You would have thought a windy, rainy day would have been great for the Dallas Cowboys and their running game.
It was better for the New England Patriots and their stellar defense.
The Cowboys-Patriots game was one of the marquee games of the regular season, a battle between two division winners and two of the NFL’s most popular franchises. Too bad the weather didn’t cooperate. The teams slugged it out in the rain, with neither offense able to get much going. The Patriots got a 13-9 win to improve to 10-1 as they held the Cowboys out of the end zone.
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott had a quiet day but that’s not all his fault. It was a tough matchup and a rough day to throw the ball due to the weather. It was a little more surprising Ezekiel Elliott couldn’t get going, with 86 yards on 21 carries. The Cowboys needed a big day out of him. Dallas fell to 6-5, unable to gain any ground in the NFC East on the Philadelphia Eagles, who lost earlier on Sunday.
Rain, wind big factors
The rain was coming down sideways before kickoff, and the wind and rain led to a slow, plodding game. Neither team got much of a passing game going. Prescott had just 212 yards, and Tom Brady had 190.
The Cowboys finally hit a big pass play in the fourth quarter on a crossing route to Randall Cobb, who turned it upfield and gained 59 yards. But Dallas couldn’t turn that into a touchdown. The drive stalled at the Patriots’ 11-yard line and they opted for a field goal on fourth-and-7 with a little more than six minutes left. The risk in kicking there was clear, considering it was just the Cowboys’ second trip inside the red zone in 10 possessions. But the Cowboys trusted that they’d get the ball back with enough time for the offense to put something together.
The defense did its part, giving up some yards but eventually forcing a punt. But in less-than-ideal conditions, it was too much to ask of the offense to drive the length of the field and score the touchdown it needed to win. Especially against a Patriots defense that has been the best in the NFL this season.
In hindsight, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett should have just gone for it.
Cowboys come up short on big drive
The Cowboys needed to go 92 yards and score a touchdown when they took over with 2:38 left, trailing 13-9. A dramatic drive would have saved a game that was short on highlights. Prescott started the drive with an 18-yard pass to Cobb.
Elliott caught a pass for a first down with 1:53 left, but a questionable tripping call on center Travis Frederick wiped out the first down and pushed the Cowboys back 10 yards. With the wind whipping on third-and-11, Prescott threw incomplete, but on fourth down the Cowboys seemed to complete a pass to Amari Cooper for a first down. That catch was reversed on replay review because the ball was loose when Cooper hit the ground.
The Patriots’ only touchdown was a pass to rookie first-round pick N’Keal Harry, which came in the first quarter and ended up being the only touchdown of the game. It was the difference in the Patriots’ win.
The Patriots aren’t the high-flying offensive juggernaut they have been for a lot of the Tom Brady era. It’s a team that is comfortable letting its defense win games. That’s what happened on Sunday, with an assist from the weather. It didn’t make for good theater for a huge television audience, but the Patriots were fine taking the ugly win.
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