Bill Belichick has dominated plenty of teams, his division, and even the AFC during his amazing career as the New England Patriots head coach. The Dallas Cowboys haven’t been immune, losing nearly every game they’ve played against Belichick’s teams over the last 22 years. That history will be on many minds as the Cowboys host the Patriots this Sunday.
Much was made of last season’s playoff victory over Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas’ first win over a Brady-led team in franchise history. Most of Brady’s 7-0 record against the Cowboys prior to last January was established during his time with the Belichick and the Patriots.
Since he became New England’s head coach in 2000, Belichick’s gone 5-1 against Dallas. All five wins came with Brady as the starting QB. Given their different homes in the AFC and NFC, the Patriots and Cowboys don’t play each other too often. Still, 83% is a pretty nice win percentage.
Dallas finally bested Belichick in their last meeting in 2021, New England’s second season after Brady’s departure. But despite the Cowboys entering the game 5-1 and the Patriots at just 2-4, Dallas still needed overtime to put New England away. It’s a good reminder that even when he’s down, Belichick can’t ever be taken lightly.
While it’s still early in this 2023 season, the Cowboys are again the consensus favorites in this week’s game. Projected to get most, if not all, of their starting offensive linemen back this Sunday, Dallas should be closer to the team we saw dominate the Giants and Jets and not the one that fell flat last week in Arizona.
The Patriots may be 1-2 so far but have been competitive against undefeated teams in Philadelphia and Miami. They got their first win last week against the Jets in a 15-10 defensive showdown.
One of the significant questions hovering over New England right now is Mac Jones’ viability as the long-term starter. Playing in Brady’s shadow is unfair to ask anyone, but Jones is struggling to produce enough to compete against the upper half of NFL teams. He has great moments but the consistency isn’t there yet.
Already underdogs on paper, the Patriots can’t afford a down week from Jones against the Cowboys' defense. Hopefully no longer grieving the loss of Trevon Diggs, and angry after what the Cardinals did to them, Dan Quinn’s crew should be ready to take out their frustrations on an already-struggling New England offense.
What this game likely comes down to is how Belichick, ever a defensive mastermind, exploits Dallas’ offensive weaknesses. If there are still health issues up front, can New England find ways to keep Dak Prescott and others uncomfortable and out of rhythm? Will that lead to more of the penalties that plagued the Cowboys last Sunday?
It’s easy to look to next week’s showdown in San Francisco as the real litmus test for these Cowboys as a contending team. But as long as Bill Belichick is coaching the Patriots you can’t ever look past them. And after putting about three hours of bad football on tape for Belichick last Sunday, Dallas doesn’t have any room for hubris going into this one.
Even if there are plenty of mismatches on the field in the Cowboys’ favor, the Patriots have a critical one between the two head coaches. After just seeing his team flop against one of the worst teams in football, Mike McCarthy can’t let himself get clearly outcoached again. It will be more forgivable against Bill Belichick, but would lend credence to McCarthy as a second-tier coach and perhaps not the guy to take Dallas to the next level.