Tag Archives: Dak Prescott

Patriots Week 12 Report Card, Defense Rules Again in 13-9 Win Over Dallas

Steve Balestrieri
November 26, 2019 at 10:30 am ET

 Patriots are 10-1 and head off to Houston for SNF

The Patriots played another defensive gem in horrible weather conditions in Gillette Stadium stopping the #1 offense in the league in the Dallas Cowboys and holding them without a touchdown. The Patriots would grind out a 13-9 in the wind and the rain in Gillette Stadium by once again leaning on the defense and special teams. 

The Patriots offense was shorthanded and banged up but couldn’t muster much either as the Dallas defense also played a strong game. It was a tough day to throw the ball with the way both defenses played coupled with the weather conditions.

So, check out our grades and let’s take a final look at the Cowboys game.

Quarterback: B

Tom Brady would appear to have struggled mightily if one were to look strictly at his numbers. Brady completed 17-37 for just 190 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. But his top wide receiver is playing hurt and probably should be sitting. His number 2 and 3 wide receivers missed the game with injuries.  And in the poor conditions, his receivers dropped six passes and about 4-5 more that were defended well, could have gone either way. 

Brady ran the offense well despite those limitations and while he sailed a few of his throws, he also threw a few beauties including the touchdown pass to N’Keal Harry on a fade right at the pylon where only Harry could catch it.

On the 3rd and 20, where he slid in the pocket away from inside pressure from Robert Quinn and ripped a laser down the middle to Julian Edelman. He had another nice pass to Jakobi Meyers who was wide open down the seam but the safety Xavier Woods closed quickly and tattooed Meyers separating him from the ball.

Running Backs: B-

The running game showed some signs of life on Sunday afternoon and the backs had 104 yards on 25 carries before a couple of Brady kneeldowns at the end of the game. Sony Michel had a pretty decent day, rushing for 85 yards on 20 carries. He made some nice cutbacks against the grain and generally took whatever was available. Sony had four runs of 10 yards+ on Sunday. 

Brandon Bolden (1 carry, 11 yards), James White ( 2 carries, 5 yds), and Rex Burkhead (2 carries, 3 yds) were used only sparingly as this was a Michel day for the vast majority of the game on the ground.  

Is it time to start to worry about the health of James White? His production and usage is way down from what we’d normally expect and he just doesn’t look like himself on the field. 

Wide Receivers: B

Julian Edelman gets high marks here. He’s dealing with a shoulder injury and it seemed like every other play he was rotating it around in the huddle. He must be in a lot of discomfort. And in a perfect world, he’d probably sit for a week. But he can’t right now so he guts it out and continues to produce. Edelman had eight catches for 93 yards. On the 3rd and 20, he displayed a veteran’s savvy, recognizing the soft spot in the Cowboys Cover 2 shell and sitting down just over the yard marker.  

Jakobi Meyers had a few stellar plays and a few he’d probably like to have back. His drops are something that he’ll have to deal with, I think it is a mental thing where he’s pressing a bit too much. But he also had some very nice plays as well and filling in for Mohamad Sanu he had a solid four catches for 74 yards. He caught a short Brady pass and shook off a tackle and broke it for a big gain. His 32-yard reception was the Patriots longest play of the day. 

N’Keal Harry had only one catch for 10 yards but it was a very big one and the only touchdown of the day for either team. Harry has a ton of upside and we saw that he can be a red-zone target. He matched up with Byron Jones and ran a nice fade where he high-pointed the ball and snatched it out of the air. He missed on another later, but his potential is there and we expect he’ll carve out a larger role as the weeks roll on.

Tight Ends: C

Ben Watson was only targeted once and had no catches. Matt LaCosse had one catch for five yards. This seemed like a matchup on paper where they would see more targets but it didn’t work out that way. 

Watson did a good job in the running game, however. He and Isaiah Wynn teamed up for the key block on the Michel run to ice the game.

Offensive Line: B

The offensive line had a much better game this week against the Cowboys. Isaiah Wynn returned and generally got stronger as the game went on. The running game showed some signs of life, and while it was far from perfect it was much better.  The pass blocking for Brady was much better as well, there were several plays where he had all day long to throw. 

Bill Belichick spoke about the toughness of Marcus Cannon after the game. Cannon had an illness all week and Belichick spoke to how he had a tough time even suiting up on Sunday. But he toughed it out and played nearly the entire game. He was spelled by Marshall Newhouse who is the swing tackle now that Wynn is back. 

It wasn’t great or perfect but much better for Dante Scarnecchia’s charges. Let’s see if they can start building off of that. 

