Vargas: Rob Ryan remains quiet, lets players do talking in silencing Dallas

Saints defenders didn’t care whether or not their coordinator, Rob Ryan, who had been fired by the Dallas Cowboys 10 months earlier, ever came out and said Sunday night’s game against his former team was personal for him.

They simply believed foiling their boss’ old boss in front of a prime-time audience was the least they could do for someone who had, in the words Monday of New Orleans cornerback Jabari Greer, “given (the Saints) life.”

“He has allowed us to become ... a team that has a passion for and enjoys the game and that plays hard,” said Greer, who was with the Saints when they surrendered the most yards in NFL history in 2012 and now forms part of a unit that was holding opponents to the seventh-fewest yards (317.6) and fifth-fewest points (18.1) per contest as of Monday, nine games into Ryan’s tenure in New Orleans.

“When you’re able to give something back to someone who has given you so much ... I think it’s just.”

It was as just for Greer as it was humiliating for Dallas and its owner/general manager Jerry Jones.

Jones employed Ryan as the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator in 2011 and ’12, during which Dallas had consecutive 8-8 finishes. In his second year with the Cowboys, Ryan’s defense lost five starters to major injuries, but Jones didn’t grant him a pass. He fired Ryan and replaced him with Monte Kiffin.

Thanks to Greer and the rest of Ryan’s charges, Jones most likely left the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday night wishing he hadn’t done that.

Faced with nine opportunities to convert first downs against the Saints, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo threw six incomplete passes. On the remaining three occasions, he was sacked twice and handed it off on a run that came up a yard short.

Ryan’s defense limited Romo to 10 completions, the fewest ever in a game he’s finished. They held Romo to 128 yards in the air, the fewest he’s thrown since passing for 127 in a loss during the second week of the 2009 season.

For a bit at least, it seemed like the Cowboys (5-5) could keep pace with the Saints (7-2) by merely handing the ball off to running back DeMarco Murray, who carried 11 times for 80 yards and a touchdown in the first half. He impressively gained 67 of those yards on one drive.

But then Ryan adjusted and eliminated Dallas’ only prayer to hang with New Orleans. The Saints held Murray to just 9 yards on five carries in the second half before ensuring New Orleans allowed its fewest net yards (193) since 2006, the first season of the coach Sean Payton era.

It was Kiffin and the Cowboys who couldn’t adjust. They gave up 625 yards — a franchise record for the Saints — and an NFL record 40 first downs in a 49-17 drubbing. On Monday, they were dead last in defense, on pace to give up 7,037 yards this year, which would leave them 6 shy of the Saints’ mark from ’12.

“I just didn’t expect this,” said Jones, who, if he didn’t own the Cowboys, might be canned for letting Ryan walk. “I never saw this coming.”

Ryan declined numerous opportunities to verbally tee off on Jones and the Cowboys a couple of days before Sunday night’s showdown. He let his players’ performances do the talking for him.

“We played our hearts out for him,” Greer said. “With (the Cowboys) being the team that fired him, he didn’t necessarily come out and say, ‘Win this for me.’ But we understood that the log was still burning in the fire.”