If you were watching today’s Patriots/Cowboys game and were having flashbacks of vintage Patriots games, circa 2001-2004, you weren’t alone. The Patriots put together their first complete team victory of the season, complete with a vintage Tom Brady 4th quarter comeback. The Patriot offense had been stymied for much of the game and had several self-inflicted wounds, but they were able to pull out the last-minute touchdown to go ahead for the victory thanks to the defense doing their part. The defense was able to slow down the Cowboys’ offense throughout the game and came up with a big three-and-out with just under three minutes to play and the Cowboys up 16-13. That set up the offense with enough time for some Tom Brady magic.
With 2:31 left in the game and the Patriots on their own 20-yard line, Brady orchestrated a drive that lasted 2:09 and ended in a go-ahead touchdown. Brady hit Aaron Hernandez twice on the drive, once for the game-winning touchdown, and also utilized Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, and Danny Woodhead to matriculate the ball down the field. Brady finished the game 21 of 47 for 289 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. TE Aaron Hernandez was the team’s leading receiver, being targeted 14 times and making 8 catches for 68 yards, a touchdown, and a fumble. BenJarvus Green-Ellis was the team’s leading rusher, rushing for 58 yards on 14 carries (4.1 avg). The offense made life harder on themselves, turning the ball over twice inside of Dallas’ 50-yard line, but they were able to complete that final drive for the winning touchdown.
The defense had, in my view, their best game of the season. They held the Dallas offense to a 33% conversion rate on third down and only 16 points. Considering the Patriots’ offense turned the ball over four times, putting the defense in a tough position, they held up extremely well. They were especially tough in the red zone, allowing the Cowboys to score a touchdown on only one out of three trips. They also forced two turnovers: a Kyle Arrington INT and Vince Wilfork forced fumble. Gary Guyton and Patrick Chung led the team with 10 tackles apiece.
The Pats enter their bye week next week at 5-1, alone atop the AFC East, and in a great position to get healthier. They have a very well-placed bye week, with the trade deadline this week and players returning from the PUP list. If they add any new players via trade, they have two weeks to get them ready to play. They also have two weeks to evaluate players such as Kevin Faulk, Brandon Deaderick, and Ron Brace before deciding whether they are ready to play or should be placed on IR for the year (or released).