 Defensive Line: B+

The defensive line had another nice day against the Cowboys. The Cowboys have one of the best offensive lines in football and they like to run the ball to open up the passing game. While they did run for 109 yards, with Ezekiel Elliott getting 86 of those on 21 carries, he didn’t take over the game and they limited the big plays, the third-down conversions and the ones in the red zone. 

Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton continue to have very solid seasons and they are getting penetration and disrupting the running game. The Patriots didn’t get a ton of pressure on Dak Prescott however. 

Adam Butler pressured Prescott just enough though to force him as he was rolling out to loft the ball too high for Blake Jarwin to stay inbounds.

Linebackers: A-

The linebackers had another tremendous game led by Jamie Collins who had 10 tackles including one for a loss. That was a typical Collins play where he diagnosed a run by Elliott to the right side and shot the gap to hit him in the backfield. He also made a tremendous play later in the game. Collins was covering Jason Witten on a drag route across the middle. But he kept his eyes on the QB and when Prescott began to scramble, Collins disengaged from Witten and hit Prescott two yards short of a first down. 

Don’t Hightower had another strong game and Chase Winovich showed sideline to sideline hustle coming all the way from the right side to chase down Pollard from behind  on a screen pass to the left. 

Secondary: A

The secondary was tremendous, Prescott came into this game leading the league in passing and he didn’t crack 200 yards until the final snap of the game. The Patriots took away his top two favorite targets, Amari Cooper and Jason Witten and rendering them to MIA for the day. 

Stephon Gilmore held Cooper without a catch and had an interception on an ill-advised throw from Prescott in the first half. Witten was held to one catch for 5 yards. Gilmore nearly had another pick in the end zone. Witten was covered by Chung and Prescott tried to gun the ball in the back corner of the end zone. Gilmore read it perfectly and disengaged from Cooper and nearly came up with his second pick.

On 3rd down Dallas was 2-13, and on 3rd and 3 or less the Cowboys were 0-4.  Devin McCourty made an excellent play on a 3rd and 6 screen to Pollard to stop that one. 

Special Teams: A

Matthew Slater is still amazing at his age and one of the best STs players in the league. He blocked a punt, timing it perfectly setting up the Patriots first touchdown. Nick Folk missed two field goals at the open end of the stadium where the wind was really gusting. He also made two down that end. He gets a pass for those. Jake Bailey was trying to hang his punts up in the air as the return game was hampered by weather. 

Coaches: A+

The Patriots coaching staff had the team excellently prepared to play in those conditions, something the Cowboys staff did not. Bill Belichick knew that Sunday would be a game of field position and situational football. The Patriots excel at that, and that was the difference. 

The defense had a tremendous game plan of taking away Prescott’s two big receivers and forcing them to beat them elsewhere…they didn’t and could only muster three field goals. 

Coaching goes a long way in this league and the Patriots had a big advantage in that department on Sunday. It was the difference and the reason they are now 10-1. We’re on to Houston.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

 

Five Thoughts on the Patriots Win Over the Cowboys

Ian Logue
November 25, 2019 at 8:33 am ET

The weather at Gillette Stadium may have been miserable, but at least the fans on hand who braved the elements on Sunday got to see the Patriots take care of business against the Cowboys as they improved to 10-1 on the season.

Points were at a premium and it was New England who came away on top, beating Dallas 13-9 on a rain-soaked field in front of the home crowd. Here are some thoughts on the win.

1) Wide receiver N’Keal Harry had a fairly solid outing on Sunday, with his athleticism on display in what ended up being the key play of the game as he scored the lone touchdown of the afternoon.

On the play, Harry broke out toward the corner and twisted himself around, snatching the ball out of the air on a terrific throw from Tom Brady, while managing to keep both feet in bounds for the 10-yard touchdown.

It was a huge play for the rookie, coming two plays after Matthew Slater blocked a Dallas punt deep in their own territory and it ended up being the knockout blow as the Cowboys never reached the end zone for the entire game.

Harry was targeted 4 times with his lone TD reception but did have a couple of drops in this one, which were largely due to the elements as the ball slipped through his fingers on a couple of leaping grabs that may have otherwise been receptions in dryer weather. But Sunday was a nice glimpse of why the Patriots selected him and hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come.

2) Sunday was also a big day for fellow rookie receiver Jakobi Meyers, who stepped up big in Sunday’s win.

Meyers was targeted 9 times and finished with 4 receptions for 74-yards, all of which were first downs. He also caught 2-of-3 targets on third down, both of which moved the chains.

The rookie averaged a team-high 18.5 yards per reception and made a critical 9-yard catch during a fourth-quarter drive that led to a 42-yard field by kicker Nick Folk, which put the Patriots up 13-6 and kept the pressure on Dallas.

