by Scott Benson
The Dallas Cowboys thought they had the New England Patriots for a minute there yesterday, as they rallied for a 24-21 third-quarter lead after having trailed by two touchdowns.
The Patriots exploded for 27 points over the game’s final 25 minutes – to just 3 from the overwhemled Cowboys – to close out a 48-27 win as the ‘Boys were separated from the NFL’s real men in Dallas.
Tom Brady continued his stratospheric play with a franchise-best 5 touchdown passes, and Wel Welker and Donte Stallworth combined for 250 yards and 3 scores as the Patriots ran their record to 6-0 for only the second time in team history.
The Patriots defense teetered on the edge for a good bit of the day but gathered themselves to hold the Cowboys to just three first downs after Dallas briefly (for about 5 minutes) took their three-point third-quarter lead.
The Cowboys – one and done playoff losers in 06 – thought their 5-0 record to start this season entitled them to join the legion of knuckleheads casting aspersions on the Patriots as they prepared to face the team that had won 3 world championships since Dallas’s last playoff win.
New England did their talking on the field, getting off to an increasingly typical 14-0 lead on the strength of Brady throws to Randy Moss and Welker, while Dallas’s vaunted offense struggled to gain even a first down against the Patriots defense.
But a second-quarter breakdown between Brady and Stallworth left the MVP candidate holding the ball too long as Greg Ellis rushed from the edge, and the resulting fumble took a bunny hop to Ellis’s linemate Jason Hatcher, who raced 29 yards untouched for Dallas’s first touchdown. New England’s lead was suddenly tightened to 14-10.
Even a 7 minute New England drive that ended with Welker’s second score and a 21-10 lead was not enough to dissuade Dallas and quarterback Tony Romo, as America’s Next Top Mimbo began to shred the center of the New England secondary with repeated open throws to Jason Witten, Patrick Crayton and Terrell Owens.
Romo rolled over the Pats’ suddenly porous pass defense to lead Dallas on a 3 minute, 84 yard touchdown drive that brought them within four and forced Brady to finish the first half on his right knee.
Brady started the second half hardly better, as an invigorated Dallas defense opened the third-quarter by forcing a quick three-and-out, and after a Chris Hanson punt, Dallas again tore upfield (behind Julius Jones, who had two consecutive carries that totaled 43 yards) with a 74 yard touchdown drive in just over 3 1/2 minutes. Crayton’s 6 yard scoring pass from Romo left the Patriots trailing in the second half for the first time this season.
And it was then that New England took over and showed the rest of the league just how far the Patriots rivals have yet to come.
The Patriots scored on every one of their remaining 5 possessions. First, Brady regained the lead with a short scoring toss to Kyle Brady (in relief of Benjamin Watson, who was lost early to an ankle injury) that closed out a 5+ minute drive that did much to cool off the boiling Dallas offense. A short field goal drive followed (after a spectacular Moss near-touchdown in the right corner was disallowed on a replay challenge), and then Brady slammed the door with a perfectly thrown 4th quarter pass down the middle that Stallworth gathered in before breaking a tackle and racing for a 69 yard touchdown that gave the Pats a 14 point lead with just 12 minutes left.
When Dallas could muster only a field goal in response, the game was over. But just in case the Cowboys hadn’t yet gotten the picture, the Patriots poured it on.
New England held the ball for 12 of the final 15 minutes, and only let up after Kyle Eckel’s short touchdown run with just 19 seconds left finished a drive that began with a Junior Seau interception at the Dallas 20.
Wade Phillips, who would do well to lose Peter King’s cell phone number, may have expected the Pats to take a knee to avoid running up the score (as they had done in previous weeks), but if he did, he was dead wrong. The Pats pounded away, much as Phillips had done during the week, as he openly questioned (even mocked) the legitimacy of New England’s success this decade. His after-the-fact denials did little to dissuade Bill Belichick from pushing the ball across the goal line a final, emphatic time.
When it was over, Phillips could barely look at Belichick as the two exchanged a terse post-game handshake. He wouldn’t have the balls to be pissed at Belichick for running up the score after Phillips has spent the week having a few Spy-gate laughs at Belichick and his team’s expense, would he? He couldn’t be that stupid, could he?
Evidently, he could. Which may explain why his cocky 5-0 team just took a 21 point loss in their own ballpark, thanks in large part to their coach’s big mouth.
Any more Spy-Gate questions, fellas?