Report Card: Banner Day for the Patriots Defense

Derek Havens
October 17, 2011 at 09:30am ET

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After beating the New York Jets last week, the New England Patriots had another battle against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. While the team did get the victory against a quality opponent, there is still room for improvement.

Here is my report card for week 6. -

Offense Grade: B

Initially, I was set to give the Pats a "C+" for their offensive grade, however, hard not praise the unit for a stellar game winning drive. With 2:31 to go in the fourth quarter, Tom Brady and the offense started on their own 20-yard line facing a three point deficit. The team drove the length of the field, capping off the drive with a Brady to Hernandez touchdown pass. A very impressive showing by the offense, that had uncharacteristically struggled throughout the afternoon.

Also, the Cowboys had only allowed an NFL best 60.1 rush yards per game prior to Sunday's game in Foxborough. The Pats stuck with their balanced offensive attack and rushed for 101 total yards. I continue to be impressed with Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis, who had a solid game despite a toe injury.

Andre Carter showed up big for the Patriots on Sunday. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

Defense Grade: A

The defensive performance was not perfect, but it was the unit's best performance of the season. They held a potent Dallas offense to only 4 of 12 on third down, got pressure on Tony Romo and forced a couple of turnovers.

After heavily criticizing linebacker Brandon Spikes for his play this season, he had a fantastic game Sunday. He showed his instincts, got pressure when called to blitz and also made some great tackling. I hope to see more of the same from Spikes after the bye week.

The one aspect of the game that really bothered me, was the poor tackling. It seems the Patriots have struggled with some basic fundamentals the last couple of weeks and almost cost them the game.

Overall though, I would say the defense had a banner day and won the game for the Pats this week.

Special Teams Grade: B-

Penalties hurt New England's special teams unit Sunday. Despite holding the Cowboys to only 42 total return yards on the afternoon, it was not one of the groups stronger performances.

Stephen Gostkowski had two field goals, including a 31-yard kick in the first quarter. Zoltan Mesko had a 48-yard average, but a well-placed punt was erased by a penalty.

Overall Game Grade: B+

I believe Sunday was the team's best win of the season. They played a complete game, with contributions from all three phases. Like I previously mentioned, however, this team still has work to do moving forward.

I will have further analysis on this game throughout the week. Also, with two weeks until the Pats next game against Pittsburgh, there will be plenty of time to look at the team's season as a whole. Stay tuned.

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