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Patriots @ Cowboys: What Did We Learn?

Sunday’s game against the Patriots revealed some good things going forward as well as some not-so-good things that are concerning. Here are three things that caught my attention the most.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys suffered their third straight loss when they came up short against the New England Patriots. It wasn't pretty, but it wasn't all bad either. Here are three things that stood out to me.

We done with Weeden

In typical Brandon Weeden style, the Cowboys backup quarterback spent most of the day throwing short underneath passes. There were times he would throw downfield, but most of these passes were off target. Two of them went right in the hands of the Patriots defenders, although only one of them was intercepted. Looking at the game tape, there weren't a lot of open targets for Weeden to choose from, but unfortunately for him - when there were opportunities to hit an open guy, he's just wasn't connecting.

On the second play of the game, he bootlegs to his right and has Devin Street open for a nice gain, but just flails it out of bounds. Does he not believe he can make this throw?

On the very next play, he makes the decision to go over the top to hit Terrance Williams for a big play. He misses. But more than that, he doesn't see that Cole Beasley has beaten his man and has an easy first down completion if only he can hit him in stride. Jason Witten was double-teamed (yellow).

Even on the nice pass completion to Devin Street in the second half, the Cowboys receiver had created plenty of separation between him and his defender, but Weeden's throw still sails to his left, forcing Street to have to make a diving catch, toeing the sideline.

Weeden just makes a tough situation tougher.

Good News: The Cowboys wasted no time announcing that Matt Cassel will be the starting quarterback when the team comes back from their bye. This means fans won't have to be subjected to Weeden's lackluster play anymore.

Bad News: Cassel will inherit the same offense that for the last 10 quarters has demonstrated no ability to do anything remotely meaningful. If he also fails, there's no other quarterbacks in their closet to choose from. If things don't get any better, then fans will just have to hold their breath until Tony Romo returns.

Turn loose the Hardy!

Someone should really come up with a cool phrase to express those sentiments. Make no mistake about it, Greg Hardy was back and wasted no time exhibiting beastly play that can only be found in mythological sea creatures. Hardy was outstanding in the first half. Besides his two sacks, he knocked Brady around three other times and was able to hit the ball from his hands giving the Cowboys an opportunity to get a turnover. But for some reason this year, the Cowboys aren't really feeling the turnover thing and the ball seems to have a magnetic field that repels anyone with a star on their helmet.

Barry Church has a clear shot at a fumble recovery, but for some strange reason the ball takes a weird, non-standard psi inflated bounce, and goes directly in the hands of a Patriots player that isn't even close enough to be featured in this photo.

The Patriots started double-teaming Hardy in the second half so the Cowboys relocated him on the left side. He was still able to generate pressure, but the defense never sacked Brady again. There would be a slew of different guys manning the other side - DeMarcus Lawrence, Jeremy Mincey, and even Jack Crawford. None of these arrangements seemed to work.

Good News: The pass rush will get another big boost when rookie, Randy Gregory returns next game. If there was one thing that was shown on Sunday it was that this group of pass rushers all benefited from having other talent around them.

Bad News: The defense is going to continue seeing the field a lot if the offense cannot sustain drives. The defense did an admirable job getting off the field against a great Patriots offense, but unless they get help on the other side of the ball - they'll start to wear down late in games.

Another first-round winner

Last week you might have heard about how much attention a certain tight end was going to get from the opposing defense, with smothering coverage and double teams. But nobody would have guess that the tight end was going to be Jason Witten. The Cowboys 13-year veteran speedster was taken out of the game as the Patriots would constantly allocate multiple players to keep tabs on him.

But what was more shocking was the outstanding job that Cowboys rookie, Byron Jones did on Rob Gronkowski in single coverage. New England's big playmaking receiver would be limited to only four catches for 67 yards. Both are season lows for Gronk. Even when he did make a play, Jones was all over him. His biggest play came when Brady threw behind the receiver and the ball was caught before Jones got turned around. The other big play came when Jones was shielded by a Patriots receiver who was just minding his own business and just inadvertently got in his way.

Jones wasn't just good in the passing game. He did a great job reacting and sniffing out the runs. The rookie got a lot of playing time and did a phenomenal job with his assignments.

Good News: The Cowboys have been knocking them out of the park in recent years when it comes to making first-round picks and Jones is slowly starting to show signs, that he too, may be a big playmaker for this team.

Bad News: The safeties struggled all day making open field tackles. While Jones is always a viable option if the need arises, he is flourishing in his current role and needs to stay there.


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