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FRISCO, TX — Most of the free world wanted to know how the Dallas Cowboys would respond to the embarrassing loss against the Arizona Cardinals last week. They got their answer this Sunday against Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, and it was a resounding one — the Cowboys drubbing Belichick's squad into the turf at AT&T Stadium.
The lopsidedvictory was fueled by yet another impressive outing from the defense and the special teams got involved as well, ultimately leading Belichick to wave the white flag and pull Mac Jones from the contest to make way for Bailey Zappe.
It was another collective effort by Dallas, much like in Week 1 and Week 2, but these 10 impact players opened up a very, very large can of whoo-... you know the rest.
DaRon Bland, CB: Slot, boundary, parking lot by the hot dog vendor — it doesn't matter — Bland is going to be spicier than a slider from Hot Dave's. He was moved to the outside in the wake of Trevon Diggs suffering a torn ACL ahead of Week 3 against the Arizona Cardinals, having already garnered a pick-six to start the season in Week 1. In Week 4, he made Mac Jones the latest victim of his abilities, reeling in his second pick-six of the season to give the Cowboys a 28-3 lead late in the second quarter in what became a walk-away victory for Dallas; but not before grabbing his second INT of the afternoon on 4th-and-2 after halftime.
Dak Prescott, QB: The two-time Pro Bowler came out of the locker room on a mission against Bill Belichick and the Patriots, masterfully walking the Cowboys down the field toward what should've been a touchdown on the opening drive, if not for a drop by rookie tight end Luke Schoonmaker. Prescott rebounded with a 20-yard dart to CeeDee Lamb to give the Cowboys a 10-3 lead — having another solid day against Belichick while the defense and special teams feasted heartily.
CeeDee Lamb, WR: What can I say? It was another great showing for WR1, who bounced back against the Patriots by delivering the aforementioned 20-yard touchdown from Prescott to end the drought of Cowboys' wideouts having not reeled in a TD this season. He went on to make timely catches and, once again, put his toughness on display after the catch.
Michael Gallup, WR: For a second time in as many weeks, any questions regarding Gallup's role in the "Texas Coast" offense are put to bed. His best game of the season was followed up by another impact affair, and one that included sure hands and yards after the catch. The Cowboys have clearly found ways to get Gallup more involved and he's not wasting the opportunities. He's proven he's completely back from his torn ACL and not just physically, but also mentally.
Leighton Vander Esch, LB: The wolf hunter was hunting Patriots on Sunday. Vander Esch was fantastic in run support to help bottle up both Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott (in his homecoming to AT&T Stadium). And to add insult to the Patriots' offensive injury, a scoop-and-score on a fumble forced by Dante Fowler gave Vander Esch his first defensive touchdown of the season — finishing the afternoon as the team leader in tackles.
Dante Fowler, DE: There would've been no fumble to recover if not for Fowler, who is rolling over his resurgent 2022 season into 2023. The veteran defensive end exploded off of the edge in the second quarter to chase down a sprinting Mac Jones from behind while simultaneously and successfully swiping at the ball to force it to the ground. Vander Esch would do the rest, but it was Fowler who set it up in "Dwayne Wade to Lebron James" fashion.
Jake Ferguson, TE: As the weeks roll along, Ferguson is truly solidifying himself as the TE1 in Dallas. Peyton Hendershot was absent due to an ankle injury and Luke Schoonmaker is still working to find his NFL legs, so to speak, but Ferguson is picking up a ton of steam. The former fourth-round pick and second-year talent amassed 73 receiving yards on six catches (100% catch rate on targets) … by halftime. It looks like Prescott has found himself a new security blanket at tight end.
Jalen Tolbert, WR: It's rare that you'll see a wide receiver make this list as a special teamer, but Tolbert earned it and so here we are. The second-year wideout contributed early with an 18-yard reception on the Cowboys' opening drive helped them put points on the board, but his tackle on a 55-yard punt by Bryan Anger forced a two-yard loss on a drive that ended with Fowler's tag team effort with Vander Esch. He's finding ways to impact games in 2023, and the Cowboys love to see it.
Bryan Anger, P: Can the punter get some love? It's well-known that Anger is arguably the best punter in the entire NFL, but his leg wasn't the only thing on display against the Patriots. On an extra point attempt after Vander Esch's touchdown, Anger popped up for a fake field goal attempt and tossed the ball to defensive lineman Chauncey Golston, who ran it into the end zone for a successful conversion to give Dallas an 18-3 lead.
Neville Gallimore, DL: You wouldn't know it by simply looking at the stat line, but film will readily show you just how good Gallimore was against the Patriots offensive front. When he wasn't making the tackle himself, he was redirecting traffic to force plays to go against their own grain and into the waiting hands of several of his teammates. Gallimore showed exactly why the Cowboys weren't willing to part ways with him this offseason; and especially after having seen him have a strong camp.
Honorable mention: Hunter Luepke, FB: After pleading with the Cowboys to use Luepke in short yardage and seeing them do it, and successfully, against the Patriots on Sunday, I am thoroughly enjoying squeezing the rookie fullback onto this list. Luepke took the handoff from Prescott in the fourth quarter on 3rd-and-3 and bowled himself right into the end zone for this first-ever NFL touchdown and, in the process, hammering the final nail into the Patriots' coffin.