By Ben Sullivan
Dak Prescott scrambled for a first down, then took three knees starting from the New Orleans 1 to run out the clock by the narrowest possible margin.
Ezekiel Elliott scored the only Dallas touchdown on a 16-yard screen pass and the Cowboys stifled Brees and the Saints, ending New Orleans’ 10-game winning streak with a 13-10 victory.
The Cowboys (7-5) won their fourth consecutive game and assured they will at least remain tied for the NFC East lead.
The Eagles are 5-6 and play the 6-5 Redskins Monday night.
The Saints (10-2) were shut out in the first half, had their fewest points in three years and finished with a season-low 176 yards. They missed a chance to perfectly match Dallas from two years ago, when then-rookie sensations Elliott and Prescott won 11 straight after dropping the opener.
“Everybody knew it. We had to keep the ball away from Brees,” Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “We needed to play this kind of game. I must tell you, the defense played beyond my expectations. They played like a championship defense.”
Brees had his fewest yards passing in a first half since joining the Saints in 2006 with 39, and couldn’t get a potential winning drive going in the final minutes.
Instead, Jourdan Lewis’ interception — just the third for Brees while he became the NFL’s first with at least 30 TD passes in 10 seasons — gave the Cowboys a chance to run out the clock from the New Orleans 1 after an interference penalty in the end zone.
Brees said he was trying to throw the ball away behind pass-catching back Alvin Kamara, who cut outside just as Brees threw it and Lewis dove forward, barely keeping the ball off the ground.
“As an offense, we think complementary football,” Brees said. “Let’s put together a drive. Let’s keep our defense off the field. Let’s control the game, control the clock, control the ball. Just never felt like we really did that as an offense like we’ve done this year.”
The Cowboys spent the fourth quarter trying to protect their three-point lead, with Prescott breaking several tackles on an 11-yard scramble on third-and-10 and Cole Beasley catching a third-down pass and diving for 5 yards on third-and-5.
But Prescott fumbled on his season-high seventh sack with Dallas in position for at least a field goal, giving Brees another chance from his 15 with more than two minutes remaining.
Brees’ interception came two plays later, then Marshon Lattimore was called for interference against Amari Cooper in the end zone, giving Dallas a first down at the 1 with 1:58 remaining.
The Cowboys had just enough time to end the game, with the play clock matching the game clock down to zero after Prescott took a knee for the third time.
Brees was 18 of 28 for 127 yards, actually the second straight game and third overall under 200 yards for the MVP contender. The running game didn’t do much either, with Kamara getting 36 yards rushing while the Saints had 65 as a team after averaging 177 the previous four games.
The only touchdown drive for the Saints was aided by three first downs on Dallas penalties. The biggest was Randy Gregory’s roughing-the-punter penalty on Thomas Morstead.
Two plays later, Brees dropped a deep throw to a backpedaling Keith Kirkwood in the end zone for a 30-yard score to get New Orleans within 13-10.
Prescott had 194 of his 248 yards passing while helping the Cowboys to a 13-0 halftime lead — the first scoreless first half for the Saints since 2014, also against the Cowboys, and their first deficit in five games.
Elliott had 136 scrimmage yards with 76 rushing and 60 receiving on six catches.