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Game Recap: Defense shines in 38-3 win


As the old saying goes, a good defense is the best offense. For this game in particular, truer words have never been spoken.

The Dallas defense bounced back from a poor performance the week before to lead the Cowboys to a dominating 38-3 victory over the New England Patriots. As a group, coordinator Dan Quinn's men produced three turnovers and two scores while holding the visitors to 253 yards of total offense.

That included only 53 yards on the ground, a somewhat rude welcome to Ezekiel Elliott in his homecoming, the former Cowboys running back held to just 16 yards rushing on six carries. But his day wasn't as bad as that of Mac Jones as Dallas consistently harassed New England's quarterback. Before being replaced late in the third quarter, he completed only 57.1 percent of his passes for 150 yards and a paltry 39.9 passer rating.

It was a different story for his counterpart on the other side, though, as Dak Prescott was efficient in his work. The Cowboys' signal-caller completed 82.4 percent of his passes for 261 yards and a touchdown with a 108.5 passer rating. Tight end Jake Ferguson was his primary target, earning seven catches for 77 yards, with nine players overall recording at least one catch.

On the ground, Dallas collectively rushed for 125 yards, although Tony Pollard's 47 yards was tops on the team. The Cowboys finished with 377 yards of total offense while not turning over the ball once and again dominating the time of possession, 35:09 to 24:51.

Of course, if there were any concerns on the day it was Dallas' continued struggles in the red zone as the offense converted only 1-of-4 chances inside the Patriots' 20-yard line. Then again, when you win by 35, those matters seem a little more trivial.

First Quarter

The game began with both teams reaching said red zone but then settling for field goals. Dallas capped off its 10-play, 70-yard drive with Brandon Aubrey kicking a 23-yarder before New England went 64 yards in 8 plays for its own 29-yard boot.

 There would be no settling for a field goal, though, on the Cowboys' next possession. With the offense firing on all cylinders, Prescott completed all five of his pass attempts for 52 of the 75-yard series. The last was thrown 20 yards perfectly into the arms of CeeDee Lamb for the score.

Second Quarter

Dallas' next touchdown, however, could be chalked up to special teams and the defense. A booming 55-yard punt by Bryan Anger, followed by a hard-hitting tackle on punt coverage from Jalen Tolbert, resulted in the Patriots starting at their own 10-yard line. But on second-and-12 from his own 8, Jones scrambled out of the pocket only to have Dante Fowler strip-sack him from behind. Leighton Vander Esch then scooped up the bouncing ball and ran to pay dirt for his first career touchdown.

And then the Cowboys employed a little trickery after lining up for an extra-point field goal try. Instead, the holder Anger threw a pass to a wide-open Chauncey Golston for the two points, Golston's first trip to the end zone as well. This marked the first time an NFL team has run a successful fake for a two-point conversion since extra points were moved back in 2015.

The good times kept rolling when Dallas added another three points soon thereafter. Aubrey was good from 23 yards this time to finish off an 11-play, 73-yard drive, as the Cowboys reached the red zone again but had to turn to their kicker once more.

But while the offense might have been having trouble crossing the goal line, the defense certainly wasn't. Just before the half ended, cornerback DaRon Bland stepped in front of a Jones offering, snagged the interception and raced down the right sideline 54 yards untouched for his second pick-six of the young season.

The Cowboys were set to give Aubrey a chance at a 66-yard field goal with 3 seconds left, but a false start penalty negated that idea. Still, the rout was officially on, Dallas going into the break with a commanding 28-3 lead.

Third Quarter

Dallas opened the second half by picking up right where it left off – quite literally. Bland intercepted his second pass of the day, this time corralling a Jones attempt on fourth-and-2 at the Cowboys' 40-yard line and returning it 10 yards to set the offense up near midfield.

Prescott and company took advantage of the gift, although for the third time they were unable to score despite reaching the red zone. Aubrey remained true, though, this time splitting the uprights from 33 yards.

Fourth Quarter

Obviously, there was still 15 minutes remaining despite the outcome already being decided, but KaVontae Turpin did provide some excitement with a 46-yard run around the right end. That same play saw tight end Sean McKeon hustle downfield and recover the fumble after Turpin had the ball punched out at the end of his run.

That led to the Cowboys eventually (and finally) getting a red-zone score as well. Rookie fullback Hunter Luepke powered his way up the middle from three yards out for his first NFL touchdown.

With that, Prescott's day was done as Cooper Rush and several of the other backups took the field. They capably ran out the clock on Dallas' third victory this season, their second by a margin of at least 35 points.

The Cowboys will now ride this momentum into a big Week 5 showdown at the San Francisco 49ers next Sunday.

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