Patriots Defensive Report Card: Week 12

Distributing the grades for the Patriots' key defensive contributors during Sunday's win over the Cowboys.

The New England Patriots defense has been a thing of beauty all season, and Sunday vs. the Dallas Cowboys was no different. The defense kept the Cowboys offense out of the end zone for the entire game, as they only allowed three field goals, securing the Patriots' 13-9 win. 

New England has played 11 games so far this season, which equates to 44 quarters of football. Of the 44 quarters, the New England defense has allowed zero points in 28 of them. With the offense continuing to struggle, it seems as if the defense will truly dictate how far this team goes. 

Here are the grades for the team's top defensive performers last Sunday. 

Stephon Gilmore:  A+

Need I say anymore? Stephon Gilmore has been fantastic all season long. He is the best cornerback in the NFL, no question. Against the Cowboys, Gilmore had five tackles, an interception and two pass deflections. An even crazier statistic is what he held his matchup, Amari Cooper to. Gilmore smothered Cooper all game long, as the Cowboys star wide receiver finished with zero yards and zero receptions on two targets. Gilmore, who referred to shutting Cooper down as a simple "Fun", has quickly become the Patriots' most important player on either side of the ball.

Jamie Collins:  A

Jamie Collins' return to Foxborough has been everything we had hoped for and more. He is another piece of the Patriots defense that has been unstoppable through the first 12 weeks of the regular season. Against the Cowboys, Collins had a game-high 10 tackles. Collins currently leads the Patriots in tackles, tackles for a loss and sacks. What a privilege it is to have a dominant front-7 matched with such a lethal secondary. This defense isn't letting up anytime soon.

Lawrence Guy: A

It's only right to keep moving closer to the line of scrimmage here. The Cowboys had the best ranked offense heading into Sunday's matchup at Gillette Stadium. Lawrence Guy finished with eight tackles, which was good for second most on either team. 

Guy and the rest of the defensive line were matched up against one of the best running backs in the league in Ezekiel Elliot. To keep Elliot out of the end zone and under 100 yards was great, but to also apply pressure on Dak Prescott and limit him from finding anything deep down the field was even better. Guy came to play against the Cowboys.

Matthew Slater: A+

Let's throw in a special teams honorable mention here. Matthew Slater's blocked punt was the legitimate difference in the game. Slater has an incredible knack of making big plays in the most important situations. With a minute and 30 seconds left in the first quarter, Slater got a hand on the Cowboys punt attempt, and the ball was recovered on the Dallas 12 yard line. Two plays later, Tom Brady found N'Keal Harry for a 10-yard touchdown pass. This ended up being the lone touchdown of the game for either team. If Slater doesn't make that play, who knows what the end result would've been.