Sometimes you go into a game and escape with a victory. That is exactly what the Dallas Cowboys did in a 35-29 overtime win over the New England Patriots. After failing at crucial times to stop the Patriots in regulation, the Dallas defense got the ball back for their offense and Dak Prescott would seal the victory with a 35-yard touchdown pass to Cee Dee Lamb in overtime. It was fitting that they would be the heroes at the end, as they were the stars that gave the Cowboys the chance to pull this one out. Prescott would finish with 445 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception on 36/51 passing while Lamb would haul in nine catches for 149 yards and two of the TDs.
It was a very sloppy performance in many ways for the Cowboys that led to overtime, including huge breakdowns on both sides of the ball, 115 yards in penalties, and a missed 51-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein. That missed kick came with just 2:42 left to play and could have given Dallas a two-point lead. It would instead trigger the bizarre sequence of events at the end of the game. The Patriots would get the ball with a chance to salt the game, but Trevon Diggs would extend his streak of interceptions to start the season with a pick-six. That staked Dallas to a five-point lead, and they failed on a two-point conversion. Then Diggs went from hero to heel as he was beaten on a 75-yard touchdown pass on the very next play by New England. They made their two-point conversion and suddenly Dallas was facing a three-point deficit with just over two minutes left. They had not one, but two of their brutal penalties on the same play that pushed them back out of field goal range. But Prescott found Lamb to the New England 31, and Zuerlein would tie things up with 20 ticks left on the clock.
The first half was incredibly frustrating for the Cowboys. After a holding call on Tyron Smith disrupted their rhythm on their first drive, they got to a third and one. Ezekiel Elliott came up just short, and then was called just short again on fourth and one. A McCarthy challenge did not change the outcome. That set up the Patriots with good field position and it took them just three plays to get the first score of the game on a direct snap to Damien Harris.
Dallas would answer with a seven-play, 75-yard drive to tie things up. The touchdown came on a great Kellen Moore play call with two tight ends plus Connor McGovern on the field with the ball at the one-yard line. Instead of the obvious run play, Prescott threw the ball over the outstretched hands of a defender to Blake Jarwin. It was an encouraging sign, but things would go wrong in multiple ways from there.
The defense was even more inept on the next New England possession, as Mac Jones took them 75 yards in just four plays, aided by a horse collar call against Trevon Diggs and capped by a touchdown pass to Hunter Henry.
It looked like the Cowboys would answer rapidly, but after driving into the red zone, Prescott would put a ball just behind Cedrick Wilson and it was knocked up in the air and picked off, with the return to the 25.
For a moment fortune smiled on Dallas on the next series, as Randy Gregory sacked Jones and knocked the ball loose for Chauncey Golston to snap up. It was a golden opportunity to tie the game up, but red zone futility struck again as what looked like a touchdown pass to Wilson was knocked loose from his arms in the end zone and the Cowboys had to settle for a field goal. That made the score 14-10.
But settling for three was hardly the last disappointment before halftime. That would come as the Dallas defense stiffened and then Luke Gifford knifed through to block a punt. Now the Cowboys were on the New England 17-yard line, with a great opportunity to take the lead. It would, however, be a case of deja vu as for the second time this season Prescott would appear to get the ball across line for a touchdown, but the refs would not call it. This was perhaps even more egregious than the one against the Carolina Panthers, as one replay showed the QB lying on top of players with fully half his body across the goal line. That was on third and goal, and on the ensuing fourth down, Prescott would try instead to reach the ball across the line, but would fumble it before it crossed the plane, resulting in a touchback. A takeaway and blocked punt resulted in only three points for Dallas as they were struggling with third downs and the red zone.
Despite winding up trailing by four, the Cowboys were dominating in many ways at halftime. They had out-gained the Patriots 235 yards to 128, and run 41 plays against only 17 by New England. But one of six on third downs, one of three on fourth downs, and that red zone futility had them in a hole. It was certainly a case where the argument could be made that they were beating themselves more than the other team beating them.
One positive trend for the season is that this staff has actually made adjustments as the game progressed, and that continued in this one. After the first two New England possessions that sliced almost effortlessly to the end zone, Dan Quinn got his defense to stiffen, and they began really struggling to keep drives alive. That gave the Cowboys offense an opportunity to get some points on the board. They did so with a 91-yard drive in only eight plays in the third quarter, capped by a one-yard touchdown throw to CeeDee Lamb. They would add three more on a fourth quarter field goal, but the failure again to get a touchdown would come back to hurt them as the Patriots would mount a long fourth quarter touchdown drive where the Dallas run defense looked disturbingly inept in an echo of last season.
But somehow the Cowboys found a way to get the win, and now are 5-1 with a remarkable three-game cushion in the NFC East. Losing this one would hardly have doomed them with the rest of the division looking so inept. A win, however, is nothing but good. No matter how hard it was to come by.
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