Overall, like Harry, it was a solid showing for Meyers and it came when they needed it most. Without receivers Mohamed Sanu and Phillip Dorsett, who were both sidelined with injuries, the two each got in some much-needed work and it was great to see both players take advantage of their opportunities.

3) Much of the talk all week centered around the return of left tackle Isaiah Wynn and he didn’t disappoint on Sunday.

Brady had significantly more time to throw and even more importantly, the ground game was pretty effective all afternoon. Running back Sony Michel finished Sunday’s game carrying 20 times for 85-yards, 14 of which went to the left side.

Dallas’ pass rush was also kept at bay and Wynn played a big factor in that and he looked fairly comfortable out there. Not bad for a player who has been a spectator all season as he spent time getting healthy. The team seemingly took their time and didn’t rush him back, hopefully making sure that this time, they’ll have Wynn back for the long haul.

If Sunday’s game is any indication, Wynn appears to be the difference-maker they needed up front and the result certainly speaks for itself.

4) One of the things that also stood out was the fact that Stephon Gilmore was absolutely outstanding on Sunday, completely shutting down Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper.

Cooper was held without a reception for the first time since he joined the Cowboys, with Gilmore blanketing him all game long and making sure Cooper was never a factor out there.

Gilmore also finished the game with a diving interception, which came early in the second quarter as Dak Prescott was targeting Cooper and the Patriots ended up with Folk hitting a 44-yard field goal, which at the time put New England up 10-0.

By the fourth quarter it was obvious Cooper was frustrated and the game ended in fitting fashion, with the Dallas receiver failing to haul in a fourth down reception as Cooper dove for a pass from Prescott to try and extend the game. It was initially ruled a 20-yard reception but was overturned after replay showed that Cooper couldn’t quite secure it before he hit the ground.

But credit Gilmore for his performance. In a tight game like this one where there was little margin for error, the veteran defensive back made sure there were certainly no mistakes on his side of the field.

5) Sunday’s game was a solid outing for Brady, who finally had some room to work back in the pocket.

With Wynn stabilizing his side of the offensive line, Brady did a solid job even despite the rain throwing the football. Granted, there were a couple of throws that were off-target, but that was to be expected given the elements. But the biggest thing that was noticeable was the fact he was much more poised than he had been in recent weeks and that was largely because he was under significantly less duress.

Brady finished the afternoon 17-of-37 for 190 yards and a touchdown, with his best quarter coming in the final 15 minutes of Sunday’s game as he completed 7-of-13 for 55-yards, which included a terrific 23-yard pass to Julian Edelman that put New England in Dallas territory. While the drive stalled, that pass was big because it put them into position to allow Jake Bailey to pin the Cowboys in at their own 8-yard line and forced Prescott and the offense to have to drive the length of the field if they hoped to win the game.

However, he did make a dangerous play in this one on another throw to Edelman as he was sandwiched between defenders and twisted awkwardly as he went down. Fortunately, Brady escaped injury but watching it on replay was certainly scary. For a player who normally does a pretty good job with self-preservation, that was a moment that could have turned out badly and he’s fortunate to have come away unscathed.

But overall, it was probably the most comfortable we’ve seen Brady in a long time and with a climate-controlled game up next in the dome in Houston, it should be interesting to see if this is the week both he and the offense finally breaks out.

If ever there was a week to make a statement, this is certainly it. Hopefully, that’s exactly what we’ll see next Sunday night when New England faces the Texans as they look to improve to 11-1 on the season.

Patriots Defense Rises Up Again, Downs Dallas 13-9

Steve Balestrieri
at 7:33 am ET

Sunday afternoon was a time for the defenses to shine, with the weather conditions difficult at best for the offenses to get untracked and the Patriots and Cowboys defenses pretty much dominated the action. But in the end, the Patriots made a few more plays than Dallas did and came away with a hard-fought 13-9 in a wet, windy and miserable Gillette Stadium. 

The effects of the weather can’t be minimized, there were times when the rain was driving sideways, making ball handling difficult, the kicking game a crapshoot and throwing the ball on-target hit or miss. It isn’t a coincidence that all three missed field goals were all toward the open end of the stadium where the wind at times was whipping intermittently. 

With the Patriots banged up physically entering the game and having over a quarter of the active roster questionable for this game, coaching played an even larger part in this one. Bill Belichick put together a tremendous game plan to slow down the #1 offense of the league and they did. Dallas had three field goals to show for their efforts on the afternoon. 

On the flip side, Jason Garrett did things there were head-scratchers, but it has become what we’ve come to expect from the Cowboys coach. Facing several 3rd and 1 situations and with Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield, he chose to throw against the #2 pass defense in the league. And down seven with just over six minutes to go in a game where his offense had scored six points, he opted for another field goal attempt knowing he’d still need a touchdown… Game over. Thanks for flying Belichick Airlines, be sure to place your tray tables in the upright position.

