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Patriots vs. Cowboys: Fan Notes from the Game

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Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots' 30-6 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

What a weird Week 5 of football.

The Broncos are winning games despite Peyton Manning rather than because of him. The Browns are throwing for 10,000 yards on the road against the Ravens. Lions fans are calling for Dan Orlovsky over Matthew Stafford. The Colts barely walk away with a W against a terrible AFC South opponent.

OK, so that last one is more or less par for the course. But otherwise, this latest slate of games proves that you really never know what's going to happen week-to-week in this league.

Even the New England Patriots aren't immune to the craziness that has been going on this year. Sure, they won handily yesterday and hung 30 on the Cowboys on the road, but they certainly didn't play their best football. Tommy B was sacked a career high five times in the first half, Gronk didn't score three touchdowns in this game, and I don't think the cameras cut over to Jerry Jones once throughout the entire broadcast. What the hell is going on here?

On the plus side, this game represented just how good Bill Belichick and the coaching staff is making in-game adjustments, as after a shaky offensive start, the Patriots came out in the third quarter and put the game away. Tommy B remains interception free, and New England now has another road win under their belt as they enter into one of the most crucial stretches of the season.

  • I'm always very torn about these 4:25 starts. On one hand, it's nice to have a free first half of the day before I settle in for a Pats game. On the other hand, I much, much prefer a Pats W in the books already by the time 4 PM comes around so I can relax and get a head start on dreading the upcoming work week.
  • Courtesy of another riveting Baltimore Ravens performance against that offensive juggernaut, Cleveland, I missed the first part of this game. On the plus side, if I'm going to miss the start of the Patriots game, watching Josh McCown march down the field in OT to more or less end the Ravens' season isn't a horrible way to go.
  • And a very serious note to DirecTV: I pay a lot of money for the NFL package- way more than you have any business charging. So if there's an overtime game preventing me from seeing the game I want to see, find an un-blacked out feed and figure out a way let me see my goddam game. Inexcusable. I ended up having to fish out my IPad like some kind of savage.
  • #FirstWorldProblems
  • To make matters even worse, the first play I saw was a blown up screen attempt to Dion Lewis with the Pats at the Dallas 32, followed by an incompletion and then a sack. What the hell kind of way is that to kick off my Patriots Sunday?
  • I'll say this: Greg Hardy is a man of his word. That man came out guns blazin' yesterday. What an explosive first step. I haven't seen a pass rusher make Nate Solder look that foolish since...well, the last time a pass rusher made Nate Solder look foolish last Sunday.
  • I think Phil Simms ranted for a good three minutes on Hardy and his off-the-field issues. And while I agree with much of what Phil Simms said, I can't help but feel like the majority of us watch football to get away from the steaming pile of crap that is the real world. We want to forget about life for a while and just enjoy a sporting event for a few hours without getting beat over the head by pompous proselytizing windbags. Get off your moral high horse and just let us enjoy the game.
  • Did I really just write " I agree with much of what Phil Simms said?" I may have to retire now. The best know when it's time to hang 'em up.
  • One area, of many, where Jamie Collins just keeps getting better is timing his blitz against the opposing snap count. His speed and explosiveness is terrifying enough, but to be able to time that so that he can crash the gap just as the ball gets released? Maybe that's what the Colts and Ravens should focus on getting changed this offseason - make Collins count a loud three Mississippi before he's allowed to blitz.
  • I'm seeing an increase in Collins' gap discipline as well. You rarely see him overshoot a play.
  • Brandon Weeden's helmet is too small. He looks like he's perpetually six years old at Great Aunt Tillie's house and that woman simply refuses to let go of his cheeks. Although Great Aunt Tillie might have had more success yesterday.
  • The Cowboys did EXACTLY what they needed to do defensively in order to make a game out of this: got to Brady early, hit him a lot, didn't allow him to settle. He was tentative and inaccurate for much of the first half.
  • And because of that fiercer-than-expected pass rush, the Patriots switched up the attack, went bigger along the line, and ran the ball for positive yards. They also started releasing passes almost immediately, which is a testament to both their versatility and the intelligence along the sidelines.
  • The Patriots seem to be telegraphing what they are going to do based on the offensive line groupings they put in. I'll need to go back and pay closer attention, but it looks like Marcus Cannon is their passing lineman and Shaq Mason is their running lineman. That's pretty interesting.
  • This may sound weird...but I'm actually glad the the New England offensive line got absolutely lit up yesterday. They had been playing so well, and these rookie interior guys had been getting so much praise, that getting knocked around like the field was made out of ice might be just what they needed to bring everyone back down to earth. Plenty to yell about in that team room this morning.
  • On the other side of the ball, this Patriots defensive line reminds me of sitting in Algebra class my junior year in high school. Just Xs all over the place and nothing makes sense, but somehow it all works out perfectly for everyone else while I'm still sitting there scratching my head like an idiot.
  • On New England's first TD drive of the game, it was nothing but quick out routes, screens, and fast runs. This team can beat you in so many ways. Like life. On me.
  • Seeing a fired up Tommy B must be absolutely terrifying to an opposing defensive coordinator. I feel like at that point you may as well just toss your playbook up in the air and just start running a house blitz on ever down.
  • What the hell is Chandler Jones doing playing free safety? Answer: not making interceptions. I love this defense!
  • Note to self: look into the ratio of punts to Patriots special teams penalties.
