By: Bob George/BosSports.net
October 14, 2007

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IRVING, Texas -- Jim Nance scored the first Patriot touchdown at Texas Stadium, whereas Jim Nantz broadcast the last one.

You'll remember Nantz longer than you'll remember Shawn Eckel, who plowed in from one yard out to complete the scoring and finally bring the Patriots full circle in a stadium they helped open on October 24, 1971. The Patriots could never handle the Dallas Cowboy teams quarterbacked by Roger Staubach, Danny White or Troy Aikman here in the Dallas suburb of Irving, but they handled a Tony Romo team just fine. Jerry Jones is building a new palace for the 'Boys, so the Patriots will never have to play here again.

Maybe that's too bad. In what used to be an impossible task, that being beating the Dallas Cowboys, the Patriots have now won their last three against what used to be called America's Team. The Patriots turned a battle of unbeatens into a rout after Dallas made it close in the third quarter, and giggled off the Texas Stadium turf with a 48-27 win on Sunday, the first Patriot win in five tries here in Dallas.

At one point in the third quarter, the Cowboys led the Patriots, 24-21 thanks to a fumble recovery for a touchdown and Romo finally finding the range, primarily with tight end Jason Witten. But the Patriots were able to win going away thanks to a hail of Cowboy penalties, Tom Brady being Tom Brady, and the Patriots being merely better at winning the game than the Cowboys were.

Both head coach Wade Phillips (whose dad Bum was in attendance) and Terrell Owens did their part with locker room fodder all week long (wonder who supplied the popcorn?), and the Patriots responded with a vengeance from the start. The Patriots scored on two of their first three possessions, with Wes Welker catching passes of 16 and 20 yards to set up Randy Moss from six yards out, and the real number 81 put the Patriots ahead of the old 81, 7-0. Two drives later, Brady hit Ben Watson for 28 yards over the middle, then later found Welker on a deep post for 35 yards and a touchdown, threading the needle between Ken Hamlin and Nathan Jones.

The Patriots threatened to blow this one wide open but for one key play which kept things close until the fourth quarter. On their first drive of the second quarter, Brady was blindsided by Jason Hatcher at the Patriot 32. Brady fumbled and Hatcher picked up the ball and ran it in untouched from 29 yards out. It made it 14-10 Patriots at the time, and Dallas was off on a 24-7 run to take a 24-21 lead about midway through the third quarter, the only time all year the Patriots have trailed in the third quarter.

The Cowboy defense blitzed often and covered the Patriot receivers, especially Randy Moss, pretty well. Brady tried several times to hit Moss on deep throws off gadget plays; he overthrew Moss deep and wide open on the game's first play which was a fake reverse, then tried a flea flicker in the second but again overthrew Moss deep. Instead of Moss having a great day, it was Donte' Stallworth and Welker, who both topped 100 yards receiving (Stallworth 136, Welker 124). Brady wound up setting a career high in touchdown passes with five despite the Cowboys concentrating heavily on Moss.

Brady had to play most of the game without two of his big offensive weapons, which made the final offensive numbers even more remarkable. Ben Watson went down with an ankle sprain in the second quarter, then Sammy Morris, who himself is still filling in for the injured Laurence Maroney, sustained a chest injury on the second play of the second half and did not return. Kevin Faulk picked up a lot of the rushing slack with 50 yards on 13 carries.

But Stallworth and Welker showed off graphically how deep the Patriots are, and consequently how scary they are to game plan against. Stallworth led the Patriots with 11 catches, none better than his touchdown grab for 69 yards. He flew by Jacques Reeves on a deep post, then literally flung him down to the ground about 20 yards shy of the end zone. Welker, meanwhile, caught two touchdown passes, one from 35 yards in the first quarter and one in the left flat for 12 yards in the second quarter.

Romo, meanwhile, did not have the putrid game he had last week at Buffalo, where he had five interceptions. He did finish with some respectable numbers, hitting on 18 of 29 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns. He hit Owens on a quick slant for 12 yards just before intermission, then hit Patrick Crayton from eight yards out early in the third quarter to put the Cowboys on top, 24-21. Owens was held in check much like Moss was, as both 81s finished with six catches and one touchdown. Owens can at least say that he outgained Moss by seven yards, though Moss will take the three-touchdown win anyday.

What helped do Dallas in eventually were penalties, and lots of them. The Cowboys were flagged 12 times for 98 yards. On one play in the third quarter, Moss caught a 43-yard touchdown pass which was correctly overturned on replay. But the Patriots still managed 15 yards out of it because Hatcher was called for roughing Brady. A first down pass to Owens in the third quarter was wiped out because both he and Witten were caught in an illegal shift.

Perhaps the most telling blunder came from Phillips. With the score 38-24 Patriots early in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys faced fourth down and goal at the Patriot five. Instead of going for a touchdown which would have made it a one-score game, Phillips instead asked Nick Folk to kick a 23-yard field goal. The Patriots answered back with a backbreaking 12-play, 61-yard drive which ate up just over six minutes of time. Stephen Gostkowski put the game out of reach with a 22-yard field goal to make it 41-24 Patriots with four minutes to go.

The Patriots were able to finish the game where the Buffalo Bills last week could not. It is an oversimplification, but the Patriots showed Dallas how to finish games the correct way. The Cowboys did lead the game as late as 5:01 to go in the third quarter, but in the end allowed 27 points over the final 20 minutes. Romo continues to develop as one of the best young quarterbacks in the league, and the Dallas defense did play with great intensity, but in the end the superior team won out.

The 6-0 Patriots head to Miami next week, where they usually do poorly despite the home team being 0-6 right now. Expect Bill Belichick to play up the Dolphins as the 1972 version, as this will be the biggest trap game this side of bear hunters up in northern Maine.

And don't expect any popcorn comments from Chris Chambers. Trust us, he will know better.


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