One week after slowing down Tom Brady and the mighty Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense, the New England Patriots played their worst 30 defensive minutes of the season. While the unit eventually bounced back to help the Patriots celebrate a comeback win versus the Houston Texans, its inconsistency was naturally worrisome.
That is especially true given the challenge that awaits New England in Week 6: the 4-1 Dallas Cowboys are coming to town, and with them one of the most explosive offenses in the game.
Led by quarterback Dak Prescott, Dallas is ranked second in the NFL with a scoring average of 34 points per game. Prescott’s performance coming off a season-ending ankle injury is obviously a key catalyst for the Cowboys’ offensive success, but so is the immense talent surrounding him — something Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones pointed out during a press conference earlier this week.
“They have depth at every position,” he said. “They have receivers that can get open, running backs that run hard. And their O-line, they’ve been one of the top O-lines for years. We’ve got our work cut out for us, but we’re ready for the challenge.”
Fellow defensive back Devin McCourty also spoke highly about the unit.
“The more you watch them on offense, it’s tough,” he said. “They’ve been able to run the ball at a high level, they’ve been throwing the ball at a high level.”
Whether it is Ezekiel Elliott or Tony Pollard carrying the ball, or the likes of Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb or Dalton Schultz catching it, the Cowboys have been able to seemingly move the ball at will at times this season. Their almost 440 yards of offense per game are evidence of that.
They also have taken care of the football — Dallas has turned it over only five times — and successfully sustained drives when facing third down situations. Add it all up and you get an offense capable of putting pressure on everybody, including the Patriots.
So, what does New England have to do to slow down its opponent? According to linebacker Matthew Judon, the secret lies in everybody playing his best football.
It’s really challenging. You can see it. They’re number one or two in almost every category on offense. They score a lot of points,” he said. “What we have to do is we have to keep them off the board. We have to keep them off the board, trying to get stops, trying to make Dak read some defense and hold the ball a little longer so we can get to him. But it’s not just the front end: all eleven guys have to be on point this week. All eleven guys.”
If all eleven guys (plus substitutes) can do that, New England stands a chance. If not, however, one thing seems certain: the Cowboys will not let the Patriots off the hook as easily as the Texans.