Yes the Patriots swept the East this season… the NFC East.

Other observations include:

Stephon Gilmore Erased Amari Cooper: 

Can there be any doubt any more who is the best corner in football? Gilmore was absolutely brilliant as he held the Dallas wide receiver and Dak Prescott’s go-to guy without a catch for the first time in a Dallas uniform. 

Cooper was Prescott’s first read and with Gilmore blanketing him, it through Prescott off all game long and he struggled to find his second read. Gilmore had an interception on a beautiful play where he trailed Cooper, baiting Prescott into throwing the ball on a drag route, believing him to be open, but then Gilmore undercut it and picked the ball off.

Two of Prescott’s go-to guys in this game were basically taken out of the game completely. Cooper had zero catches with an interception while being targeted, while Jason Witten had one catch for five yards on four targets. Outstanding job by the Patriots coaches and defense taking those two right out of the game and relegating them to a milk carton. 

N’Keal Harry Scores His 1st NFL Touchdown:

We’ve been beating the dead horse since the spring that Harry, the Patriots big 1st round draft pick could be a viable red-zone target for the offense. The rookie WR had his development delayed due to an injury, putting him on IR but he played in his first game last week. This week Harry scored his first NFL touchdown, in the red zone.

From the 10-yard line, Harry ran a fade route and Brady put the ball up where only Harry could get it and he did a great job, snatching the ball out of the air, coming down and just getting his feet inbounds with possession.

They went back to him later in the game, but he couldn’t come up with that one as the ball went through his hands. It will be something we should see more of as the season winds down. 

Fellow rookie WR Jakobi Meyers had a pretty solid game with four catches for 74 yards including a big 32 yarder where he shook off a tackle and got about 25 yards after the catch. 

Patriots Defense Slows Down Ezekiel Elliott:

In a very solid effort, the defense slowed down the Cowboys big running back and limited his effectiveness at influencing the game at key points of the game. We pointed out in our pregame notes, the Patriots weren’t going to shut down Elliott and they didn’t, Elliott had 86 yards on 21 carries for a 4.1 average.

But Elliott and the Dallas offense never got the running game going to the extent that they were controlling the line of scrimmage and the tempo of the game. (See our comments above on the 3rd and 1 situations)

Running behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, the Cowboys ran the ball fairly well but the Patriots defensive line did a good job at slowing them down at the point of attack. Lawrence Guy had another strong game inside and having Pat Chung back was huge for the defense as he always has a strong presence in the box. 

Sony Michel and the Running Game Rebound:

Meanwhile, the moribund Patriots rushing attack had a good game of running the ball and especially when they HAD to run the ball at the end of the game. Was it perfect? Obviously not. But in a year where they’ve struggled to run the ball at all, it was a good first step. Getting Isaiah Wynn back was a big plus and it wasn’t a coincidence that Michel’s big run on 2nd a 5 at the end the game that iced it was behind his big teammate at Georgia. 

Michel ended up with 85 yards on 20 carries, a solid 4.5-yard average. At this point, the Patriots will take that, and give them something to build off of moving forward. 

Brady Plays Solid With a Banged Up Group of Receivers: 

Oh, the talking heads on those hot take shows that overpopulate the media now will no doubt disagree but if you watch those bobos and subscribe to that drivel…shame on you. With an offensive line that has underperformed this season, a running game stuck in neutral and entering the game with his top WR who can’t raise his left arm over his head, they did well enough to win. And BTW, his #2 and #3 wide receivers were out. 

Julian Edelman gutted out another tough game and it seemed after every play, he was trying to loosen that banged-up left shoulder. But he caught eight passes for 93 yards. After that, Brady had undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers and rookie WR N’Keal Harry playing in just his second game of his career. 

The Patriots had six drops by my count and several others that were contested and they couldn’t come down with. With those 10-11 passes going their way, Brady’s numbers would have looked much more impressive. 

His best throw? Facing a 3rd and 20, Brady slid in the pocket to avoid pressure from the inside and unleased a dart to Edelman, who had just enough yardage to move the sticks. Dallas was in a Cover 2 shell, and Edelman found the soft spot. 

Where is James White? 

It is beginning to look like James White may be dealing with something physical because in the past few weeks his production and usage are way, way down. White had just two carries for five yards against the Cowboys and a single catch for -6. 

We’ve become so accustomed to seeing him be a big part of the offense, especially in the passing game, it is surprising to say the least for him to be relegated to a non-factor for several weeks in a row. 

He may be fine health-wise but it definitely seems like something is amiss with the Patriots “Swiss Army Knife” on their offense. With just three targets and one catch for negative yardage (great play by former Patriot Michael Bennett), it is becoming worrisome, especially for a passing game that is already missing some key pieces. 