  • Along those lines: still completely baffled by Amendola returning punts over Edelman. The only explanation I have at this point is that Edelman is too valuable to the offense to risk hurting himself.
  • And you have to think that Danny Amendola knows that as well. I don't think that anyone straight up told him "hey, Danny...we're going to have you return punts this year because it doesn't really matter all that much if you get hurt," but he still knows. That can't be the best feeling. Kind of like when I was in 8th grade and Lauren Jacobson told me she'd go to the Christmas Semi-formal with me if nobody else asked her. Gee, thanks Lauren. I'll go and press my suit.
  • MASSIVE amount of credit to the Dallas defense yesterday. The Cowboys only generated one first down for the entire first half and New England started at their own 40 on almost every possession, and the Patriots went into the locker room at halftime only up by 10. That game could so easily have been over at that point, but that Dallas defensive line completely won the day.
  • Even more impressive is that Dallas only rushed three at times and were still able to get pressure. That's how you put a team on your shoulders. The only problem is that you can only keep Brady on his heels for so long, and if your offense simply isn't producing, it's just a matter of time before everything starts to unravel - which it did just before halftime.
  • Speaking of just before halftime...congrats to Stephen Gostkowski for hitting a new career long, a 57 yard FG to make the game 13-3. In a league year where the unemployment line is lousy with kickers and it almost feels like the goalposts are on a conveyor belt, state fair style, it really makes you appreciate Ghost that much more, doesn't it?
  • Add Byron Jones to the ever-growing list of DBs that Gronk has batted aside like he was made out of paper.
  • Heyyyy look at Phil Simms! "That must be delfating for the Cowboys defense!" Simms you comedic genius you!
  • What happened to the Dallas crowd? Doesn't that stadium seat 458,000 fans? So how could I hear Brady's cadence with such perfect clarity? Have they more or less just mailed it in until Romo gets back? I guess I can't really blame them; when your QB can't even move the ball 10 yards, it must be hard to get up for a game.
  • Dion Lewis you shifty bastard. A one handed catch and then breaks six sets of ankles along the way. Very glad you signed that extension. That was one of the most ridiculous catch-and-runs I have ever seen.
  • Something that especially made me feel that Lewis belongs in New England: when asked why he signed his extension so early in the season when he probably could have continued his high level of play and gotten more money, he replied that the Patriots gave him a chance when nobody else did, and he wanted to repay them. I always love hearing statements like that, especially in a league where player holdouts occur so frequently.
  • What a beautiful drive the first scoring drive of the second half was. Backed up at their own 10, a few laser strikes from Tommy B coupled with fantastic diagnosis of the defense, allowing the running game to gain decent yards on early downs and keep the pass rush from pinning its ears back. Completely changed the complexion of the game from there on out.
  • On the Cowboys answering drive, I couldn't shake the feeling that the refs got a call from 180 Park Avenue with a polite request to consider making some calls that might help to make the game close, as these big market games don't generate as much money if folks begin to tune out. Some absolutely horrible calls and pitiful ball spots.Not enough to completely change the game, of course; I mean, shield and integrity and all that. But you'll have a hard time convincing me that a few of those illegal contact calls were legit.
  • That said - what an amazing catch by Devin Street. Man.
  • And you too, Keshawn Martin. Huge third down fingertip grab to keep a drive alive and help more or less ice the game. Thanks, Houston! Enjoy Mallett and Hoyer.
  • Nate Solder is currently out with an "elbow injury." Even money says he injured his elbow when Greg Hardy grabbed it and beat Solder over the head with his own arm as he said "quit hitting yourself! Quit hitting yourself!" over and over.
  • You can hate on the Patriots all you want, but one gripe that folks have that carries NO water: Tom Brady is a pansy sissyboy. That man is tough and nails and there isn't a single play you can point to that shows otherwise. He took an absolutely monster hit on the Edelman TD and got right back up afterwards.
  • Unless, of course, you consider occasionally yelling for flags to be the sissified behavior of a whiny, entitled jerk. And if that's the case, I'd argue that the NFL has more pansies than any professional sport.
  • On that Edelman TD, there was nothing fancy going on whatsoever; simple 21 shotgun set, Lewis in the backfield, and he ran right to clear the strong side linebacker out into space. Edelman ran a simple out and up route as two Cowboys inexplicably decided to make a Danny Amendola sandwich, leaving Edelman wide open down the lest sideline. Tommy B hit him in stride at the 37, and he did the rest.
  • The game was pretty much over by that point; a Jason Witten fumble recovered by Jonathan Freeny took some more time off the clock, and when once again for the 500th consecutive time LeGarrette Bount couldn't pick up short yardage because he's an absolutely terrible and well-documented short yardage back, the Patriots kept everything in front of them to keep the clock ticking.
  • Seriously: for the love of Tebow stop running Blount on down and less than a yard. Just run the Brady sneak and get it over with. Or run Brandon Bolden. Hell, put me in there for all I care. Just stop trying to run Blount on those. Makes zero sense.
  • How much would I have to pay you to try and tackle Blount barreling down the sidelines with Shaq Mason pulling?
  • And yes, I know what number Shaq Mason wears. And yes, I heard Phil Simms' remark about how Shaq Mason is doing what he does best. And yes, I could have written another 1,000 words of jokes about that specific number. But this is a family friendly blog, people. And I think I've already reached my quota of off-color jokes for the year.
  • This was a solid win - especially since it was a shaky start and it represents this team, for the first time really, needing to adjust both on the fly and at halftime in order to remain effective. Those are the kinds of things you really like to see. It's also nice to not play that well at all and still win by 24 on the road.

Anybody know who the Patriots play next?