clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Patriots vs. Cowboys: Fan Notes from the Game

New, comments

Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots’ 13-9 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at New England Patriots Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Does anybody else already have that “it’s Friday at 3:45 PM feel” right now, even though it’s only Monday.

Three days left folks - two and a half for some of us - until we’re off for the first long weekend since before the NFL season even started. What a slog October and November is; no long weekends, the sun sets at 11:45 AM most days, and all you can see is the bitter, brutal cold looming on the horizon as you desperately try to avoid anything that has suddenly been pumpkin spiced. But we’re through the worst of it, and it’s finally time to slack off for a few days before the holiday season kicks off.

Thank Tebow we have the Patriots, who once again pulled out a low scoring win, to keep our days merry and bright.

  • Kickoff yesterday saw a 38 degree, windy, rainy mess that made me as happy as I have been in a long time that I was home watching this game on TV. I’m even more happy to say that I didn’t leave the house once the entirety of the weekend. I may or may not have avoided showering altogether as well, but that’s neither here nor there.
  • This was the game. The return of Isaiah Wynn. The man who was somehow going to fix the entire offense. Wynn was going to shore up the line, which was going to help the running game, which was going to help the passing game, which was going to cause Brady to feel more comfortable back there, which was going to help his accuracy, which was going unlock the kind of firepower you’d think was only reserved for old war movies. So how did it go?
  • Giving the team a grade of “Incomplete,” to be honest. I thought Wynn was solid overall - kind of got thrown into the fire matched up against Robert Quinn right off the bat - he gave up a strip sack and got beat inside a few times, but he was nowhere near the liability that Marshall Newhouse is.
  • Plus, this Patriots team was as depleted offensively yesterday as I think they have ever been. The only healthy receivers New England had yesterday was an undrafted rookie and another rookie fresh off IR. Yes, I know Edelman was out there, but he’s obviously playing hurt. Got up wincing and holding his shoulder on more than one occasion.
  • Not only that, but yesterday was the kind of game that probably would have been 13-9 if it was the 2007 squad out there. Wet, slippery footballs bouncing around a soaked, slippery field where the wind makes it very hard to move the ball, We’ll know a lot more next week inside the comfortable dome that is Reliant Stadium.
  • Or NRG Stadium. Whatever the hell it is now. So I’m not going to lament anything from yesterday’s game. Even in 2013, where they were down everyone, they had more players capable of suiting up.
  • One thing I’ll for sure take as a positive was the running game. New England went a lot of big sets with Newhouse as the extra lineman and both tight ends in close to the line. I guess when you’re as depleted as the Pats were yesterday, no point trying to get tricky. And when it’s plays like that, where you’re running and the defense knows you’re running and everyone in the stadium knows you’re running and you may as well yell out “hey! We’re running it!” presnap, and you still make positive yards, that’s a good sign.
  • There was a stretch run from Sony Michel late in the 4th quarter that essentially iced the game where Wynn broke off his double team with Ben Watson in order to chip Sean Lee just enough to allow Michel to slip by him and follow fullback legend Elandon Roberts to the outside and pick up the first down. It was an instinctive play that Newhouse doesn’t make, and is exactly the kind of thing we needed to see.
  • The flip side of that, though, were the plays were there was a Cowboys lineman in the backfield before the running back even finished receiving the handoff. Defenders get paid to make plays too.
  • While I’m on defense...yes, it’s awesome to hold the #1 passing offense in the NFL to three field goals. And yes, I’d most likely be saying the same thing if the game was played in sunny, balmy weather. But you can’t talk about the rain and wind negatively impacting the New England offense without saying the same thing about Dallas.
  • However...yesterday’s game significantly favored a team with a stout running game and a strong offensive line, which is exactly how the Cowboys keep their lights on. Add to that a mobile QB and an extremely depleted Patriots offense, and this game was Dallas’s for the taking.
  • Dak had one rush for four yards. Ezekiel Elliot didn’t crack 100, with a long of 12 yards. Dallas had 212 yards passing, 59 of which came on a single big play. Prescott wasn’t sacked, but if you look at the formation and strategy - Gilmore on Cooper, Jackson on Gallup, and Jonathan Jones on Cobb, all in single coverage, with everyone else focusing their efforts on Elliot - it seemed like New England was looking to contain Dak in the Pocket and prevent anything underneath or getting Zeke into space.