______________

Regardless of style points, the Patriots won a close one and are now 10-1 on the season. They maintain a two-game lead in the AFC East, where the Bills are now 8-3 (for all my Dallas friends who complain about the AFC “Least”, the Bills would be leading your division by two games…just sayin’)

 And they maintain at least a one-game lead over Baltimore in the AFC (pending their game on Monday Night Football). We’re on to Houston.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

 

Patriot Defense Storms The Cowboys

Bob George
November 24, 2019 at 9:15 pm ET

FOXBOROUGH – Tom Brady needs to stop sulking as long as his team continues to win.

His press conference last week following the win at Philadelphia now seems churlish and petty. Of course, this isn’t what Brady is used to. But Brady has to remind himself to learn to work with what he has, not pretend to work with what he is used to. Over the years, Brady has adapted many times to what works, and he is being forced to do the same in 2019.

Without the retired Rob Gronkowski, with both Mohamed Sanu and Phillip Dorsett injured, with N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers not quite yet ready for prime time, Brady suffered through another substandard offensive performance on Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium. Brady was only 17 of 37 passing for 190 yards and rating of 70.8. But instead of pouting like last week, he should be more like MAD Magazine’s iconic cover boy, Alfred E. Neuman and simply say “What, me worry?”

The Patriots have the best defense on the planet, and needed every bit of it to hold off the Dallas Cowboys and their number one offense. In a driving rainstorm, the Patriots shut down Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and the rest of the gang from Big D, 13-9. A strong wind was blowing left to right the entire game, which affected both the passing game and the kicking game for the entire afternoon. Most of the time, when the elements are a factor, the opponent becomes more beatable for the Patriots, and on Sunday, the game did indeed come down to defenses and special teams, for the most part.

Brady, and not Julian Edelman, threw the one and only touchdown pass of the afternoon, a 10-yard pass to Harry at the end of the first quarter. The rookie out of Arizona State outleaped Byron Jones at the left pylon and came down barely in bounds for the touchdown. It was Harry’s only catch of the game; he was targeted a total of four times and had a drop on a sideline pass late in the first half, though the fact that the ball was wet might have been a factor.

To his credit, Brady was a little bit more talkative at his press conference than he was last week at Philadelphia, but he still looked tired and unhappy with his offense. His 17 of 37 completion percentage (46 percent) was the fifth lowest of his career. Edelman led the Patriots with eight catches for 93 yards, but the other six receivers combined for only nine catches. Brady’s other “old reliable”, James White, had a grand total of -1 all-purpose yards on five yards rushing and minus-six yards receiving.

What did help Brady was Sony Michel and the Patriot rushing attack. Michel finished with 85 yards on 20 carries and a 4.3 per carry average. His 12-yard run on the final offensive possession for the Patriots virtually closed out the win. With left tackle Isaiah Wynn back in action, Michel was able to find lots better holes to run through. This ability to run in the absence of a prolific passing attack enabled the Patriots to stay toe to toe with the Cowboys in the field position battle.

The elements also made field goals more of an important factor in the game. Nick Folk, the most recent replacement for the injured Stephen Gostkowski was two out of four in field goals, making kicks from 44 and 42 yards (both of them into the wind from right to left), while Brett Maher was three of four, missing his first attempt from 46 yards (a doink shot off the left upright) but then making his next three from 46, 27 and 29 yards. All his made field goals were with the wind, while his one miss was against the wind. Both of Folk’s misses were off to the right, but given the weather conditions, it really doesn’t behoove Bill Belichick to once again go shopping for a new kicker.

Maher’s last field goal, with 6:04 left in the game, might go down as something Dallas head coach Jason Garrett might have to explain. Trailing 13-6, the Cowboys were at the Patriot 11 facing fourth down and 7. Fox’s Troy Aikman, himself a former Dallas quarterback. Hall of Famer and three-time Super Bowl champ, strongly advocated for Dallas to go for it on fourth down and not kick. As it turned out, the Cowboys did get the ball back with enough time to try and win the game. But the Cowboys were stopped on fourth down at their own 25, as Amari Cooper, who was covered by Stephon Gilmore the entire game, caught what would have been a first down on a diving catch only to have the catch thrown out on replay because he bobbled the ball as he hit the ground. Gilmore shut out Cooper for the entire game, another key to the Patriot victory.

All game long, it seemed that the Patriots were bent on stopping the Dallas passing attack, and Cooper in particular, allowing Elliott to get his yards and not get burned by Prescott and the pass. Elliott finished with 86 yards rushing on 21 carries and a 4.1 average, which is fantastic given Elliott’s stature among current NFL running backs. Elliott is still a load and one of the toughest running backs in the league, which is no surprise to anyone. But the Patriots were able to contain him well enough to not let him take over the game and still provide enough in the defensive backfield to quash the Cowboy passing attack.

