ARLINGTON, Texas– The Cowboys had a few highlights, mostly on defense, and the Patriots had most of the big plays from an offensive standpoint in this 30-6 decision.
But all games have those hidden plays that can be forgotten, but end up being a huge factor in the outcome. Here are a handful that changed this game:
- Beasley's middle drop – It didn't seem like much at the time, but a first-down drop by Cole Beasley just before halftime shifted the momentum even more to the Patriots, allowing them to add a late field goal. The Cowboys had first down at their own 13-yard line and Brandon Weeden dumped off a pass to Beasley, who uncharacteristically dropped it with 1:06 to play. That saved the Patriots from calling a timeout, and after two straight plays failed to get a first down, the Cowboys punted it back to New England with 59 seconds still to play. The Patriots used the field position, extra time and a timeout to get into field goal range for Stephen Gostkowski, who boomed a 57-yarder. Had Beasley made the catch, the Patriots wouldn't have had the timeout or would've allowed 35 seconds off the clock and perhaps the Cowboys get a first down as well.
- Edelman over the middle – When the Patriots got the ball back with a 10-3 lead before the half, they faced a second-and-18 after the fifth sack of the first half. But Brady found Justin Edelman over the middle for 24 yards, including another six after he avoided Morris Claiborne's tackle. Those extra yards likely gave the Patriots enough room to give Gostkowski the chance to kick the field goal, even though it appeared he could've made it from 65 or more.
- Gronk Gets Loose – The Cowboys' defense needed a big stop to start the second half and after a holding penalty on the Patriots pushed them back to first-and-20 at their own 10-yard line, Brady found Rob Gronkowski down the sideline for a 33-yard gain to flip the field position. The Patriots continued to move the ball and scored a key touchdown five minutes into the half for a 20-3 lead. Without that big play, the Cowboys might have a shot to get good field position and cut into the lead.
- Witten's Short Pattern– The Cowboys trailed 20-3, but mounted a lengthy drive that reached inside the Patriots' 10-yard line. But on third-and-4 from the 7-yard line, the Cowboys didn't convert when Weeden found Jason Witten out in the flat for just 2 yards. Witten's out-route was short of the sticks, and he was tackled immediately to set up fourth-and-2. Had the Cowboys picked up perhaps another yard, they could've attempted a fourth-down play to try and get the touchdown. Instead, they went for a field goal that only trimmed the lead to 14.
- White's near-pick – This one might not have affected the final outcome, but could've made it more interesting in the fourth quarter. Corey White completely read Tom Brady and jumped a quick pass that could've been returned for a touchdown. That would've made the game 27-13, and maybe the Patriots are forced to play it more conservatively after that interception. But like many plays already this year, the defensive backs are having a hard time coming up with turnovers, even when the ball finds their hands.