The New England Patriots improved to 10-1 as they won another slugfest against one of the top teams in the NFC, the Dallas Cowboys by a score of 13-9. There was a lot of good and lot of bad and the cold, windy, rainy game at Gillette Stadium.
Let’s break down the three keys to victory and see if New England met the requirements laid out by us before the Week 12 bout.
1) Time to Wynn
Left tackle Isaiah Wynn had his long-awaited return and his impact was felt immediately. It was thought throughout New England that Wynn’s return would help Tom Brady and the passing game the most. But perhaps running back Sony Michel missed him the most.
Michel had perhaps his best game of the year as he finished with 85 yards on 20 carries. It was not an accident that when the game was on the line and the Patriots had to kill clock to win the game that they ran behind Isaiah Wynn and the left side of the offensive line.
Wynn also benefitted the passing game. It felt like Brady had more time to throw in the pocket than he has had all year. That more time in the pocket allowed the receivers to run more downfield routes. While Brady finished only 17-of-37 passes for 190 yards, it felt like he was the victim of a few big drops by his receivers and some tough weather. Slowly but surely the offense is improving.
2) Contain, Confuse Dak Prescott
The number one offense was shut down by the best defense in the National Football League. Dallas and Dak Prescott were held without a touchdown. Without a big play from Randall Cobb, who was the Cowboys leading receiver with four catches, the Cowboys were thoroughly shut down in the second half.
Amari Cooper, the Cowboys number one target, was held without a catch as he was totally erased by Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore’s ability to take away the oppositions top target week after week has been the driving force for the Patriots defense this season. Gilmore definitely staked his claim for Defensive Player of the Year on Sunday with a dominating effort.
3) Let Jake Bailey do Jake Bailey things
It wasn’t Jake Bailey’s best game of the season, but when he needed to stick the Cowboys deep into their own territory late in the game, he did. This was perhaps his best game on kickoffs, however. Some of his success may have been because of the wind. But when New England kept kicking short, the Cowboys were continually surprised by it.
Overall, the Patriots won this game on special teams and coaching. New England blocked a punt that set up their lone touchdown on the day, which shows yet again how important the third phase of football is.
Tom Brady said it best when he said the Patriots strengths are their defense and special teams. They are going to be the reasonNew England continues to win in 2019. For years the fortunes of the team rested on Brady’s shoulders. Now, it’s the defense and special teams' turn to shoulder the workload.