The Cowboys have not fared well against the better teams they have faced this season. This Sunday, the Cowboys travel to New England to take on a Patriots team that has lost just four home games since 2016. The Cowboys will be bringing the leagues top-rated offense but they will be facing a Patriots’ defense that might be one of the best in a long time.
When the Patriots have the ball
Contain the screen-pass attack
The Patriots don’t bring much excitement on offense as they just don’t have the playmakers they once had to stretch teams vertically. Tom Brady is averaging just 6.9 yards per pass attempt to Dak Prescott’s 8.8. The Patriots will likely be missing Mohamed Sanu in this game which would really hurt their options in the deep end of the field.
However, what the Patriots do best is adapt and as much as everyone wants to downgrade their offense this season, they get it done. New England is still ranked Top-10 in total team offense and Tom Brady is eighth in passing. How Brady gets it done these days is by getting the ball to guys like James White, Julian Edelman, Philip Dorsett (concussion), and Rex Burkhead. New England feeds the ball to guys in space and hopes for the best. The Cowboys defense has been actually much better statistically than they appear but containing screens has been a struggle. If they fail to contain and defend sideline-to-sideline, the Pats are going to nickel-and-dime them to death in the passing game. Dallas must get better discipline from their linebackers and safeties in this game.
When Cowboys have the ball
Be patient with the run game, use Dak Prescott’s legs
Dak Prescott has been having his way with defenses this season but he’s about to face his stiffest test. The Cowboys should expect Bill Belichick to try and take away a crucial part of the Dallas aerial attack. A betting man would say that New England is going to take away the big explosive perimeter passing because nobody has hit more explosive gains of 20+ yards or more than Dak Prescott. In order to get their passing game flowing, Dak Prescott will have to utilize the seams and middle of the field. That’s not where it ends though for the Cowboys.
How did Baltimore beat the Patriots? They ran the football at them, which is going to contradict what everyone has been saying the Cowboys should do. However, look at the tape and you’ll find how the Ravens exposed New England’s susceptible run defense. They did it by getting both Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram involved. The Cowboys must get Dak’s legs involved in this game and that will be the key to opening up the opportunity for Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. Be patient and find balance and the Cowboys just might have a shot at this.
Now, let’s check what the writers predict will happen in Foxborough...
Despite having every reason to think Dallas loses this game, I’m taking them for the upset win. The offense is too talented for NE to shut them down, and I have to imagine the defense can at least make some stops against a struggling offense with a banged up WR group. I’m taking Cowboys to win 28-24
Patriots 24, Cowboys 21. I think the Cowboys are able to find some success through the air in the second half, but the Patriots score a late touchdown to win.
The Patriots have the best defense in the NFL, don’t turn the ball over, are playing at home, and have the craftiest coach in the league. Factor that with a “something to prove” Tom Brady-led offense that is coming off two straight games where they haven’t exceeded 20 points, and things certainly don’t look very promising for Dallas. But that’s the beauty of this Cowboys team - it’s not about their opponent, it’s about them. Could they come out flat and get leveled by the defending Super Bowl champs? Sure. But the Cowboys have been gradually working things out, and they are really good when they’re not beating themselves. Not that Kellen Moore has been playing opossum, but don’t be surprised if we see some new wrinkles to the offense on Sunday. But in the end, it’s the Cowboys defense that makes a play when it counts the most. Cowboys win 29-23 in extra innings.
Patriots 26, Cowboys 24. Dallas outplays NE for the most part. But Belichick surprises the Cowboys with a trick play that changes the tide and a change in offensive strategy that Dallas fails to adapt to. Add a special teams gaffe that ends up being the difference.
Nothing that we have seen from the Cowboys thus far suggests they can pull this off in such hostile territory. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe there is a path to victory for the Cowboys but I just don’t trust that Dallas can get it done against the best team in the past two decades. The Cowboys coaches have a tendency to overthink big games like this and that will get you beat by Bill Belichick. I believe this game is tight and that we see an admirable performance by Dak Prescott in the elements. However, in the end, the Cowboys get beat by a late field goal with no time to answer. Patriots 23, Cowboys 20.
I think this is a case of the Cowboys being better than their record and the Patriots being worse than theirs. Some rain is expected, so it will probably not be a high scoring affair, but I think Dallas will move the ball well enough to get out of Massachusetts with a 24-16 win.
I forgot who wrote it, but earlier this week I read a Tweet saying that games are lost more often than they are won. At first I thought this was a pretty stupid thing to say, but the more I thought about it, the more realized it’s a perfect description of the 2019 Cowboys. Yesterday, Jeff Cavanaugh of 105.3 The Fan wrote, “if the Cowboys play as well as they can tomorrow, the Patriots can’t beat them. They can’t. But they very rarely play that way.” I completely agree with Jeff. If the Cowboys play mistake-free ball tonight, they will be unstoppable. But I am worried they will find a way to lose, and I am especially worried that a potential loss will be less about individual mistakes on the field and much more about stupid coaching decisions.
The Cowboys have arguably lost three games this year to bad coaching, and if they continue to make bad decisions on 4th down, abandon play-action, insist on establishing the run, or run Ezekiel Elliott up the middle into stacked fronts in the red zone, they will lose this game. In short, if Jason Garrett goes conservative against Bill Belichick, he will get badly out-coached, and the Cowboys will lose the game. But if the Cowboys aggressively play to their strengths, and Garrett doesn’t interfere too much, they will win.