Sunday, October 16, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Pats 20, Cowboys 16
By Mike Reiss
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Rapid reaction from the Patriots' 20-16 victory over the Cowboys at Gillette Stadium:
What it means: The Patriots found a way. For the Patriots, this was one of those games in which you don’t focus on style points -- it was ugly -- but instead on getting out with a win heading into the bye week. The Patriots didn’t play well. They won anyway because the offense put it together on a clutch final march. The Patriots improved to 5-1 and are alone atop the AFC East. They have a lot of work to do but have two weeks to sort things out and get some injured players back.
30-point streak snapped: The Patriots had entered the game having scored 30 or more points in 13 straight games. They would have tied the St. Louis Rams from 1999-2000 had they made it 14, but the offense couldn’t find its groove until the final drive. Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan had the last unit to hold the Patriots to fewer than 30 in the regular season, as the Browns did it Nov. 7, 2010. All that said, when the game was on the line, Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense delivered.
Defense does its part: The Patriots needed their defense to keep them in the game with the offense unable to sustain momentum. The D delivered. Hold the opposition to 16 points at home, and that gets the job done. Although the Cowboys had success moving the ball, the New England defense rose up from the 25-yard line in. From the opposite perspective, with the Cowboys getting the ball with a 16-13 lead, some will question Dallas coach Jason Garrett for conservative play calling. The Patriots forced a three-and-out to set up the winning drive.
Turnovers a big story: The Cowboys entered the game with a minus-4 turnover differential, while the Patriots were plus-3. But it was the Patriots who were uncharacteristically sloppy with four turnovers (2 INT, 2 fumbles). All week the talk had been about Tony Romo and the big mistake, but it was Brady and the Patriots who were more mistake-prone. Brady’s fourth-quarter interception while the offense had been generating some momentum was one throw he’ll likely kick himself about in the coming days. Brady was rolling out and fired it into traffic. Still, the Patriots overcame the mistakes.
Quiet day for Welker and Witten: Both defenses did a nice job limiting the top threat of the opposition. Wes Welker finished with six catches for 45 yards and one touchdown, while Jason Witten had four catches for 48 yards (20 on a last-gasp drive) and one touchdown.
What’s next: The Patriots are off next weekend before visiting the Steelers on Oct. 30. The Cowboys return home to host the Rams.