Ryan L. Fox
It was the game that everybody circled on the calendar, a game that many predicted would be Super Bowl LIV. It wasn’t just the New England Patriots, the AFC East divisional leader, hosting the Dallas Cowboys, the NFC divisional leader. Rather, it was the #1 defense in the NFL versus the #1 offense in the NFL
On a cold, rainy, windy night in Foxborough, the two teams did battle against one another. It turned out to be a defensive rock fight that would make old school NFL fans proud. However, it would end up getting marred by one controversial call that ultimately changed the fate of one team late in the game.
The Patriots won the toss and elected to defer to the 2nd half, giving the Cowboys the ball to start the ball with.
Patriots K Nick Folk booted the ball into the back of the endzone as the Cowboys started off on their own 25. However, after 3 plays, they were forced to punt as the Patriots got the ball at their own 22 for their first possession of the game.
Rather than come out throwing, the Patriots decided to rely on the running game. RB Sony Michel opened the drive up with a 13-yard run to the New England 35. Michel got the ball 3 more times after that for a total of 14 yards as he got the Patriots up to their own 49. However, the Cowboys defense was able to hold tough as the Patriots were forced to punt.
The Cowboys got the ball back on their own 19 as QB Dak Prescott tried to get his offense in rhythm. On the first play from scrimmage, Prescott tried to find WR Mike Gallup deep over the right side, but the pass fell incomplete. However, a penalty flag was thrown as it turned out Patriots CB J.C. Jackson interfered with the pass, giving the Cowboys a first down at their own 35. From there, the Cowboys relied on RB Ezekiel Elliot on 3 straight plays (2 carries for 14 yards and 1 screen pass for 19 yards) as he got the Cowboys down to the New England 32.
Unfortunately, the drive bogged down as the Cowboys got as far as the New England 28. K Bill Maher then came onto the field to attempt a 46-yard field goal. The kick seemingly looked like it was going to squeeze through, but the wind changed its direction as the ball donked off the left upright and onto the ground.
After forcing the Patriots to punt, the Cowboys got the ball on their own 20. The drive only lasted just a few plays as they were forced to punt. But on the punt, Patriots WR/ST Matthew Slater was able to get in and block P Chris Jones punt as Patriots S/ST Nate Ebner recovered the ball back at the Dallas 12.
On the short field, the Patriots opened up with a quick 2-yard run by Michel. Then on the second play of the drive, QB Tom Brady found rookie WR N’keal Harry in the endzone for a 10-yard touchdown pass. Folk booted the PAT through the uprights as the Patriots led 7-0 with a little under a minute left in the quarter.
After the ensuing kickoff, the Cowboys got the ball back at their own 18. Three plays later and a switching of the quarters (1st to 2nd), the Cowboys were faced with a 3rd and short. The snap ended up being too high, forcing Prescott to adjust on the fly. He then tried to find WR Amari Cooper over the right side. Instead, he found Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore for the interception.
Getting the ball back on the Dallas 29, the Patriots were looking for another touchdown on a short field. Instead, they could only muster 3 yards on 3 plays. The Patriots were then forced to settle for a 44-yard field goal attempt by Folk. Folk booted the ball through the uprights to give the Patriots a 10-0 lead with about 12:47 left in the quarter.
The Cowboys got the ball back on their own 30 following the ensuing kickoff as Dak and the offense got back onto the field. The drive opened up with an 8-yard run by Ezekiel Elliot to the Dallas 38. After that, the Cowboys decided to stick with the ground as the next 6 plays were rushing plays for a total of 34 yards down to the New England 28. But on 3rd and 3 from the New England 28, the Cowboys elected for a pass. Prescott’s pass attempt to WR Randall Cobb ended up being too high as the Cowboys had to settle for a 46-yard attempt by Maher. This time, Maher was able to connect to make it 10-3 with 8:36 left in the quarter.
The Patriots got the ball back after the ensuing kickoff on their own. On the first play of the drive, Brady found rookie WR Jakobi Meyers short over the left side. Meyers was able to break one tackle before rumbling down the field to the Dallas 43. Two plays later, Brady found WR Julian Edelman for a 20-yard pass down to the Dallas 23. But after that, it was 3 straight incompletions by Brady which brought up 4th and 10 at the Dallas 23. Folk came on to attempt a 46-yard field goal, but the kick ended up going wide right.
