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Matchups: 3 Guys Not Named Brady or Belichick


When it comes to beating the Patriots, two names have been at the forefront for the past two decades. We all know Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are the two constant forces that have made New England the best dynasty in football over the last 20 years.

But the Patriots have a supporting cast that is making this team one of their best in recent years.

Here are three Patriots players to watch and how the Cowboys might try to stop them.

Stephon Gilmore:Maybe it's because he plays for the lowkey, blue collar, "Do Your Job" New England Patriots, but it sure doesn't seem like Gilmore gets enough credit for being arguably the league's best corner. In an era when league rules favor the passing game more and more, Gilmore is the rarest of rare: a true, lockdown man cornerback. In 10 games this season, he has three interceptions, 10 pass breakups and has yet to allow a touchdown. The Patriots will often have him travel with the opponent's best receiver. Last week against Philadelphia, he even matched up with Zach Ertz. With that in mind, there's a number of way New England can play this. Will they ask him to square off one-on-one with Amari Cooper, or might they have him cover Michael Gallup – allowing the rest of the secondary to double-team Cooper? However they play it, Gilmore figures to make life difficult on Dak Prescott and his receivers.

Dont'a Hightower: The reason the Patriots can be so flexible with their defense is the versatility of the front 7, particularly the linebackers. To be able to go back and forth from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme, the linebackers have to be able to adjust. And no one seems to adjust better than Hightower, who is big enough to be physical and stop the run, but athletic enough to excel in pass coverage. He's already got a touchdown this year on a 22-yard fumble recovery, but where he makes the biggest impact is being the center point to the defense, regardless of their scheme. However the Patriots line up on Sunday, best believe that Hightower will be the focus of how New England will try to confuse and attack Dak Prescott and the offense.

James White: Sony Michel is the Patriots' primary starting running back, but New England typically uses a committee of talented backs, and White is arguably the most versatile. He ranks second on the team in catches (48 for 420 yards and a touchdown) along with 37 carries for 124 yards. The Cowboys' defense saw a steady diet of screens from Minnesota two games ago, and the Patriots efficiently use it with a variety of skill players, from their running backs (White, Michel, Rex Burkhead) to do-it-all receiver Julian Edelman. "It's a part kind of their run package along with their quick game," Cowboys passing game coordinator/defensive backs coach Kris Richard said. "They've done it for years. Really, they have the backs to do it. They're really good at it, no doubt about it." The Dallas defense will have to be assignment sound and sure tacklers against White and others.