Bad play turns good for Saints in win over Cowboys

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ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins admittedly took a bad angle at the same time one of the cornerbacks slipped. That left Roy Williams wide open and sprinting down the field seemingly about the seal an incredible Thanksgiving comeback for the Dallas Cowboys.

“Honestly, it could have been a catastrophe,” Jenkins said. “A bad play turned good for us.”

Jenkins caught Williams from behind, stripping the ball away so forcefully at the 11-yard line that it wound up in the defender’s arms. Five plays later, Drew Brees threw a touchdown pass to Lance Moore that gave New Orleans a 30-27 victory.

So aware that cornerback Tracy Porter was in pursuit, Williams switched the ball from his right to left hand. But Jenkins was charging hard from that side.

“I lost the ballgame,” Williams said. “I let my teammates down. I need to fall down. We run the clock down and win the game. I was trying to make a play and they did a good job. … We had the momentum going our way. We were there. That was a W.”

Until Jenkins snatched the ball away.

“It is an effort play and a heart play,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “One of those plays that inspires everybody on the team.”

After Brees’ 12-yard TD pass with 1:55 left put New Orleans (8-3) ahead, the Cowboys had one more chance after twice trailing by 17 points.

With a series of short passes, Jon Kitna got the Cowboys (3-8) to the New Orleans 41 before three consecutive incompletions. David Buehler then tried a game-tying 59-yard field goal — his kick had the distance, but sailed just wide left with 25 seconds left.

The Cowboys came in 2-0 under interim coach Jason Garrett, playing like the Super Bowl contenders they were supposed to be instead of the 1-7 squad they became under coach Wade Phillips. They fell behind 17-0 less than 11 minutes into the game, but showed poise and toughness by fighting back.

Dallas scored touchdowns after Reggie Bush fumbled on a punt return and Gerald Sensabaugh intercepted a pass by Brees that deflected off the hands of a receiver. The Cowboys led 27-23 on Tashard Choice’s 1-yard TD run with 5:51 left.

New Orleans then went three-and-out, and Williams was streaking down the field soon after that.

“It really looked like he made a very conscious effort to lock it up, even get the other hand on it,” Garrett said. “It’s one of those things you preach and you drill all the time: Don’t turn a great play into a disastrous play.”

The Saints won their fourth straight game. The defending Super Bowl champions played on Thanksgiving for the first time, and hope to be back at Cowboys Stadium in February for another Super Bowl.

Brees finished 23 of 39 for 352 yards, getting the Saints started with a game-opening, four-play drive that ended on Chris Ivory’s 3-yard run and never had a second-down play. Defensive lineman Will Smith intercepted a screen to set up Garrett Hartley’s 50-yard field goal, then Ivory scored on a 6-yard run.

New Orleans led 20-3 before Buehler kicked a 53-yard field goal as the first half ended and Miles Austin went 60 yards on an end around on the second play of the second half.

If the ending had been slightly different, Garrett would’ve been the face of two of the greatest Thanksgiving rallies in club history. In 1994, he made a rare start at quarterback in place of an injured Troy Aikman and took the Cowboys from a 17-3 deficit against Brett Favre and the Packers to a 42-31 victory.

Instead, this game might go down with Leon Lett’s snowy gaffe in 1993 as another one that got away.

“I think we demonstrated again what we’ve done the last few weeks — battle and fight,” Garrett said. “There were a lot of things to be proud of. Guys played with a lot of passion, energy and enthusiasm. … But you’ve got to get the bottom line right. We didn’t get it done.”

Bush was back after missing eight games because of a broken leg, and he looked a bit rusty in limited action.

The first pass thrown to him bounced off his shoulder pads and helmet. He dropped a likely touchdown and had the fumble.

“I don’t like to think of myself as rusty at all, but maybe it is,” Bush said. “That was just a mental error on my part. … Those are things that we can’t have and that they can get you beat. Next week, we’ll get better.”

Bush had practiced only on a limited basis during a short week of light team workouts. He got hurt Sept. 20, the second week of the season, while recovering his muffed punt at San Francisco.

Though Bush started, he carried only once for a yard and caught only one of the three passes thrown his way for 12 yards.

Trying to extend a 20-13 lead after halftime, the Saints had third-and-7 from the Cowboys 10 when Brees threw a pass to Bush wide open over the middle. Catch the ball, and he likely walks into the end zone. Instead, they settled for a field goal.

The bigger mistake came a few minutes later when Bush fumbled after being hit from behind.

“With the turnover, you just can’t have those type of mistakes in a crucial situation like that in the game, when the game is on the line,” Bush said. “I’ve got to clean it up and I’ve got to play better. But it did feel good to get back out there and get my feet wet. … The important thing was we got a win.”