The battle of the Drew Bledsoe replacements ended with the New England Patriots narrowly defeating the Dallas Cowboys Sunday afternoon, 20-16. In what was expected to be a offensive fireworks show, the game ultimately ended up being an ugly defensive battle.
The Cowboys started with the game with the ball. But on the very first play from scrimmage, Dallas TE John Phillips was called for offensive holding. It was a sign of things to come for the Cowboys as later in their first drive QB Tony Romo would be intercepted by CB Kyle Arrington near mid-field.
Despite the great field position caused by the turnover, the New England offense was held to just a field goal by the Dallas Defense. A great DeMarcus Ware ankle sack on Tom Brady on third down resulted in the 41 yard FG by kicker Stephen Gostkowski. The Pats took the early lead, 3-0.
The Cowboys second offensive series saw tackle Doug Free get called for a holding penalty. It was Free’s fourth penalty of the year. He leads the league in those penalties. The drive soon ended on a Romo sack by DE Andre Carter.
But on the first play of the Patriot’s next offensive possession, Dallas DE Kenyon Coleman would tip a Tom Brady pass that was intercepted by CB Terence Newman. That gave the ball back to the Dallas offense on the Pat’s 23 yard line.
After a holding call on G Kyle Kosier nullified a pass interference call on New England in the endzone, a false start penalty called on Doug Free, and a stuffed run by Tashard Choice, Dallas had to settle for a field goal. Rookie Dan Bailey’s FG attempt was good from 48 yards and tied the game, 3-3.
Just before the end of the 1st quarter, NE returner Matthew Slater fumbled the ball and the Cowboy’s Gerald Sensabaugh recovered it. This gave Dallas the ball on New England’s 32 yard line. But a Tashard Choice fumble, caused by DT Vince Wilfork, gave the ball right back to the Pats.
Going into the second quarter, the Patriots were able to move the ball into the Dallas redzone. But the Dallas defense was again able to hold them again to just a FG. The 26 yard FG by Gostkowski gave the lead back to the Pats, 6-3.
Later in the 2nd quarter, a roughing the passer penalty on LB Anthony Spencer extended a Patriot’s drive that resulted in a 5-yard touchdown pass from Brady to WR Wes Welker. This made the score 13-3, New England.
Midway through the quarter, Felix Jones injured his ankle. He would not run the ball the rest of the game. He was replaced by DeMarco Murray and Tashard Choice. It was later reported that Jones suffered a high-ankle sprain.
Nearing the end of the first half, Romo threw a short pass to WR Dez Bryant. Bryant faked out two defenders and turned the short play into a 43 yard gain. That lead to a one yard Romo touchdown pass to TE Jason Witten. It was Witten’s first catch of the day and it made the score 13-10 Patriots going into halftime.
On the Patriot’s first series of the 2nd half, the Dallas defense played tough and forced a punt.
Although it was a rough start, Dallas started moving the ball going to the no-huddle offense. After big plays to WR Miles Austin and Witten, the Cowboys found themselves in Patriots territory. But a suspicious injury timeout by the Patriot’s CB Kyle Arrington halted the drive and the momentum. Despite the possible stall tactic, the Boys were able to get into the redzone. But a sack by Andre Carter ultimately lead Dallas to take a 22 yard Bailey FG. The score was tied, 13-13.
With 30 seconds left in the 3rd quarter, LB Bradie James stripped the ball from TE Aaron Hernandez and Dallas’ CB Terence Newman recovered it. But at the start of the fourth quarter, the Dallas offense sputtered. This was mainly due to two dropped passes by Miles Austin.
Once the Patriot’s took over, Brady and his no-huddle offense began moving the ball down the field. But an interception by LB Sean Lee near the Dallas 30 yard line stopped them dead in their tracks. On the interception, LB Victor Butler was able to get to Brady’s throwing arm and that caused the turnover.
After a Romo scramble and a 34 yard pass play to WR Laurent Robinson, Dallas was just outside the New England redzone. It was during this drive that G Bill Nagy was injured. It was later reported that he suffered a broken right ankle. He was replaced by rookie C Kevin Kowalski. New England took advantage of the mis-match and forced Dallas into another 26 yard Bailey FG. Dallas would take the lead for the first time, 16-13.
With only 3:46 left in the game, the Dallas defense forced the Pat’s to punt after a three and out. Dallas’ offense attempted to run the clock out, but their lackluster running game was ineffective. After two stuffed running plays to Murray and a holding call on rookie Tyron Smith left Dallas with a 3rd & 18, the Cowboys foolishly attempted to run the ball again. Essentially, the Cowboys didn’t trust Romo to make a big pass play and conceded to give the ball back to Brady and his offense with 2:42 to play.
Brady did his best Joe Montana impression and dissected the tired Dallas defense. Brady snatched the victory from Dallas with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Hernandez with just 22 seconds left.
Brady finished the game connecting 22 of 41 passes for 289 yards, 2TDs and 2INTs.
Romo finished with 27 of 41 for 317 passing yards, 1TD and 1INT.
The Patriot’s 101 rushing yards is the most allowed by the Dallas defense all year.
New England’s Tight Ends led the way for their passing game as Aaron Hernandez had 8 receptions for 68 yards and the winning TD. TE Rob Gronkowski had 7 catches for 74 yards.
Dallas’ leading receiver was Miles Austin, who had 7 receptions for 74 yards.
Dallas’ young linebacker Sean Lee had another stellar game with 12 tackles and an interception.
The Cowboys proved themselves to be a good team and matched up well with the now 5-1 Patriots. And again they had a chance to win well into the 4th quarter. But this time it wasn’t Tony Romo who lost the game. If anything, it was the lack of trust in Romo and the terrible running game that did us in at the end. The large number of penalties didn’t help either. The now 2-3 Cowboys head back home to face a winless St. Louis Rams team.