The Patriots will have to travel to Houston next week and get another dose of a running quarterback. DeShawn Watson will provide a similar skill set to Lamar Jackson, but the Patriots will return to the same stadium where they engineered the finest comeback in Super Bowl history. The Patriots historically play well against the Texans, but their only loss to this team was in this stadium in the game where Wes Welker was lost for the playoffs after blowing out his knee. The Patriots seem fully recovered from the shell-shocking loss at Baltimore and might not be as ill-prepared to face Watson as they were Jackson.

After losing the first seven to Dallas going back to 1971, the Patriots have now won the last six games against America’s Former Team. The Patriot defense still reigns supreme, and they will need every bit of it when November becomes December next week.

Patriots – Cowboys Week 12 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
November 22, 2019 at 6:38 am ET

The Patriots return home for a big matchup against the Dallas Cowboys at Gillette Stadium. This will be the second straight week facing an NFC East team as the Patriots were in Philadelphia last Sunday.  

The Patriots are trying to stay ahead of the Baltimore Ravens for the top spot in the AFC while trying to keep some distance between themselves and the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East. The Cowboys are leading the NFC East with a 6-4 record, a game ahead of the Eagles…thanks to New England. 

This will be a match of strength vs strength as the #1 offense of the Cowboys is facing the #1 defense of the Patriots.  

This week’s game will be broadcast by Fox and can be seen locally on WFXT Channel 25. Joe Buck will handle play-by-play duties with Troy Aikman as the color analyst. Erin Andrews will report from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (9-1) are coming off a hard-fought, tough 17-10 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. The defense logged five sacks of Carson Wentz and shut them out for the final 42+ minutes 

The Cowboys (6-4) are coming off of a big 35-27 win over the Detroit Lions. Dak Prescott threw for 444 yards and is leading the league. 

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2019 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Cowboys have met 12 times in their history, including the first-ever game in Texas Stadium in Irving. Dallas won the first seven and the Patriots the last five. The teams last met in October 2015 in Dallas where the Patriots won 30-6.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Cowboys Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Dallas

The Patriots running game remains frustratingly mired in neutral, they have tried different combinations and backs but the issue remains the offensive line has not played well as a group. However, starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn returns after being on IR for eight weeks (turf toe). Will it help to have Wynn back? Of course. Will it make them a juggernaut running the ball or even consistently good? Nope. Their problems running the ball are deeper than just one man can fix. But it should be better. 

The Cowboys run defense is middle of the road allowing 105.2 yards per game which is tied for 15th in the league. Their defense is small and very fast and athletic. (More to this below). This is a matchup a year ago that the Patriots ground game would have eaten them alive in the second half. This year? Hmm…

Look for Josh McDaniels to mix things up but this may be a straight-ahead type of game for the running backs. Trying to run those stretch plays to the outside against a fast, athletic defense is pure folly.  A straight-ahead game would favor more Rex Burkhead and possible Brandon Bolden than Sony Michel but we’ll see.         

Patriots WRs vs Cowboys Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

Caveat here…. A big maybe considering who may miss this game. The Patriots passing game has been limited by the pass blocking of the offensive line. Again, it hasn’t been anywhere near good enough. That means Tom Brady can’t wait long enough for plays to develop. The Patriots have good possession guys in Julian Edelman and Mohamed Sanu who are very quick off the line and can eat up the short-intermediate areas of the field. Sanu is dealing with an ankle sprain and is expected to miss this week’s game. A big loss. 

Dallas is 7th in the league against the pass allowing 216.9 yards per game. Their strength is their pass rush. Robert Quinn has 8.5 sacks while DeMarcus Lawrence has 4.5. Michael Bennett has garnered three sacks in three games. 

Wynn’s return will definitely help because Marshall Newhouse struggled against speed rushers. And Quinn is an excellent speed rusher off the blindside. With Sanu and possibly Phillip Dorsett out, it means Edelman, James White, and Rex Burkhead will be leaned on heavily. The offense will need rookies N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers to step up big this week. Ben Watson has been coming on a bit and should see more targets this week. 

Next up the Cowboys offense:

Cowboys RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Dallas

The Cowboys running game with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard with Prescott scrambling out of the pocket is very effective. It helps to have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL to run behind. An area to watch is the health of the Cowboys’ bookend tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins, both of whom have been banged up. 

The Patriots have been a Top 10 defense against the run allowing 97.3 yards per game. They’ll need the big men inside, Danny Shelton and Lawrence Guy to penetrate and slow down the running game at the point of attack. 

