Another game, another big Patriots win. Today, New England went on the road to Dallas for the first time since 2007, and came away with a 30-6 blowout victory. The win pushes the Patriots to 4-0.
The Patriots had a lot of strong performances on both sides. Tom Brady overcame constant pressure to finish 20-27 for 275 yards and two touchdowns. LeGarrette Blount picked up 74 yards on 14 carries to lead New England on the ground. Wide receiver Julian Edelman made big plays all over the field, catching four passes for 120 yards including an electric 59 yard catch and run in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach. Defensively, Jabaal Sheard, Jamie Collins, Devin McCourty, and Malcolm Butler were all standouts.
Here are five major takeaways from the game:
Patriots are dominating, even when they're not. Initially, this did not seem like it would be a particularly dominant game from the Patriots. They could not move the ball consistently out of the gate, they allowed some decent gains on the ground, and they did not extend the lead beyond one score until a fantastic 57-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski in the closing moments of the first half. Yet, as the game wore on, the Patriots continued to separate themselves from the Cowboys. In the end, the game was not even close, with a final margin of 24 points. Yes, the Patriots were very precise in the second half. They forced two turnovers and did not commit any. They did the little things even when they were not winning every one on one. In the end, that's what great teams do. Even with a "B" game, the Patriots dominated.
The Patriots could not protect the edges. The most concerning part of this victory was the pass protection for quarterback Tom Brady, particularly in the first half, when Brady was sacked five times. Brady was constantly under duress, getting sacked, hit as he threw, hit after he threw. Brady was fantastic on the day, but made a lot of plays on his own - stepping around rushers and delivering big throws down the field. Nate Solder could not contain Greg Hardy in the first half, before sitting the second half with an elbow injury. Marcus Cannon was not much better. Even Sebastian Vollmer allowed an ugly first half sack. The line was able to recover a bit in the second half, and the interior was able to get some push in the running game. However, the pass protection overall will be something to monitor going forward.
Jabaal Sheard is really, really good. Overall, the Patriots had a really dominant defensive performance. They were the first team to hold the Cowboys out of the end zone in 65 games. Their dominance started up front. While there were good performances all around, there were not any quite as dominating as that of Jabaal Sheard. He was all over the field, with a fantastic bull rush highlighting his two sacks. He was also great setting the edge, coming up with two stops for a loss and consistently winning at the point of attack. Rob Ninkovich is still a good player, but at some point, the arrow is going to point towards Sheard as the starter over Ninkovich. He's fantastic.
Dion Lewis is going to keep making dazzling plays. He's officially now making plays that you can't even make in a video game:
I mean, what else can be said? Lewis is a dynamic player and the Vereen-Woodhead comparisons might not even be enough. Overall, the Patriots did not have a huge game on the ground, but did have their moments including a LeGarrette Blount 34 yard in the second half (he also was stuffed on a 4th and 1 near the red zone in the fourth quarter, which just adds to the argument that he should not be handling short yardage situations).
The secondary can still be effective. The Cowboys did not threaten the Patriots very much vertically, although they did not have much of a chance due to the strong play of the Patriots secondary. Malcolm Butler shadowed Terrance Williams, and was particularly dominant. He allowed just a single reception for 13 yards. Tarell Brown returned to action and was effective. Rookie Justin Coleman continued to impress with increased playing time. Logan Ryan got the start opposite Butler and had a late interception to seal the game. It may have been a depleted Dallas passing attach, but the secondary did their job, and that is a very positive sign.