  • I was glad to see Edelman back there returning punts on a day like yesterday, given the rain and wind conditions. But seeing as how Edelman was more or the only Patriots receiver active yesterday with double digit career catches, I was also a little worried.
  • Plus, you’re not going to convince me that Edelman isn’t playing more hurt than he lets on. Eight times during the game, Edelman got up from the turf clutching his side and shoulder. he had eight grabs on the day.
  • Even injured, Julian Edelman might be the best route runner in the NFL right now. There are better receivers, and receivers who run individual routes better than Edelman, but the versatility he shows, the way he understands space, his foot speed, and the variety of his route tree is an absolute masterclass. He was a quarterback in college. Unreal.
  • Given the depleted offense and Edelman’s injury, you’d figure yesterday would be a James White kind of day, sending him out in mismatched coverage and letting him run on the draw play with a few stretch runs to keep the defense honest. White’s stat line for yesterday’s game was two carries for five yards and one catch for negative six yards. He hasn’t really been much of a factor this season and I don’t really know why.
  • It’s especially weird because, around this time last year when the Patriots offense couldn’t score points and the receivers weren’t getting the job done and Brady was furious with his coach for not giving him any weapons and the Patriots were finished in the postseason as soon as they played a real team, White was more or less the only positive constant that 2018 unit had, and was my mid-season MVP running away. If there was some other player who had been stepping up or if there was an injury or something, I’d understand more. But I’m hoping that James White gets back into the offense and soon.
  • At this point, 11 personnel seems to be what works best for the offense. The only TD of the day came out of 11 personnel, with Edelman motioning to the same side as N’Keal Harry in order to give the free safety two players to account for. Harry made a quick inside fake before heading to the sideline for the back shoulder grab.
  • What’s especially great about N’Keal Harry’s first ever TD catch as a pro was that it was a communication play. Brady started his throw while Harry was still covered and placed it where only Harry could catch it. He was able to gain separation from his man and get his feet down in bounds.
  • In the cold weather too...I’m sure Harry’s hands were freezing.
  • Speaking of cold weather: I was intrigued to see Mike Pereira in the booth with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to discuss the measures that refs and players use to deal with wet, slippery footballs in rough conditions - since, as we all know, moisture and weather have a direct effect on the composition of a football. I know for a fact that the PSI of the footballs remains exactly the same no matter what, but boy do they get slippery!
  • When we go back and look at the season that was in 2019, the play we’re going to forget that we really, really shouldn’t is that Stephon Gilmore pick against zero catch Amari Cooper. Cooper had a step because Gilmore ceded the step, and then closed the distance after baiting Prescott into the throw and made the diving grab. Brilliant strategy, execution, and athleticism that will be forever lost in the unreal highlight bundle that Gilmore has amassed during his time in New England.
  • What ultimately ended up winning this game was coaching and special teams. Dallas’s special teams unit has been a real liability for them all year, and Belichick capitalized. Matthew Slater usually plays as a gunner for the punt unit, as he has the speed and awareness to pin the ball deep. But he was up on the line a lot yesterday to create mismatches, and his blocked punt let to the only TD of the day.
  • Amazingly, though, that wasn’t even the best ST play of the game. It was late in the 3rd quarter when Bill Belichick wedgied Jason Garret right out of the stadium on a sequence that ended up being the deciding factor.
  • Facing a 4th and 13, Dallas lined up to punt from their own 40. New England played everyone at the line with nobody back to receive. The Cowboys didn’t know what to do, so they took a delay of game penalty in order to regroup. Their next punt went down to the New England 18, but an illegal shift nullified the play and Dallas had to punt again, back five more yards. That kick was fair caught by Rex Burkhead at the NE 38. That 20 yard shift gave the Patriots the short field they would need to kick the FG that put them up by a TD and ultimately sealed the game.
  • Another brilliant coaching shift: kickoffs were high and short, forcing players to field a slippery ball. There were multiple drops and late in the game New England almost recovered a kickoff, which would have been amazing.
