FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Maybe the bye week has arrived at a good time for Randy Gregory, who's managed to play through some minor knee soreness this season.
But the Cowboys pass rusher is riding some serious momentum through the first six games – and he created plenty for the defense in Sunday's 35-29 overtime win over the New England Patriots.
"Randy's on a roll now," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "He's put four games together now that are outstanding."
With two sacks Sunday – his second multi-sack game of the season – Gregory pushed his team-best total to four this season in only five starts, having missed Week 2 against the LA Chargers due to COVID-19 protocols.
The first sack Sunday was a momentum-shifter for the defense, which had given up touchdowns on the Patriots' first two drives.
Rushing off the edge early in the second quarter, Gregory beat Patriots offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste on the outside and drove quarterback Mac Jones into the ground for a sack/fumble recovered by rookie defensive lineman Chauncey Golston.
The Cowboys cashed in nine plays later with a Greg Zuerlein field goal to cut New England's lead to 14-10.
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, the 258-pound Gregory got to Jones in just 2.45 seconds, the fifth-fastest sack by any player this season so far.
"I kind of knew what play was coming," he said. "I knew it was going to be a pass. I was lined up in a three-technique, I think, and I gave him a jab inside and he just bit on it."
Maybe Gregory plays better mad. At least, he thinks so. Before the play he admits he was getting frustrated by the Patriots' extra chip blocks by tight ends and running backs.
"Honestly I felt like their O-Line couldn't block me or block any of us as long as they didn't chip us, at least on the ends, and they did a lot of that," he said.
The Patriots did send extra blockers Gregory's way pretty consistently, but he still finished with three tackles and two quarterback hits to go along with his two sacks. His second sack came on third down on the opening drive of the second half, forcing a Patriots punt.
"Obviously he'll be seeing more and more chips and things like that," McCarthy said.
That's a sign of respect by opposing offenses – and indeed, Gregory is emerging as one of the league's most productive defensive ends in his first season as a starter since the Cowboys drafted him in the second round six years ago.
His past is well-documented: repeated suspensions for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy as the Cowboys consistently stood behind him, stating that his off-the-field issues with the league stemmed from a medical condition.
Now he's helping the defensive line hold things down until fellow starter DeMarcus Lawrence returns from foot surgery sometime after the bye.
"I'm just really thankful, really grateful to be in the position I'm in, not only playing but playing well and playing with a team that's playing well," he said. "So I've got to keep telling myself that. I can't get too far ahead of myself. I understand it's a long season. There's still a lot that I have to do, a lot that I have to learn to be the player I want to be and help this team out the way I know I can."