Into Foxborough came the Dallas Cowboys and the driving rain.
The New England Patriots weathered both visitors.
A 13-9 victory would be the result of a game Tom Brady entered as questionable with an injury to his right elbow, and a game the quarterback played without wide receivers Phillip Dorsett and Mohamed Sanu while completing 47 percent of his passes.
The Patriots stood on sodden turf Sunday. They’d also stand at 10-1.
Here’s a touchdown of observations from what went into it.
Wynn back in, and hanging in
For the first time since Sept. 15, New England’s left tackle spot included the player drafted No. 23 overall last year to play there.
Isaiah Wynn started against Dallas after spending the previous eight games on injured reserve with turf toe. The Georgia product took over for veteran in-season signing Marshall Newhouse and took a steep matchup in his return. While lining up across from the resurging Robert Quinn in the first quarter, Wynn conceded a strip-sack that’d be recovered by his quarterback to force fourth down. More growing pains and knockdowns would follow. More work for Newhouse would, too, as starting right tackle Marcus Cannon worked through an illness that had him questionable.
But Wynn’s quick hands and feet were not lost in pass protection. Neither were the run plays heading his direction.
Patriots gain ground with another Georgia product
The Patriots opened in “11” personnel with one running back and one tight end. That grouping remained throughout the offense’s first drive. And it saw Sony Michel, Wynn’s former roommate in Athens, Ga., who went eight picks after him, handle four consecutive runs.
Light then shifted to heavy. Behind eligible tackles and a linebacker in Elandon Roberts playing fullback, Michel found himself with 46 rushing yards by the end of the first quarter. Heavy then shifted back to light. Michel averaged 4.3 yards per carry to the tune of 85 yards by game’s end while breaking off multiple double-digit gains.
The Cowboys’ defensive front would be missing 2018 Pro Bowl linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, who was ruled out Friday after undergoing an MRI on his neck.
Blocked punt sets up first touchdown for first-rounder
The Patriots dressed four receivers. That is, if accounting for Matthew Slater.
The gunner and captain carved around the line to block New England’s third punt of the season. And the first touchdown in the career of first-round pick N’Keal Harry followed on a 10-yard fade from Brady with 45 seconds to go in the initial quarter.
Harry, Julian Edelman and Jakobi Meyers made up the wideout room on Sunday. They combined to catch 13 passes for 177 yards. Edelman got under a third-and-20 target. Meyers shed Cowboys tackles on pickup of 32, came up with a critical third-and-9 conversion, and moved the chains on third-and-7 late. It’d be needed. The aforementioned Dorsett and Sanu went to the inactives before kickoff due to a concussion and a sprained ankle, respectively.
Six points go wide right for the Patriots
Brett Maher wasn’t the only kicker in the elements on Sunday. Nick Folk missed the first two field goals of his Patriots tenure.
A 46-yard attempt, pushed back five yards on a false start by defensive tackle Danny Shelton, sailed right of the uprights in the second quarter. A 48-yarder then went the same way as the last seconds before halftime expired. The score read 10-6.
Folk entered the league with the Cowboys in 2007, and went to the Pro Bowl with the organization that drafted him as a rookie. His stay with New England began in late October. Prior to his two waterlogged misses against Dallas, Folk made good on a 44-yard try and an extra point. The recent Arizona Hotshot would make good on another from 42 yards out at the 9:32 mark in the fourth.
Withstanding Prescott’s pace
Dak Prescott arrived at Gillette Stadium having passed for 1,098 yards and nine touchdowns since the calendar turned to November. He arrived on pace to eclipse 5,000 yards after never throwing for more than 3,885 in a season.
“Hard to see anybody playing much better than him,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said of the quarterback earlier in the week. “This guy’s tough.”
It’d begin tough for the Cowboys. The league’s top-ranked offense saw its first drive end with a punt. The second bounced off the upright from 46 yards out. The third ended in punt rejection. And the fourth landed in the hands of reigning first-team All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore on an interception. Prescott and Co. dried off with Ezekiel Elliott. The NFL’s two-time winner of the rushing title helped propel Dallas to back-to-back field goals before intermission. And Elliott absorbed 126 total yards from scrimmage on a night Prescott finished 19-of-33 for 212 yards through the air.
One McCourty in the New England secondary, but few openings
Jason McCourty appeared on New England’s final injury report of the week. A groin injury had left the 32-year-old starting cornerback limited, questionable and ultimately inactive by Sunday.
It marked McCourty’s first missed game since joining twin brother Devin in the secondary. In his place, J.C. Jackson garnered the start on the outside. Jackson paired with Michael Gallup while Gilmore paired with Amari Cooper. In between, Patriots slot corner Jonathan Jones went up against Cowboys slot receiver Randall Cobb, and broke up the game’s first third down.
Rotating into the defensive backfield would be rookie second-round pick Joejuan Williams out of Vanderbilt. Rotating out would be the Cowboys, both on third down and in the red zone. Gallup, Cooper and Cobb hauled in eight passes altogether from Prescott. The longest from that trio of wideouts sent Dallas 59 yards down the left sideline. But Cooper would go without a catch. His last look came down four points on fourth-and-11.