  • Which is as good a time as any to give Jake Bailey credit for what should be an all-pro season. A great defense and a struggling offense don’t compliment each other without a kicking game to tilt the field position battle, and with few exceptions, Jake Bailey is more than living up to that 5th round pick all the experts say the Patriots wasted on him.
  • Nick Foles has been a nice surprise as well, to be honest. I’m not going to begrudge him a few misses from distance in gross weather; I think he’s the absolute best you can hope for given the circumstances.
  • It sounded like there were a decent number of Cowboys fans in the stands yesterday. Dallas Cowboy fans are the Kevin Hart of the NFL; they’re suddenly just everywhere, and nobody really knows why.
  • Brady is still inaccurate. He had his fair share of drops yesterday, for sure, and Dak was struggling to place the ball as well, so I’ll wear my homer glasses for one more week. But next week’s Tommy B will be telling, I think.
  • I have never met anybody who received a car for Christmas. I also don’t know anybody who knows anybody who got a car for Christmas. But all makes and models wrapped in ridiculously large bows have been a staple of the holiday commercial lineup since I was in diapers. Where are these people getting cars? And how does it work? Do you pay someone top drive it to your house in the middle of the night? Isn’t that kind of creepy? And what if it rains or snows that night?
  • Has anybody had an Impossible Whopper yet? I’m 100% convinced I could tell the difference, but more and more people are saying it’s exactly the same.
  • There was a play later in the game where Tommy B hit Jakobi Meyers up the seam and he was absolutely leveled by Jeff Heath on a vintage pass breakup. I thought it was a great play...but I also know that safeties all around the league have been called for way less.
  • While I’m talking about the refs, it would seem the latest subject of the “Patriots get all the calls” narrative was two tripping penalties that ended up short-circuiting Cowboy drives. I’ve gone back and looked at both replays, and I think that, by the letter of the law, the refs got it right. The foot was going up and caused the defender to fall. They probably could have not called it and that would have been OK too.
  • And for the record, illegal forward pass remains the funniest referee hand signal, but tripping is right up there.
  • One formation I absolutely love is the Sony Michel/Brandon Bolden two back set that the Patriots sprinkle in at times. Bolden has been an absolute godsend for this team on both special teams and as a solid contributor to the offense, and the versatility that package offers will be great to see down the stretch.
  • This was a great win. The Patriots have swept the NFC East. Even if they split their next two games, they finish with Cincy, Buffalo, and Miami, the latter two of which are home. Baltimore has a very tough couple of games ahead, and at this point if the Patriots don’t finish at least the two seed it will represent a big letdown.
  • The Patriots have won at least 10 games for 17 straight years. The Patriots 10 game seasons are old enough to drive a car and have a fighting shot of sneaking into the bars this Wednesday night.
  • Tommy B also now boasts a home record of 140-21. In the 19 seasons he has been a starter, he has just 21 home losses. The odds of you paying astronomical money to go see a Patriots game at Gillette is 100% - which is only slightly better than your odds of seeing them win when you do.
  • I feel bad for Aaron Rodgers this morning. I haven’t checked yet, but I imagine the media is absolutely shredding him for his rough outing last night. I loathe to think about what they’re saying about his body language. And I hope that offseason rift he had with his head coach doesn’t suddenly become relevant and the subject of a 2,000 word article that will enter the national news cycle.
  • This is completely unrelated and has absolutely no business on a Patriots blog, especially one breaking down a game against the Cowboys...but seeing as it’s Thanksgiving week and we’re likely all going to be watching the Lions this Thursday (or at least have the game on in the background while we pretend to listen to Aunt Gertrude’s latest bunion story), take ten minutes today and enjoy this Barry Sanders highlight reel. Frank Gore passed Sanders this weekend on the all-time yards list, which got me thinking of Barry and one of my more vivid memories as a young Patriots fan watching Barry Sanders play. In his first ever game against the Patriots, Sanders rushed for 148 yards. The next time he played the Patriots he literally had the safety (I want to say it was Harlon Barnett, but I’m not 100% there) spinning around in circles trying to catch him on his way to a 39 yard score - a play you’ll see on the linked clip. There’s never a bad time to watch greatness manifested, and what else do you have to do today anyway?

I hope everyone has an amazing Thanksgiving. No matter where you’re going or who you’re with, take some time to enjoy this wild ride we call life and be thankful that the conversations that take place this time every year revolve around playoff seeding and not draft seeding.