Patriots 13, Cowboys 9
The Cowboys vs Patriots: Good, bad and ugly
A rainy, windy, cold day at Gillette Stadium was the perfect setting for arguably the worst game of the year in the NFL. Neither the Cowboys nor the Patriots could get their high-powered offenses moving through the slop. Ultimately it was the Patriots who left victorious, leaving the Cowboys with their heads down and a long flight back to Dallas.
It wasn't all doom and gloom for the Cowboys on Sunday. Their defense played up to the level of competition and for the most part effectively shut down the Patriots. The defensive line did their job and were able to get into Tom Brady's face on multiple occasions. Both Robert Quinn and Maliek Collins were continuously getting pressure on Brady and each recorded one sack. Brady finished 17-37 for 190 yards and a subpar QBR of 38.2. The defense did its best to render the Patriots running backs inefficient after the first quarter.
The one shining star of the Cowboys offense was Ezekiel Elliot. Although he did not have his typical 100 plus yard rushing game as we are accustomed to seeing, he singlehandedly carried the Cowboys and helped them set up their only three scoring plays. 86 yards rushing and 40 receiving yards might not be boast worthy numbers, but he was the sole bright spot in an otherwise ineffective Cowboys offense.
Jeff Heath did not leave a game early due to an injury for the second time in four games. He looked healthy and had a massive hit on Patriots receiver Jakobi Myers. Sean Lee also played well filling in for the injured Leighton Vander Esh. He recorded five tackles and two of them were tackles for loss.
If Brady's 38.2 QBR was bad, then Dak Prescott's 15.3 QBR is downright awful. He finished the game going 19/33 for 212 yards. Not bad numbers per say, but more than a quarter of those yards came from a 59-yard pass to Randell Cobb. I'm not going to blame him entirely for this loss, but he certainly didn't help the Cowboys much the entire game. He was inefficient in his game management, constantly missed receivers, and never looked confident at any point of the game. Combine that with the Patriots corner backs locking down Amari Cooper all game and you have a recipe for an offensive disaster for the Cowboys.
Others who could be blamed for the offensive inefficiencies are both Jason Garrett and Kellen Moore. The weather was a definite factor for why the passing game wasn't efficient, but both Garrett and Moore should have come up with some better plays other than their predictable run, run pass options. The Cowboys were 2-13 on third downs and never seemed to have a plan other than for Dak to throw to either Jason Witten or Blake Jarwin on 3rd down for minimal yardage.
Speaking of Jason Witten, he is starting to show his age on the field more so than ever. He made only one catch on five attempts for five yards. Three of those passes were dropped balls that hit him directly in the hands. The surefire safety blanket for the Cowboys looks like he is losing his luster, and may soon have his positon usurped by Jarwin.
I have mentioned this earlier, but I cannot talk about this game without referencing the weather. From kickoff, you could tell this was going to be a low scoring affair, with both teams relying heavily on the run game. This weather affected both Prescott and Brady negatively, and neither could get an offensive rhythm going. This game is cause for why all NFL stadiums should have a retractable roof. Bad weather ruins great matchups.
A blocked punt ended up being the deciding factor of the game. On 4th and 12 the Cowboys punted the ball from their own 25 yard-line and it was blocked and recovered by the Patriots at about the Cowboys 13 yard-line. This set up the only touchdown of the game by either team. Tom Brady threw a touchdown to a tightly covered N'Keal Harry for his first touchdown of his NFL career.
This game ended similarly to the infamous Dez Bryant playoff game in Green Bay. On 4th and 11, Prescott threw a deep ball to Amari Cooper who could have set up the Cowboys close to the 50 yard-line as the 4th quarter was coming to a close. Unfortunately, Cooper could not retain this catch and the ball fell out on the way down. This insured that Amari Cooper was held without a catch for the first time all season. The miss also caused a turnover on downs and the Patriots almost ran out the clock. The Cowboys did get the ball back with one second left, but Prescott threw a 12-yard pass to Michael Gallup to end the game.
Although their defense played admirably, the Cowboys offense could not get any kind of momentum going as the Patriots barely beat them. However, the Cowboys still sit alone atop the NFC East with the Eagles loosing as well to the Seahawks. Next the Cowboys have a short week before they host the 8-3 Buffalo Bills on Thanksgiving. If the Cowboys offense doesn't step up on Thursday, it will be the Bills enjoying the festive holiday and not the Cowboys.