The Dallas Cowboys are back in the win column thanks to a 38-3 blowout of the New England Patriots. It was a great way to wash the bad taste out of their mouths after last week’s disappointing loss to Arizona. We’ve now seen the Cowboys dominate in three of their first four games. Here are ten thoughts on this convincing rebound victory over the Patriots.
1. Welcome back, defense
After taking a game off last week, the Cowboys' defense was back, and back in a big way. Similar to the Giants game in Week 1, the Pats had a nice opening drive, but that was as good as it got for them. The Cowboys’ defense was smothering. They held New England to 253 total yards and 4/13 on third down. They were also 0/2 on fourth down. They had Pats quarterback Mac Jones so frazzled that he started making several questionable throws and was replaced by backup Bailey Zappe.
2. DaRon fire
There’s been a lot of concern about how second-year cornerback DaRon Bland is going to hold up after taking over the second outside corner spot after they lost Trevon Diggs for the year. After Sunday’s game, some of that worry has started to go away. Bland was outstanding in coverage, picking off Jones twice, including one that he returned 54 yards for a touchdown. And he almost had another pick earlier in the game when he stepped in front of DeVante Parker for the pass breakup that he would’ve taken to the house if had come down with it. Bland has played a total of 21 NFL games and he now has more career interceptions than every cornerback selected in any of the last three draft classes.
3. No place to run
After giving up 222 yards on the ground last week, the Cowboys' run defense looked much better this week. They held the Patriots' top rusher, Rhamondre Stevenson, to just 30 yards on 14 carries. It wasn’t a great homecoming for Ezekiel Elliott as he only gained 16 yards on six carries. As a team, the Cowboys held New England to just 2.3 yards per rushing attempt. It was quite the improvement from the 7.4 yards they gave up against Arizona last week.
4. Red zone struggles continue
The scoreboard read 38 points, but 15 of them came courtesy of the defense. The Cowboys' offense scored two touchdowns on the day, but there were several other instances where they had gotten inside the 10-yard line and had to settle for field goals. They did all the heavy lifting to get down near the goal line, but then a mixup here or there and the drive stalled out. Whether it was a missed blocking assignment or Pollard just running right into Dak, they repeatedly had negative plays on the money down.
5. Yeah, here we go
Sure, the red zone could’ve been better, but overall the offense still looked pretty good. Dak Prescott looked very comfortable as he completed 82% of his passes. It seemed like the only passes he wasn’t completing were those that got knocked down at the line of scrimmage. It was the second time this season he’s completed more than 80% of his passes. He made several right-on-the-money throws. It was a clean game with no turnovers as the Cowboys' offense remained tied in the NFL for the fewest giveaways. The offense played with a different cadence as the QB yelled “Yeah, here we go” repeatedly before the ball was snapped. They looked like a well-oiled machine between the 20s and moved the ball pretty well against one of the league’s stronger defenses.
6. Tolbert and Ferguson
Jalen Tolbert and Jake Ferguson were the Cowboys' third- and fourth-round picks respectively last year. Entering year two, expectations are a little higher this season as they become more involved in the offense. Tolbert caught all four of his targets for 53 yards and Ferguson caught all seven of his targets for 77 yards, leading all Cowboys pass catchers for the day. It was nice to see these two earn more trust from Prescott and make the most of their chances as they both had some nice yards after contact. Tolbert also had a nice takedown on the Patriots punt returner that set New England up deep in their own territory.
7. Cowboys grounded as well
One thing that wasn’t all that great in this game was the Cowboys rushing attack. Tony Pollard only had 47 yards on 11 carries (4.7 ypc). Rico Dowdle added nine yards on three carries (3.0), and Deuce Vaughn only had nine yards on eight carries (1.1). The Cowboys couldn’t really get anything going against a good Patriots defense. And on top of that, Rico Dowdle exited the game with a hip injury. Despite not being overly involved in he offense, Dowdle is having his best season and it’s terrible to see him fight through injury issues yet again. Hopefully, this most recent one isn’t that severe. Stay tuned.
8. Aubrey keeps his streak going
We all would prefer to see more extra points than field goals, but whatever is asked of him, Brandon Aubrey keeps knocking them down. The rookie knocked down all six of his kicks on Sunday, converting three field goals and three extra points. He’s made all 13 of his field goal attempts this year and has now knocked down 22 straight kicks after missing an extra point on his first-ever NFL kick. Props to John Fassel for recognizing what they had in this guy because he’s been automatic this season.
9. Special teams chicanery
Speaking of recognizing something on special teams, Bones showed why he’s one of the better special teams coaches in the league when they recognized an overload in the Patriots’ alignment that triggered an impromptu fake on a point-after attempt. The unit communicated it well and was all on the same page when holder Bryan Anger delivered a perfect pass to Chauncey Golston who snuck out past the Patriots for an easy walk-in score.
10. Two straight over Belichick
Since taking over as the Patriots head coach, Bill Belichick won his first five games against the Cowboys, a period that spanned over 20 years. Of course, Tom Brady might’ve had something to do with that. While that 20-year curse was broken back in 2021 when Prescott hit CeeDee Lamb for a walk-off touchdown in overtime, it appears we have ourselves a new streak. The Cowboys have now won two in a row against New England. The days of Belichick having the Cowboys number appear to be over.