Cowboys Fall To Patriots 13-9 In Messy Defensive Struggle
Was it the wind, the rain, the turnovers, the unrelenting mediocrity, Jason Garrett’s conservative decision or the New England Patriots’ exceptional defense that did the Dallas Cowboys in on Sunday evening?
Heck, maybe it was all of it.
The Cowboys took the best offense in football into Foxborough, Mass., to face the best defense in football, and on the face of a 13-9 loss to the Patriots, it looked like a close game. But if you watched it all the way through, it was hard to escape the sense that the Cowboys were never quite as close in this game as the score would indicate.
Said an ominous-sounding owner Jerry Jones: “With the makeup (talent) of this team, I shouldn’t be this frustrated.”
As the Cowboys’ final meaningful offensive play of the game, a long fourth-down pass from quarterback Dak Prescott to wide receiver Amari Cooper, slipped just through Cooper’s outstretched arms and leaked onto the turf, the Cowboys fell to 6-5 going into the Thanksgiving game with the Buffalo Bills. Dallas walked out of New England with yet another opportunity lost to beat a team with a .500 or better record.
Now, Dallas faces a schedule where most of its remaining opponents have a record of .500 or better and the Cowboys continue to nurse a one-game lead in the NFC East over Philadelphia. Since their 3-0 start, the Cowboys are 3-5 and have toggled between winning and losing for a month.
The conditions were about as bad as they could be for a November game in New England — winds of more than 15 miles per hour, unrelenting rain for most of the game and a vicious end zone to end zone wind that rendered one side of the field nearly useless to kickers Brett Maher and Nick Folk. The trio combined to miss field goals of 46 (Maher), 46 and 48 (Folk) yards in the first half. Folk managed to squeeze through a 42-yarder into the wing in the fourth quarter to give the Patriots a 13-6 lead with 9:32 left.
But the Cowboys had a chance to drive and tie the game and they nearly did it. Prescott connected with Randall Cobb for a 59-yard pass to the Patriots 25-yard line the Cowboys’ biggest play of the day. Cobb lost the ball at one point, jarred loose by Patriots corner Stephon Gilmore, but he caught the ball in midair before being brought to the ground. The Cowboys got all the way to the Patriots 11 before the drive sputtered on an incomplete pass from Prescott to Blake Jarwin. Then it was decision time, and facing 4th-and-7, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett chose to kick a field goal to cut the lead to four points, 13-9, with 6:04 remaining.
It was a risk, and the Cowboys got no closer to the end zone.
The Cowboys needed more than three minutes of game clock to force a Patriots punt, and even into the wind the Patriots managed to down the kick at the Cowboys 8. But with 2:38 left and all three timeouts, the Cowboys had a chance to win the game, even though they would have to go 92 yards to do it.
The Cowboys didn’t get nearly that far. Prescott hit Cobb for an 18-yard gain right off the bat, and after an incompletion Prescott connected with Michael Gallup for a 9-yard gain going into the two-minute warning.
Then, facing 3rd-and-1 Prescott hit running back Ezekiel Elliott in the flat for a first down. But it was erased by a tripping call on Cowboys center Travis Frederick. After Prescott dumped off a pass into the ground on third down while avoiding pressure, he hit Cooper for the completion that was reversed on replay.
The Patriots nearly ran out the clock, giving the ball up in the final second for one Dallas offensive player that hardly mattered.
In hindsight, the Cowboys did this to themselves with two turnovers for 10 New England points.
First, New England special teams ace Matthew Slater blocked a Chris Jones punt to set up the Patriots at the Cowboys 12. Two plays later Patriots quarterback Tom Brady hit wide receiver N’Keal Harry for a 10-yard touchdown pass on a back-shoulder fade. That made it 7-0.
On the ensuing drive Prescott threw an interception three plays into the possession as Gilmore dove across the field to snare the pass intended for Cooper. Four plays later Folk made a 44-yard field goal with the wind to give the Patriots a 10-0 lead.
That lead stood the entire game. The Cowboys did have 321 yards in total offense, but like every other team to lose to New England this season, they failed to score at least 14 points. Prescott threw for 212 yards, but he failed to throw a touchdown pass. Elliott rushed for 86 yards and caught another 4 passes for 40 yards. Cobb led the Cowboys with 4 catches for 86 yards, while Gallup pitched in 4 receptions for 55 yards.
For just the fourth time in his career Cooper was held without a catch. Cooper spent stretches of the game on the bench as the Cowboys committed more personnel to running the football due to the conditions.
The Cowboys defense held the Patriots to 282 offensive yards and New England was nearly as bad on third down (3-of-14) as the Cowboys (2-of-13). But Dallas couldn’t force a turnover, something that would have come in handy in a game where the time of possession game was nearly dead even.
All of Dallas’ points came courtesy of Maher’s foot. He did miss his first field goal of the game, but made three others after that.