For the Patriots it isn’t so much stopping Elliott, he’s going to get his yards, but they have to slow him down with their nickel package to force Prescott into obvious passing situations on third down. If they can do that, they’ll be successful. If Dallas constantly has third and short, they’ll get burned by play action. 

Cowboys WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England

The Dallas passing game has a plethora of weapons. Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb at wide receiver, Jason Witten at tight end and Elliott out of the backfield is a tough group to cover. Dallas is the #1 team in the NFL on 3rd down. 

The Patriots #1 pass defense will be tested here. Stephon Gilmore is the best corner in the league and will be matched up with Cooper. But the key for New England is QB pressure where the Patriots have 37 sacks on the season. Covering the secondary receivers Gallup and Cobb will take on an increased focus for J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, and Jason McCourty.

Prescott will continue to spread it around, look for Witten to play a big role this week. The Patriots will try to pressure him and force him into making a mistake. Third downs and keeping the sticks moving will be key for the offense. 

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots special teams have Nick Folk who has settled things down in the kicking game although he hasn’t been asked to do much from distance yet. Jake Bailey is having an outstanding season and last week put six of eight punts inside the 20-yard line. The coverage units have been terrific. The return game has been stuck in neutral.

The Cowboys have the very steady Brett Maher who is 32-32 for PATs and has been okay in the FG department but has missed 4-6 from 50 yards and beyond. The Dallas return game has been only so-so. Because they’re at home and Bailey is on a roll, the Patriots get the nod this week.

Next up, who wins and why…

The Patriots are looking to improve to 10-1 but have their work cut out for them this week as the Cowboys are a very tough matchup this week. But Dallas has been inconsistent this season. One week they look awful and lose to the Jets and then they totally blow out the Eagles. I’d expect them to bring their A-Game to Gillette this week.

Keys to the Game from a Patriots Perspective:

Slow Down the Run- Look for the Patriots defense to give some different looks this week. If Pat Chung can return to game action this week it will help as he typically plays in the box. The Cowboys like to play mainly out of their 11 personnel package, (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) and even with Elliot, they’ll be in their nickel package. 

Instead of the normal two-gapping the big men, the Patriots may try to have Guy and Shelton penetrate and slow things before they have a chance to get off the line. This is a big key for the defense. It seems crazy to say that they want to force the ball in Prescott’s hands but that would match against the Patriots strength, their secondary. 

Get the RBs into the Passing Game – The Patriots offense has struggled lately and with Sanu and possibly Dorsett out, this could get ugly. Therefore. James White and Rex Burkhead have to step up and keep the chains moving. Look for the Patriots to go up-tempo and try to control the clock. 

Michael Lombardi was on Dallas radio and had some interesting things to say. 

“In the last 2 seasons when the Cowboys play 30 minutes or more on defense they’re 5-17. When they play 30 min or less they’re 20-4. 

Why is that? It’s because the Cowboys are small on defense, they rely on quickness, they rely on speed, they rely on their movement to make plays.  When they have to stand in the middle of the ring for 32, 33 minutes, they wear down. That’s the essence of this game and I think what you’ll see from the Patriots is you’ll see tempo, you’ll see them control, you’ll see them want to hold the ball 34+ minutes and keep Zeke and Dak off the field.” 

Will this work without Sanu and Dorsett? We’ll see. Bill Belichick is the master at finding the adjustments needed to win and in the coaching department, he gets the edge over Garrett, but the team may be very short-handed on offense. 

Special Teams Will Have to Step Up – The Patriots have been getting great special teams play and they’ll need more of that this week to earn a victory. Bailey has been outstanding at pinning teams deep and they’ll need more of that on a rainy Sunday in Gillette. 

Look for them to go after a punt or two this weekend to help out the struggling offense. Justin Bethel or Brandon Bolden may be a key contributor this week.

___________

Prediction: 

As we’ve said, the Cowboys present a great matchup of two really good football teams. The Cowboys offense is tough and will not be easy to stop. They’ll get their yards and points this week, especially with the Patriots offense scuffling along right now. The Patriots will get it figured out, they always do.

But with Sanu and Dorsett out, that may be too much for the offense to work around. The Patriots drop their first game at home this year and fall to 9-2 on the season.  Cowboys 24-16

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour goes back out on the road next week as the Patriots take on the Houston Texans.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and breakdown game analysis

 

Patriots 2019 Opponents, The Cowboys Coming in on a Roll

Steve Balestrieri
November 21, 2019 at 6:58 am ET

The Patriots return home for a late afternoon matchup with the Dallas Cowboys. It has been an up and down season in Dallas, but right now the Cowboys are on a roll offensively. Dak Prescott behind a superb offensive line and a talented and deep group of receivers is lighting it up in 2019. They also have Ezekiel Elliot in the running game and a fast, flowing to the ball defense. 