The Cowboys got the ball back at their own 36 with under 7 minutes left in the quarter. Prescott got the offense going as the ran the ball on 3 of their first 4 plays. Then on 2nd and 8 from their own 49, Prescott found Gallup over the middle deep at the New England 29. On that same play, Patriots DE Deatrich Wise was flagged for a roughing the passer penalty, tacking on 15 more yards to give the Cowboys 1st and 10 at the New England 14. However, the Cowboys could only advance as the New England 9 before having to settle for a 27-yard field goal attempt by Maher. Maher booted the ball through the uprights to make it 10-6 with 2:28 left in the quarter.
After the ensuing kickoff, the Patriots got the ball back on their own 25. Looking to score before the end of the half, Brady lead the offense down the field. This included completing a 23-yard pass to Meyers on 3rd and 8 to the Dallas 39 to keep the drive alive. With time winding down, the Patriots got the ball down to the Dallas 30 with 4 seconds left in the quarter. After taking a timeout, the Patriots decided to settle for a 48-yard field goal attempt by Folk. Folk’s kick ended up going wide right to end the half as both teams went into their respective locker rooms as the score was 10-6.
The 2nd half began as both teams ended up trading punts with one another (first the Patriots and then the Cowboys). That pattern ended up continuing through the entire 3rd quarter as both teams’ defenses were able to stifle the opposing offense.
The Patriots ended up getting the ball back on their own 38 with 34 seconds left in the 3rd quarter. Michel carried the ball to the New England 43 for 5 yards as the final play of the quarter.
When the 4th quarter opened up, the Patriots were faced with 2nd and 5 from their own 43. On the first play of the quarter, Michel ripped a 15-yard run to the Dallas 42. Two plays later, Brady found Meyers for a 10-yard pass to the Dallas 32. After a false start penalty, Brady then found RB Rex Burkhead for an 8-yard pass to the Dallas 29 and then converted a 3rd and 7 with a 9-yard pass to Meyers to the Dallas 20 two plays later.
The Patriots were able to get as far as the Dallas 14. But then Michel was tackled for a 4-yard loss to the Dallas 18 and then two plays later, Brady’s pass to RB James White went for a 6-yard loss to the Dallas 24. The Patriots then were forced to settle for a field goal as Folk booted the 42-yard attempt through the uprights to make it 13-6 with a little over 9 and a half minutes left in the game.
The Dallas Cowboys got the ball back on the ensuing kickoff, starting on their own 11. After a 5-yard run by Elliot on 1st down the Cowboys were faced with a 2nd and 5 from their own 16. Prescott then found Cobb deep over the left as Cobb ran down the field with Patriots defenders trailing him. He had the ball knocked from him by Patriots FS Devin McCourty but Cobb held on, finally getting tackled at the New England 25. After the 52-yard catch and run, the Cowboys were set up deep into New England territory.
After getting stuffed on 1st down, Prescott found Elliot on the right side for a 12-yard catch and run down to the New England 14. Unfortunately, the Cowboys could only muster 3 yards over the next 3 plays and were faced with 4th and 7 from the New England 11. Instead of going for it, Dallas head coach Jason Garrett elected to go for the field goal. Maher booted the 29-yard attempt through the uprights to make it 13-9 with a little over 6 minutes left in the game.
After forcing the Patriots to punt, the Cowboys got the ball back on their own 8. An 18-yard pass from Prescott to Cobb put the ball at their own 26 with time running out. Two plays later, Prescott found Gallup at the Dallas 35 for 9-yards as that was the last play before the 2-minute warning.
Following the 2-minute warning, the Cowboys were faced with 3rd and 1. Prescott found Elliot for a 3-yard pass to the Dallas 38 for what appeared as a 1st down. But then the call was called back as the referees called a controversial tripping penalty on Dallas C Travis Frederick, making it 3rd and 11. After an incomplete pass, the Cowboys were faced with 4th and 11 at their own 25. Prescott then heaved the ball down to Amari Cooper to the Dallas 45 for what appeared to be a 20-yard pass and a 1st down.
But before Dallas could quickly snap the ball, the Patriots called for a booth review. Upon further review, Cooper didn’t fully secure the ball as it touched the ground first, thus making it incomplete.
The Patriots got the ball back on the Dallas 25 and proceeded to run out the clock, only for there to be 1 second on the clock after they ended up turning the ball over on downs.
Dallas got the ball back for just one more play on their own 15. Prescott’s pass to Gallup just went for a harmless 13 yards down to the Dallas 28 as the clock read 00:00.
When the final gun was sound, the Patriots ran onto the field and celebrate their hard fought 13-9 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in poor weather conditions. Still though, even with the win and dominance by the Patriots defense, the thing that a majority of people will be talking about is how this game was won by the refs for the Patriots.
