The New England Patriots defeated the Dallas Cowboys in another cold, rainy home game at Gillette, thanks largely to their defense and special teams.
For the second straight home game at Gillette Stadium, the New England Patriots played in a steady downpour of cold rain and gusting winds. And for the second straight home game, they still beat a talented opponent in those same difficult conditions.
First it was a 27-13 victory over the Cleveland Browns back in Week 8. On Sunday, it was a 13-9 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, and it pushed the Patriots’ record on the season to 10-1. The Cowboys dropped to 6-5 with the loss, but still remain in first-place in the NFC East thanks to their lead over the Philadelphia Eagles, who lost last week to New England at home.
Tom Brady and the Patriots offense again struggled to move the ball with any kind of consistency, which has been a bit of a theme all year. The poor conditions certainly didn’t help, but it was telling that on a day the Cowboys were still able to amass 321 yards of total offense in that same weather, the Patriots only managed 291 yards of total offense on their home turf.
Once again, the offense flowed through Julian Edelman at wide receiver. The veteran favorite of Brady’s caught eight of his 12 targets for 93 yards. Undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers was next on the Patriots’ receiving list with four catches on nine targets for 74 yards. Finally, Rex Burkhead was third on the receiving chart with two catches for 14 yards.
Only two other Patriots caught a pass on Sunday: Matt LaCosse and N’Keal Harry.
Thankfully for New England, Harry’s catch was the only one that really mattered in terms of points on the day. The rookie first-round draft pick – playing in just his second regular season game after starting the year on IR – caught a beautiful 10-yard touchdown pass in the end zone at the end of the first quarter on a perfectly thrown back shoulder fade by Brady. It was the 42-year-old future Hall of Fame quarterback’s 75th touchdown to a different receiver.
In the run game, Sony Michel actually had one of the better showings of his season, rumbling for 85 yards on 20 carries. Michel has struggled in his second year as a pro, and came into this game averaging just 3.3 yards per carry. His 4.3 yards per tote in this contest was his third-highest average in a game this season, behind games against the Redskins and Ravens. It was also Michel’s third-highest yardage output this season on the ground.
The Patriots made the most of what they had on offense, with both Phillip Dorsett and Mohamed Sanu absent from the starting lineup and inactive for the game. Dorsett is still in the league’s concussion protocol after leaving the win last week against the Eagles, and Sanu has been working his way through recovery from a reported ankle sprain.
The hope is that both players will appreciate the extra time to rest and recover that they got by not playing against the Cowboys, and as such, might be able to return to the lineup in Week 13 against the Houston Texans. The Texans are 7-4 and atop the AFC South after their victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday Night Football of this week.
Adding Dorsett and Sanu back into an offense that already features Edelman, Harry, and Meyers at wideout should make New England more potent and capable of keeping up with Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson and his electric supporting cast (DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Carlos Hyde, etc).
Dallas played well on Sunday given the conditions, but the Cowboys weren’t helped at all by a number of critical errors and penalties – some of which may have been a bit questionable. Nevertheless, Dak Prescott and the No. 1 offense in the NFL had the ball at the end of the game with plenty of time and all their timeouts left, down just four points and with the potential to march down the field as they’ve done so many times this year and score the game-winning touchdown.
Instead, Prescott’s pass to Amari Cooper was bobbled on fourth down as Cooper attempted to make the catch on Stephon Gilmore as he went to the ground. Initially ruled a completion, the referees reviewed the play and ended up making the correct call in overturning their initial decision and ruling the pass incomplete. The Patriots subsequently took over on downs and essentially ran the clock out.
The win over the Cowboys preserves Brady’s undefeated record against the franchise he grew up hating as a San Francisco 49ers fan. New England was helped on the day primarily by their defense, which once again showed why it’s the league’s best, but also by their special teams. Matthew Slater, the seven-time Pro Bowler for the Patriots, blocked a punt that was recovered by New England at the end of the first quarter. The Patriots promptly converted the turnover into the game’s only touchdown, the 10-yard pass from Brady to Harry.
Cowboys kicker Brett Maher was 3/4 on field goals in the wet, windy conditions. Patriots kicker Nick Folk was 2/4 on field goals and 1/1 on extra point attempts. Maher made a 46-yard field goal, and Folk’s long was a 44-yard field goal.
Ex-Patriot Michael Bennett had two tackles, both for loss, in his return visit to face his former team. Bennett was held without a sack, a credit to a much-improved New England offensive line that was visibly buoyed by the return of Isaiah Wynn from IR. Wynn, a former first-round draft pick at left tackle, hadn’t played since Week 2 against the Miami Dolphins.
Thanks to their win, the New England Patriots maintain their hold on the No. 1 spot in the AFC postseason pecking order, as well as their one-game lead over the Baltimore Ravens. The Pats are also now two games up on the Buffalo Bills for first-place in the AFC East; New England also owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Buffalo. Both teams will face off once again in Week 16, only this time the game will occur in Foxborough.
But first up, the Patriots must tango with Watson, Hopkins, Fuller, and the Texans down south. New England’s game against Houston will be aired on Sunday Night Football one week from today.