ARLINGTON, Texas - Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints won't go to the playoffs in their season without suspended coach Sean Payton. The Dallas Cowboys again need help to get there.
Playing near Payton's home in a Dallas suburb, Brees threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns and led a drive to Garrett Hartley's winning 20-yard field goal in overtime, and the Saints took the Cowboys' playoff fate out of their hands with a 34-31 overtime victory on Sunday.
The Saints, who started 0-4 after being stunned by the yearlong ban for Payton in the team's bounty scandal, lost their faint playoff hopes when Minnesota beat Houston, and had to hold off a two-TD rally in the final 3:35 from Dallas.
Tony Romo had 416 yards passing and four TDs, including a 19-yarder to Miles Austin with 15 seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime.
"We're never going to let anyone tell us we're not playing for something," Brees said. "We knew there were a lot of things that had to happen. We wanted to worry about the things we could control. What would have been worse is if Minnesota had lost and we had lost."
After New Orleans forced a punt on the first possession of overtime, Brees moved the Saints to the Cowboys 33. He completed a pass to Marques Colston, who took a couple of steps before Morris Claiborne stripped the ball, sending it rolling about 20 yards to the Dallas 2.
Jimmy Graham, who said he dislocated a finger on a 26-yard catch to start the drive, won a scrum with Dallas' Eric Frampton, and the completion that started the bizarre play was held up on review, clearing the way for Hartley's kick.
"I looked at the replay and I knew there was a fumble," Claiborne said. "I was looking at it saying, 'Please, let the pass be incomplete."'
The Cowboys, who had their third straight game decided on the last play, had retaken control of their playoff hopes with a three-game winning streak. With the New York Giants (8-7) losing to Baltimore on Sunday, the Cowboys (8-7) can win the NFC East by defeating the Redskins (9-6) at Washington in next Sunday's finale. The Cowboys' chances of making the postseason as a wild card are remote.
"When you are in this situation, you have to go forth like you are playing for a playoff spot," Dallas defensive end Marcus Spears said. "Trying to determine what will happen, all of that will get in the way of us preparing for the Redskins."