After every game, the NFL releases a comprehensive game book that recaps the action. Over almost 20 pages it essentially tells the whole story of a contest through listing every play as well as numerous statistics and the lineups on both sides. The game book also includes information about the weather, and a mere three words were needed by the authors to perfectly capture the atmospheric conditions during the New England Patriots’ win over the Dallas Cowboys: rain and wind.
Sunday’s contest between the two storied franchises was a defensively-dominated affair that was impacted by the weather in all three phases: temperatures were in the high 30s, with rain and wind gusts up to 16 miles per hour forcing both teams to adapt to difficult playing conditions. With the contest taking place in New England, the Patriots were able to do this better than their opponent and ultimately held onto a 13-9 victory.
“I think anywhere on the field was hard,” said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during his postgame press conference when talking about his team coming away with a win despite the difficult conditions. “The ball’s wet, your hand’s wet, the field was a little slick and the wind was a factor. I don’t know that any one of them were just unplayable, but when you add them all up together, it just made it very challenging.”
“The wind kind of came and went. It’d gust a little bit and then it would calm down. Same thing with the rain: at times it was a little steadier and then it seemed like it let up a little bit, but it was just continuous throughout the day,” added Belichick. “But I can’t say enough positive things about the way our skill players handled that, and defensively it’s a big challenge tackling, especially against a great back like [Ezekiel] Elliott, or [Dak] Prescott, or guys like that.”
“They’re all wet, you’re all wet, it’s hard to grab ahold of anything and be a good tackling team,” continued Belichick when speaking about a defensive unit that held its opponent — one that led the league in numerous statistical categories — to nine points. “I thought we tackled pretty well today. We made some plays where they came up short of the first down because we tackled well. It was challenging, but our guys did a good job.”
As Belichick noted, fundamentals were a big factor in this game and the Patriots performed well in this area: the tackling was sound — just look at slot cornerback Jonathan Jones’ open-field tackle to prevent a 3rd and 3 conversion in the third quarter — on defense and special teams, while the offensive skill position players were able to hold onto the football even though a combined six passes were dropped by the intended targets.
“Taking care of the ball was critical,” said Belichick about New England’s offense. “Not turning it over and handling things well. The conditions were challenging out there, but Tom [Brady], the receivers, the backs did a great job; specialists [too]. I mean, they all did a good job and in less-than-ideal conditions. So, I think anytime you get through a game like that and take care of the football, that’s objective number one. So, that was good.”
Of course, not all was perfect from the Patriots’ perspective. After all, they missed two field goal attempts in the second quarter wide to the right and also were inconsistent punting the football. Compared to the Cowboys, however, the home team appeared to be better prepared and capable of getting a feel for the environment: Dallas also missed a field goal try and had two fumbles, two muffed kicks, and a bobbled snap that was immediately followed by an interception.
The Patriots, on the other hand, were not bothered by the conditions quite as much. They successfully weathered the storm — be it in the form of one of the most talented teams in the NFL, or the literal one that was sweeping over Foxborough on Sunday afternoon.