FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – There weren't many big plays to speak of from this loss. But like all games, this one had a few of those hidden plays that have a big impact in the outcome.
Here are the five you can't forget about:
Tyron Smith false start – On the Cowboys' second possession, the offense was in comfortable field-goal range until a Tyron Smith false start penalty pushed them back 5 yards to set up a third down from the 27-yard line. On third-and-10, a short pass to Blake Jarwin set up a 46-yard field goal attempt for Brett Maher, who pushed the ball into the left upright. Five yards for that penalty not only prevented a good chance for a first down but likely moved them back just out of range.
Smith flagged again – While this looked to be a very questionable call on Smith, who got run into by a blitzing Dont'a Hightower, the 10-yard tripping penalty late in the first quarter put the offense way behind the chains. The Cowboys never recovered from a second-and-22, and on the ensuing punt, the Patriots blocked it and recovered the ball at the Cowboys' 12-yard line. Tom Brady hit N'Keal Harry for a touchdown two plays later for a 7-0 lead.
Penalty costs 20 yards –The Cowboys were flagged for illegal motion just before a punt. It was only a 5-yard loss but it really cost the Cowboys 20 yards of field position. Already backed up because of a delay of game in trying to get the right blocking assignments, the Cowboys then had an illegal motion call on Ventell Bryant that negated a Chris Jones punt that was downed at the Patriots' 18-yard line. Instead, a re-kick gave the Patriots the ball at their 38. That proved to be the only scoring drive of the second half for New England, which got a field goal by Nick Folk for a 13-6 lead.
Two incomplete passes lead to FG –While the Cowboys will be questioned for attempting a field goal on fourth down with 6:08 to play, head coach Jason Garrett said after the game he would've gone for it had the conversion been more manageable. Maybe different play-calling on second down would've helped with that. After a 3-yard run by Ezekiel Elliott to the 11, Dak Prescott had to scramble around on second down and threw the ball away. Another pass on third down was incomplete and it led to fourth and long where Brett Maher made a field goal to trim the lead to 13-9. Perhaps more runs on second and third down would've allowed it to be four-down territory.
Frederick trip wipes out conversion –What's worse than a tripping penalty? How about two tripping calls, including one in the fourth quarter that wipes out a first down. The Cowboys had third-and-1 and opted to pass the ball instead of trying Elliott for a run. The Cowboys were able to get a 3-yard pass to Zeke instead, but Travis Frederick was flagged for tripping that seemed to be more questionable than the one on Smith earlier in the game. Instead of first down at the 38-yard line, it was third-and-11 at the 25, and the Cowboys eventually turned it over on downs and never got the ball back.