By Shawn S. Lealos

The Dallas Cowboys continue to try to get by without their two biggest offensive stars with Tony Romo and Dez Bryant still out of action. Their week four opponents were the New Orleans Saints, a team that has struggled off to an 0-3 start this season. The Cowboys fought hard in this game, and while they lost 26-20, they proved that they were capable of winning the game, as it went into overtime before the Saints pulled it out at the end. Here is a look at the Dallas Cowboys team grades for the week four loss.

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Offense: B

Over the last week, fans on social media have clamored for the Dallas Cowboys to consider making a change at quarterback, despite Brandon Weeden doing what he was asked in last week’s loss. Matt Cassel remained inactive this week and Weeden proved that sticking with him was the right decision. While his completion percentage was not as great as last week, Weeden still completed 61 percent of his passes and actually went downfield this time for 246 yards. The best drive of the game came at the end of the fourth quarter when Weeden drove 91 yards and threw a touchdown pass to Terrance Williams to tie the game.

The Cowboys rushing offense was as bad as it has been all season. Joseph Randle opened the gamer with a nice 14 yard run but then finished with 26 yards on 11 carries. He did score a rushing touchdown. The lead rusher was Lance Dunbar, who carried the ball three times for 54 yards, but 45 came on one carry. Darren McFadden added 31 yards on 10 carries and newcomer Christine Michael saw his first action of the season with negative one yards on one carry.

Weeden looked better on offense, without throwing an interception, but he did take three sacks. He looked to his receivers a lot more. Brice Butler had one catch for 67 yards while Cole Beasley caught six balls for 62 yards and Terrance Williams caught three for 49 yard and his touchdown. The tight ends combined for five receptions for 64 yards. It was a nice game offensively but it wasn’t good enough to win.

Defense: C

The Dallas defense seemed to do their best bend-but-don’t-break act, but this time it wasn’t enough. Drew Brees threw a touchdown pass in the first quarter and then the Cowboys limited the Saints to two field goals until the fourth quarter. Drew Brees completed 33-of-41 passes for 359 yards and two touchdowns, with the drive that put the Saints in the lead in the fourth quarter. Brees also drove the Saints down the field at the end of the fourth quarter, and they should have won in regulation but missed a field goal at the end. Brees then completed an 80 yard touchdown pass to CJ Spiller to win the game in overtime. Dallas just couldn’t stop Brees when it counted.

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There is one area that was room for optimism. After getting only three sacks in the first three games, the Cowboys sacked Brees three times in this game. Jack Crawford and DeMarcus Lawrence each had a sack while Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson split a sack between them. Hitchens also led the team with 11 tackles, with one for a loss. The bad news is that Sean Lee left the game with a concussion. Dallas has to hope he returns next week if they have any chance of keeping up with the New England Patriots.

Special Teams: B

Through four games, Dallas has not found a replacement for Dwayne Harris as a kick returner. They didn’t have one single punt return in three attempts and they only returned two kickoffs for an average of 11.5 yards. In he punting game, Chris Jones averaged 41.5 yards a punt. Dan Bailey was just as great as Cowboys’ fans have come to expect, hitting both field goal attempts and both point after tries. The kicking game is solid, but the Cowboys have no one in the return game that can help them start off in good field position. 

Coaching: B

The Cowboys coaching was at its best late in the game. That last drive for Weeden was brilliant, although it was all passing calls. The coaches can’t be blamed for the apparent lack of running either, as the Cowboys ran the ball 28 times and passed it 26 times. Dallas did gain 115 yards on the ground combined. It also has to be noted that the timing of Jason Garrett’s time outs is partially what led to the missed field goal at the end of regulation. It was a nicely coached game, but the Cowboys need to get healthy fast.

Up next is the New England Patriots, a game that Dallas has no chance to win. Without Romo and Bryant, and possibly without Sean Lee, they don’t have the manpower to get past Tom Brady and his high powered offense. Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain both return next week from their suspension and there is a chance that Randy Gregory will be back as well. If Lee passes concussion protocol, the Cowboys defense should be full-strength, but they don’t have the offense to keep up.

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Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. Examiner.com.