Dallas is trying to be the first team since the 2003-2004 Eagles to win the NFC East back-to-back times. Right now at 6-4, they are a game up on Philly with six to go, but hold the tiebreaker after crushing Philly 37-10 about a month ago.

So, let’s take a look at the 2019 version of the Cowboys and what’s happening in Jerry’s World down in “Big D” as we approach Week 12

The Offense Is Riding Prescott’s Hot Hand:

The Cowboys entered the 2019 season with some question marks as RB Ezekiel Elliott was a holdout and after a stellar rookie season, QB Dak Prescott had two so-so years in 2017-18. Any doubts about Prescott are now in the rearview mirror as he’s been outstanding in 2019 and nearing career highs in yards and touchdown passes only 10 games in. 

Prescott has completed 247 of 365 passes (67.7 %) for 3221 yards with 21 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. In the Cowboys’ last three games against the Giants, Vikings, and the Lions, he’s completed 79 of 122 passes for 1098 yards with 9 touchdowns and 1 interception. 

Prescott is now considered an MVP candidate and has a plethora of good targets to throw to. And he’s been spreading the ball around. In the Cowboys win over Detroit, Prescott targeted Michael Gallup, Amari Cooper, Randall Cobb, and Jason Witten seven or more times each as they rolled up 444 passing yards.  

Stopping Elliott Will Present a Tough Matchup:

Despite Prescott’s very high numbers in the passing game, one of the toughest matchups, and a key one for the Patriots defense on Sunday will be trying to slow down the Dallas running game behind Ezekiel Elliott. 

Elliott runs behind one of the premier offensive lines in the NFL and he’s enjoyed great success in his career up to this point. So far in 2019, Elliott has rushed 194 times for 833 yards (4.3-yard avg) with 7 touchdowns. He’s also caught 28 passes out of the backfield for 220 yards and a score. 

His numbers receiving are way down from a year ago but that has to do with two main factors. The Cowboys have so many talented receivers, they’re just spreading the ball around more and keeping everyone involved and secondly, they’re putting him on a pitch count a bit to keep him fresh for a stretch run that they hope will lead to a deep playoff run.

But with the passing game hot right now, Elliott isn’t sweating seeing his touches go down the past two weeks. “The passing game is rolling right now so you’ve got to ride it and ride it while it’s hot,” Elliott said. Slowing him down and forcing the Cowboys into obvious passing situations will be a tough task on Sunday. 

Watch the Dallas Pass Rush Closely:

Dallas, as we stated earlier has a very fast and athletic defense. And the Cowboys’ pass rush will bear consistent watching this week as they take on a Patriots offense where the offensive line is struggling. 

The Cowboys have 26 sacks and are led by Robert Quinn who has 8.5 already this season. Quinn is enjoying a career renaissance in Dallas and besides his sack total has 30 QB pressures on the season. Not bad numbers for a guy who missed the first two games of the season. 

Quinn has been an absolute steal for the Cowboys, Dallas got him for a 6th round draft pick from the Dolphins. His speed rush is his patented move and Isaiah Wynn, in his first game back will have his hands full. Marshall Newhouse, who filled in for Wynn while he was injured struggled mightily with speed rushers. Welcome back Isaiah, your plate is filled already. 

Quinn isn’t even the Cowboys best defensive lineman, that title belongs to DeMarcus Lawrence, who although he has just 4.5 sacks is a load to handle. Lawrence banged up a shoulder against the Lions and may be limited this week. 

Dallas picked up Michael Bennett from the Patriots a few weeks ago and Bennett has 3 sacks in 3 games with Big D. It will be interesting to see how Rod Marinelli the Dallas defensive coordinator game plans this week. I look for the Cowboys to be uber-aggressive in coming after Tom Brady. 

Jason Witten Calls Sunday “A Defining Game” For the Cowboys: 

The Cowboys veteran tight end who has been around the block a few times and spent time in the broadcast booth after a brief one-year retirement isn’t one to make statements lightly. 

That’s why it was interesting to see his comments on the upcoming game. Witten was asked if Sunday’s game is a type of measuring-stick affair for the Cowboys.

“Yeah, I think it is,” Witten said. “These are defining games that happen. You look at last year’s season … and you beat a good New Orleans team. This is one of those games. There’s still a lot of games out there, so I don’t think it’s “make or break”. But at the same time, to be able to go on the road and play against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and their team — they’re 9-1 like they are. A great opportunity for us.”

Expect Dallas to bring their A-Game on Sunday. 

We’ll have our keys to the game and key matchups later tomorrow. Stay tuned… 

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.