In the end, however, it was Brady and his dominant receiving corps -- including one of the smallest guys on the field in Wes Welker -- standing victorious with yet another Patriots shellacking of an opponent.
Despite the Patriots grabbing a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and then clinging to 21 -17 lead at halftime, the relentless Cowboys were not about to go down without a fight in the second half. With about 10 minutes left in the third quarter, Tony Romo drilled a pass to Patrick Crayton down the middle for an 8 yard touchdown score. Romo threaded the needle between safety Rodney Harrison, who had coverage underneath the route and cornerback Asante Samuel, who had coverage over the top. The touchdown gave the Cowboys a 24-21 lead and it was the first time all season the Patriots had trailed in the second half of a game.
The Cowboys didn't make any more noise though as Brady and the Patriots offense took over the game. The Patriots scored on the next three drives. First with a Brady pass to tight end Kyle Brady along the back of the end zone for a 1-yard score and then a Stephen Gostkowski 45-yard field goal.
The game clinching drive for the Patriots came at the start of the fourth quarter with a four play 80-yard drive capped off by a 69-yard Donte Stallworth touchdown catch and run down the middle of the field. The play put the game out of reach as the Patriots led 38-24.
The catch was the longest scoring play of the season for the Patriots and Stallworth had to break a tackle to get to the end zone. "It was a great route and it's easy to throw it when [Donte] is that wide open," said Tom Brady.
After the game, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said "I thought we played a pretty good second half of football. Dallas has been a great second half team this year and I thought we were able to go toe-to-toe with them in the second half. It was a good drive to bounce back after they took the lead. No doubt they had a lot of momentum after the second quarter and in the third after they stopped us and got back on the (score) board.
"We had a couple passes where we hit guys short and they broke a couple tackles," said Belichick. "Donte did a great job running. Wes looked like he ran through a double coverage. A part of those plays are catch and run plays and obviously part of them are great reads and throws by Tommy down there in the red area. So it's a combination. I thought we got some yards after the catch from our receivers and that's great for the passing game."
With all the talk this week of which team had the better #81 (Randy Moss or Terrell Owens) at wide receiver, the big catches came from #83 and #18 for the Patriots, Welker and Stallworth. Welker had 11 catches for a career high 124 yards and two touchdowns and Stallworth had seven catches for a game-high 136 yards and a score. Moss had a decent day with six grabs for 59 yards and a score, while Owens had a modest six catches for 66 yards and a score.
This was Welker's first ever 100 yard game in his brief four year pro career. "I know with Randy out there, if they're going to put a lot of attention to him, then me and Donte and Ben [Watson] and the rest of us really have to do well and get open for Tom," Welker said after the game. "I just try to use my quickness and try to avoid (the hits) and get up the field as fast as I can."
Belichick said, "Wes has done a great job for us. He's a good slot receiver and again, when the opportunity comes, he's made plays for us, both on offense and the kicking game."
Brady noted that Welker's first touchdown happened because the 5-foot-10, 185-pound receiver was able to divide the double coverage to make the catch for the score. "He split 'em and ran right by them," Brady said. "He's a threat anytime he's out there. He's very elusive, he's very quick and he's very smart. He makes a lot of guys miss. We saw that on a bunch of third downs today where he's eluding tacklers and getting as many yards as he can. He's a huge part of this offense."
Although they put up 48 points, the Cowboys threw everything, even the kitchen sink at Brady. Dallas knocked Brady down several times, sacking him three times, including a forced fumble, which led to a Dallas defensive touchdown in the second quarter.
According to Belichick Dallas adjusted their defense constantly "They mixed it up and they gave us a lot of pressure and they definitely hit us, especially in the first half. They gave us some mixed coverage and that's what they do. They played some two deep, some Single-I [formations], blitzed, they blitz zoned, they do what they do and they're pretty good at it."
|Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo sits on the bench during the fourth quarter of their 48-27 loss to the New England Patriots in their NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2007, in Irving, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)|
Brady knew the Dallas defense was noted for being aggressive, but that the Patriots were still able to move the ball. "We really made the plays when we needed to. We were down four in the third quarter and responded. Made some good plays offensively and defensively and really stepped up. It was a great team win."
Another key to the victory was the Patriots efficiency on third down. The Patriots finished the game converting 10 out of 17 third down plays (65%).
"Third down is always something we've put a lot of emphasis on," said Brady. "It's great play calling. Once we kind of figured out what they were trying to do to us, I thought we adjusted and did some positive things. I think it was great routes by the receivers and great protection. It's a challenge when it's third down and distance and they kind of know that you're throwing. It's a lot of man coverage and they scheme a bunch of things up to try and get you off the field. It's a big part of the game.
"I think the receivers were getting open and the line was protecting," he said. "They threw some things at us early. It was a tough environment to play in. It was very loud and the communication was difficult. The team really rallied when we needed to. We settled in there in the third quarter and executed much better than we did in the early part of the game."
· Tight end Benjamin Watson left the game in the first half with an apparent ankle injury and running back Sammy Morris left the game with an apparent chest injury. Backup tight end Marcellus Rivers filled in for the injured Watson while running back Kevin Faulk took the rushing load for Morris. Faulk carried the ball 13 times for 50 yards while Kyle Brady had a touchdown catch. Tom Brady said "guys really stepped it up this week. Some guys went out with some injuries and other guy really stepped in and made great plays … it was great to see."
· Backup running back Kyle Eckel scored his first NFL touchdown of his career with 19 seconds to go in the game. It was a one yard scamper over the right guard. After he crossed the goal line, the Patriots offensive linemen were happy for the former Naval Academy graduate as they surrounded Eckel patting him on the helmet. He finished with three carries for six yards in the game, including the score. He's played in three games since being activated to the roster after starter Laurence Maroney was sidelined three weeks ago due to a groin injury.
· Punter Chris Hanson improved the distance on his punts against Dallas. Hanson punted twice for a 41.5-yard average. Heading into the game, Hanson had 11 punts on the year for 36.3-yard average (31.6 net), ranking at the bottom of the league. With Sunday's performance his average improves to 37.1 for the season.
· With their 48-27 victory over the Cowboys, the Patriots continue their streak of outscoring their opponents by 17 points or more in each of their first six games of the season. The Patriots 48 points were the sixth-highest point total for a single game in franchise history. The last time the Patriots scored 48 points was November 18, 1984, when they defeated the Indianapolis Colts 52-17.
· Wide Receiver Donte Stallworth's 69-yard touchdown reception was the longest touchdown reception for the Patriots this season. The 7-catch 136-yard performance was also Stallworth's best game in a Patriots uniform, and the second best of his career. He managed a six-catch 139-yard performance when he was with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2006.
The Patriots travel to Miami to take on the 0-6 Miami Dolphins next Sunday.
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