Patriot Statistical Standouts
RB Sony Michel: 20 carries for 85 yards (4.3 per carry)
WR Julian Edelman: 8 catches (on 12 targets) for 93 yards
P Jake Bailey: 6 punts for 263 yards (43.8 per punt), 2 punts inside the 20, 3 touchbacks
CB Stephon Gilmore: 5 tackles (4 solo, 1 assist), 1 interception, 2 passes defended
LB Jamie Collins: 10 tackles (5 solo, 5 assists)
DE Lawrence Guy: 8 tackles (5 solo, 3 assist)
SS Patrick Chung: 7 tackles (6 solo, 1 assist)
LB Dont’a Hightower: 6 tackles (5 solo, 1 assist), 1 pass defended
Numbers! Numbers! Numbers!
280 – The number of career games played by Brady, 10th all-time
.990 – The winning percentage of the Patriots when ahead at halftime (99-1) at Gillette Stadium
1.000 – The winning percentage of the Patriots against the NFC East this season (4-0)
1,101 – The total number of career points by Patriots K Nick Folk, putting him 49th all-time
18.5% - The combined 3rd-down conversion (5-for-27) rate by both teams (Cowboys 2-for-13 and Patriots 3-for-14)
17- The number of 10-win seasons for the New England Patriots (2003-present day), putting them 1st all-time (SF 16, 1983-1998)
45.9% - The completion percentage of Brady (17-for-37) for the game, the lowest completion percentage of the season for Brady
0 – The number catches by Cowboys WR Amari Cooper for the entire game
Interesting Tidbits of the Game
- When Patriots rookie WR N’Keal Harry caught his first NFL touchdown pass, he actually became the 75th different receiver to catch a touchdown pass from Tom Brady, continuing to extend his NFL record.
- Brady’s 45.9% completion was the lowest completion percentage in a home victory since Week 10 back in the 2003 season against the Dallas Cowboys. Brady ended up with a 44.1% completion as the Patriots beat the Cowboys 12-0
- The Patriots have gone 4-0 against the NFC East this season, the first time in the Brady-Belichick Era that they were able to do so
- In his 20-year career, Brady has gone 17-3 in the regular season against teams in the NFC East and has also gone 1-3 against the NFC East in the postseason
- This is the 10th game this season that Brady has thrown 35+ pass attempts in a single game. It was also the 2nd game this year where Brady did not eclipse the 200-yard passing mark as well
Fox Fist Bump
The Fox Fist Bump goes to none other than the Patriots Special Teams unit.
First you had that block by WR/ST captain Matthew Slater getting in there and blocking a punt that ultimately led to the only touchdown of the game.
Then you have K Nick Folk. His numbers aren’t exactly something to brag on (2-for-4 on field goals) but let’s look at this. On 3 of his last 4 attempts, he was kicking 40+ yard field goal attempts into the wind. A wind that was gusting up to 17 mph at some points. You can’t fault a guy for missing in those kinds of conditions.
Finally, you got P Jake Bailey with his performance (6 punts for an average of 43.8 yards) as well as pinning the Cowboys deep a couple of times. Mind you, that Bailey spent most of the game kicking into the wind. So that 43.8 yards per punt is nothing to thumb your nose at.
And let’s give a shout out to CB Stephon Gilmore. He was matched up against Cowboys WR Amari Cooper and basically shut him down for the entire game. Gilmore absolutely smothered Cooper, preventing him from making any plays while matched up against him. Not to mention that he had a pick that lead to a field goal in the 1st quarter. Gilmore is showing why he’s
The Meatball of the Week
The Meatball of the Week is none other than Patriots RG Shaq Mason.
Now this is a first. Why just an individual lineman instead of the entire unit? It’s simple. If you go back and look at the times where Brady was pressured heavily and ultimately sacked, all that pressure came on the right side of the line. Not to mention on running plays where the Cowboys were able to get good penetration and blowup the play, it all came up on the right side. Who is blocking on the right side? Shaq Mason.
Also, a giant meatball (and kick in the ass) to the referee who called that tripping call on Dallas C Travis Fredrick late in the 4th quarter on 3rd and 1. It negated a crucial 3-yard catch from QB Dak Prescott to RB Ezekiel Elliot that would have kept the drive alive. But upon looking at replay, the Patriots defender in question was actually blocked down really well and there was no tripping.
The only ones who thought that was a good were Patriot homers (especially those who wanted Antonio Brown on their team) and Scott Toolak. Ironically enough, that wasn’t the only phantom call on the Cowboys that killed drives (still trying to figure out that holding call on LT Tyron Smith). Pity because this game was played in an old-school way (stout, smash mouth defense in disgusting rain, wind, and mud) and the refs are going to be talked about for a while now.
Play of the Game
One For the Rook
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