ARLINGTON, Texas – The Patriots are not an elite team any more, plain and simple.
Some experts and observers thought that, after the Dallas Cowboys lost big at Arizona last week, the Patriots possibly “had a chance” in this game. Instead of the porous run defense and lack of execution in the red area out in Arizona last week, the Cowboys reverted back to the team that mauled both New York teams by an aggregate 70-10 count. The Cowboys pummelled the Patriots, 38-3 on Sunday at AT&T Stadium, sent Mac Jones to the bench in the third quarter, and inflicted most every malady possible on this once great franchise.
Dak Prescott is going to add the Patriots to his “Man, I wish I could play these guys every week!” list. He finished 28 of 34 passing for 261 yards, one touchdown and a rating of 108.5. What’s scary is that Dak wasn’t the main reason the Cowboys won by such a convincing margin. The Cowboys didn’t get a red area touchdown until 6:38 left in the game.
The big problems in this game once again fell on the Patriots. Take care of the ball. No turnovers. The offensive line needs to finally start to play well. It seemed like all that went in one ear and out the other, especially Jones.
Jones scuttled the game for the Patriots with three turnovers, two of which went for defensive touchdowns. He finished 12 of 21 passing for 150 yards, and an abysmal rating of 39.9. It got so bad for the Patriots that Bailey Zappe went into the game on the third offensive possession of the third quarter. This was a game where you the Patriot fan could perhaps sit down, think for a second, and ask yourself “Is Jones the right quarterback for the Patriots moving forward?”
In the second quarter, with the Patriots trailing 10-3, the defense forced a three and out which resulted in minus-8 total yards for Dallas. The Patriots got the ball back on their ten yard line. After a false start by Mike Onwenu and a three yard run by Rhamondre Stevenson, Jones dropped back into the end zone, began to scramble to the left side, then was strip sacked by Dante Fowler. Leighton Vander Esch picked up the fumble and went in for an eleven yard scoop and score. A fake extra point turned into a 2-point conversion for lineman Chauncey Golston, adding more salt to the wound.
Dallas got the ball back and drove to a field goal, then New England got the ball back and drove from the 25 to the Dallas 48. Six plays prior, Jones rolled to his right and threw back to his left, a big no-no in the NFL, but managed to convert a second and 20 pass to Kendrick Bourne. Six plays later, he once again rolled right and threw back left to Bourne. On this play, DaRon Bland jumped the route, made the interception and ran 54 yards for a pick six. It was 28-3 Dallas at halftime.
(PHOTO: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)
28-3. Wonder if Bill Belichick told his troops at halftime “You can come back from this deficit! I’ve seen it done! It is possible!”
Dallas was no Atlanta and this bunch of Patriots is nothing like the team that pulled it off. On the first offensive drive of the second half, Jones took the Patriots from the 25 to the Dallas 40. But Jones threw an ill advised lob pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster in the right flat, and Bland was right there to make the pick. Two drives later, Zappe came in for the rest of the contest.
Key injuries also hurt the Patriots. Towards the end of the first quarter, Tony Pollard ran around the right end, and Christian Gonzalez made the tackle, but injured his shoulder making the tackle and was lost for the rest of the game. On the very next play, Prescott hit CeeDee Lamb for a 20 yard touchdown to make it 10-3 Dallas. It was very telling that on the very first play after Gonzalez left, Dallas exposes it with the one player trusted with guarding Lamb now gone.
In the fourth quarter, Matthew Judon suffered an elbow injury which also knocked him out of the game. That’s your best pass rusher and your best cover corner down. It wasn’t all just the bad offense, and it will be tough moving forward if those two guys cannot answer the bell.
The offensive line continues to struggle. Onwenu had three penalties in the first half, two false starts and a holding penalty. The running game produced only 53 rushing yards on 23 carries for a 2.3 per carry average. Ezekiel Elliott came home to the region he spent most of his career with and rushed for only 16 yards on six carries. Jones most definitely can run a better offense if he has more time to throw, and his two right rollouts are usually a by-product of bad blocking.
Once again, the prime targets of the defense were contained, but other players came through for Dallas. Lamb finished with only 36 yards receiving on four catches and a touchdown, but Jake Ferguson, the new tight end taking over for Dwight Schultz, led the Cowboys with 77 receiving yards on seven catches. Michael Gallup had five catches for 60 yards.
This was a momentous day for New England sports. In addition to this marquee NFL matchup, the Celtics made a mega-trade to acquire Jrue Holiday, and we all learned the tragic news of former Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield passing away from cancer at age 57. This was one of those days where you have to realize that glory days don’t last forever, and days like this happen now and then.
Next week the Patriots are at home with the New Orleans Saints. They are getting used to a new quarterback, Derek Carr, who is nursing a sore shoulder. With Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas, the Patriots have a new bunch of offensive weapons to deal with.
Jones needs to show everyone, starting right now, that moving forward he really is the guy. Beating the Jets last week is almost a non-factor right now other than the Patriots not being winless. The patience of Patriot Nation will last only so long.
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Posted Under: Patriots Commentary