All season long, the Dallas special teams have been a problem for them, and this was not different. The first score of the game came off a blocked punt where the Patriots just came right up the middle. With that gift of the ball on the Cowboys’ 12 yard line, it only took Tom Brady two plays to find N’Keal Harry for a touchdown, giving them a first quarter lead. It was a game where New England had nearly as much difficulty moving the ball, and that field position was crucial. The special teams would continue to be just horrible, as several kickoffs were mishandled, and the Patriots had decent returns themselves. The sequence at the end of the third quarter was particularly galling, as the Cowboys had back to back penalties trying to punt, a delay of game and illegal motion. The second was the most damaging, as the ball would have been at the New England 18, but the re-punt gave them 20 yards of additional field position.
Dak Prescott would throw an interception in the first half as well, but the defense held and limited them to a field goal.
The weather affected both teams, with missed field goals and balls sailing in the wind. Had the Cowboys not given up the ball twice to allow the Patriots to score easily, the Cowboys could have won just on the strength of the three field goals that Brett Maher did make.
They had a chance to tie in the fourth quarter. Trailing by seven, Prescott finally hit Randall Cobb for what turned into a 59 yard reception that took the ball to the New England 25. Cobb almost lost the ball as he was running, but he essentially caught it a second time. However, after a nice screen to Ezekeil Elliott got it to the 14, the drive stalled, and although there were just over six minutes left on the clock, Jason Garrett elected to send Maher back out to cut the lead to four. New England came out driving, but the defense stiffened and got the ball back, although it was at the Dallas 8 yard line. Prescott would have had to lead the team 98 yards to win. But after they got a first down and had a third and one at the 36, a tripping call on Travis Frederick (the second one that the announcers did not see as legitimate, following an earlier one on Tyron Smith) gave them 3rd and 11. There was only 1:53 left, and after an incomplete pass, Amari Cooper was not quite able to haul a pass in to convert, and the Cowboys would go down to defeat as New England just ran the ball to get a clock killing first down.
Cooper was shut out on the day, having his only other catch called back as well.
The Cowboys came into this game knowing they would be in first place in the NFC East no matter what. That was thanks to the Seattle Seahawks beating the Philadelphia Eagles 16-9 earlier in the day, despite Carson Wentz’s much publicized ability to take over games in the fourth quarter. They had a chance to increase that lead, but it was a squandered opportunity.
The Patriots defense was as good as advertised, particularly when the Cowboys got into the red zone. Dallas’ defense was good for the most part, but still let Brady and company get just too many plays.
You have to wonder how things would have gone in better weather. And there were some penalties that were very questionable that hurt the Cowboys. But mostly, it was their own mistakes, another of the dreaded slow starts, and that dismal special teams performance that put this one in the loss column for Dallas.
They now have lost every game this season played against teams that currently have winning records. Garrett was arguably outcoached by Bill Belichick, but this one was more about some terrible execution on the field. There is not a lot else to say. The Cowboys played the Patriots almost even, actually outgaining them, but when you basically gift the other team ten points in the first half and lose by four, you can only look in the mirror to search for answers.