow linebacker Justin Durant with about 5 minutes left in the first half.
Two plays later, DeMarco Murray ran 15 yards for a touchdown to give the Cowboys a 17-0 lead. Tony Romo's second TD pass to Terrance Williams, a 23-yarder with 19 seconds left, made it 24-0 at halftime.
"I think we're a different team than we were last year," Romo said. "What you find is you forget it's the Saints and Drew Brees and just go play."
Murray, the NFL's leading rusher, joined Emmitt Smith as the only Dallas running backs with 100 yards in the first four games of a season, and he didn't fumble in the first quarter for the first time this season. He ran 24 times for 149 yards.
Brees had only 84 yards passing, and the Saints 114 total, at halftime.
But the former Texas high school star got going in the second half at the $1.2 billion home of the Cowboys, about 200 miles from his high school home in Austin.
Brees had 256 of his 340 yards passing after halftime, with the TDs of 12 yards to Josh Hill and 13 yards to Jimmy Graham to get the Saints to 31-17 early in the fourth quarter.
With a chance to get closer, a drive stalled midway through the fourth quarter. Punter Thomas Morstead was then tackled for a 2-yard loss while trying to throw a pass on a fake punt, and the Cowboys took advantage when Romo threw an 18-yard TD to Dez Bryant six plays later.
Notes: Saints starting left tackle Terron Armstead didn't return after sustaining a concussion in the first half. ... Dallas had 445 yards against former Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who directed the scheme that led to one of the franchise's worst offensive performances in years last season, about 10 months after they fired him.
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