Was it great offense or just lousy defense in the New Orleans Saints 49-17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night?

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The Saints gained a franchise-record 625 total yards while setting an NFL record with 40 first downs. Drew Brees put up stellar numbers, going 34 of 41 for 392 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions, and the Saints running game excelled too, gaining 242 yards for the team’s most on the ground since 1990.

Mark Ingram rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.

“We just wanted to come out here on a national stage and just prove to everybody that we could play smash-mouth football and run the ball,” Ingram said.

Brees came up short of becoming the fifth quarterback this season to pass for more than 400 yards against the Cowboys.

“There just were very few plays that we stopped,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “They ran the ball when they wanted to run it and Drew Brees did a fantastic job reading coverages.”

Dallas was outgained by the Saints 625-193. The 625 yards are the most-ever allowed by a Cowboys team, topping the 623 yards given up against Detroit this season.

The Saints are now 7-2, and lead the NFC South by one game over Carolina. Dallas dropped to 5-5, tied for the lead in the NFC East with Philadelphia.

Should Cutler have played? Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler returned earlier than expected from a groin injury to start in Sunday’s game against Detroit. It was evident by halftime that Cutler had aggravated the injury. Late in the fourth quarter, Cutler left the game with a left ankle injury and was replaced by Josh McCown, who threw a touchdown pass. But the Bears failed to get a two-point conversion to tie the game, and lost 21-19.

Cutler tore a groin muscle three weeks ago in a game at Washington, and was expected to be out at least four weeks. McCown played well in place of Cutler, winning the game last Monday night at Green Bay.

Bears coach Marc Trestman said on Monday that he should have pulled Cutler out earlier.

“I went through the tape closely and watched Jay’s performance, and I thought he did well into the fourth quarter,” Trestman told WBBM radio in Chicago. “But at the end of the day, if we had to do it all over again, maybe it would be one series before the two-minute drill (that Cutler was pulled).”

Cutler went 21 of 40 for 250 yards with a touchdown and interception.

Detroit (6-3) took over first place in the NFC North with the win, with Chicago (5-4) and Green Bay (5-4) tied for second.

Austin goes wild in Rams win: Tavon Austin had one of those games that players dream about. The rookie, first-round pick out of West Virginia returned a punt 98 yards and caught two touchdown passes covering 57 and 81 yards in St. Louis’ 38-8 upset win at Indianapolis.

“I’ve been patient for eight weeks and, hopefully, it’s my time right now,” Austin said.

Austin finished with 310 total yards, including 172 yards on punt and kick returns. He became just the third player in NFL history to score three touchdowns of at least 50 yards. Randy Moss did it with Minnesota in 1998 and Gale Sayers did it with Chicago in 1965.

No longer winless: Jacksonville broke out of its season-long slump, beating Tennessee 29-27 for its first win of the season on Sunday, and Tampa Bay defeated Miami 22-19 to get its first win on Monday night.

The Jaguars (1-8) scored their most points this season and turned four forced turnovers into 17 points.

“What I’m excited about is that we improved in many areas,” first-year Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. “On my call sheet I was writing down things that were really good that were happening during the game. They just kept piling up.”

The Buccaneers (1-8), who lost to Seattle after leading by 21 points the week prior, allowed 19 unanswered points to the Dolphins after taking a 15-0 lead, then went back in front following a long drive in the fourth quarter.

“The guys just said we’re tired of it,” Bucs linebacker Adam Hayward said. “Everybody just started stepping up and making plays.”

Week 10 Top Performers:

Offense –

  • Drew Brees, Saints, 34-41, 392 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INT
  • LeSean McCoy, Eagles, 25 carries, 155 yards, 0 TD
  • A.J. Green, Bengals, 8 catches, 151 yards, TD

Defense –

  • Paul Worrilow, Falcons, 19 tackles
  • Vincent Rey, Bengals, 3 sacks
  • Ahmad Brooks, 49ers, 3 sacks
  • James Ihedigbo, Ravens, 2 INTs

Sidelines: Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe was arrested for possession of marijuana and speeding early Sunday morning in Riverside, Mo. Bond was posted for Bowe and a passenger, and a Dec. 18 court date was set…Packers coach Mike McCarthy named Scott Tolzien to start at quarterback on Sunday at the New York Giants. Tolzien replaced injured Seneca Wallace in a 27-13 loss to Philadelphia in Week 9, going 24 of 38 for 280 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Tolzien was on the Packers practice squad until last week. Green Bay’s regular starting quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, could be out another two weeks with a broken collarbone.

Copyright © 2013 Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media.

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