Brady gets roughed up early, punishes Cowboys for it later
Chants of "Bra-dy" arose several times from a large New England contingent in Tom Brady’s first visit to the $1.2 billion showplace of the Dallas Cowboys.
First after a 1-yard plunge for his first rushing touchdown in almost three years, again after a long touchdown pass to Julian Edelman that helped seal the outcome and finally about 15 minutes after the end of the Patriots’ 30-6 victory Sunday.
It wasn’t as easy as his boisterous fans made it sound.
Brady threw a pair of touchdowns in the second half after enduring five sacks in the first half, including two for Greg Hardy and one from Rolando McClain in their season debuts after four-game suspensions, and New England pulled away from a powerless Dallas offense missing Tony Romo and Dez Bryant.
"There were a lot of adjustments today," Brady said. "I don’t think we practiced a lot of what they were doing, but I think our defense played great. Offense, we made a few plays but we can play better than that."
The Super Bowl champion Patriots (4-0) won their seventh straight game going back to the playoffs last year. The Cowboys lost their third in a row without Romo and Bryant, both sidelined by injuries.
Dallas (2-3) has at least four more games without Romo (broken left collarbone), and this was the biggest struggle so far for backup Brandon Weeden. He lost his 11th straight game as a starter going back to his time as a first-round draft pick in Cleveland.
The Cowboys had just 59 yards at halftime, and trailed 20-3 before their first long drive, which ended with the second of their two field goals late in the third quarter.
Coach Jason Garrett said the Cowboys would evaluate the quarterback spot during their upcoming bye after Weeden went 26 of 39 for 188 mostly meaningless yards. The Dallas running game was almost mostly ineffective until it was too late.
"Brandon didn’t play well enough, but we didn’t play well enough," Garrett said. "We just need to be able to control the line of scrimmage more in the running game and they did a good job loading the box up."
Brady, in his 16th season, joined Peyton Manning and Fran Tarkenton as the only NFL quarterbacks with 4-0 starts at least four times. It wasn’t easy early.
The 38-year-old hadn’t been sacked more than five times in the regular season since Buffalo had seven in 2001, the year he took over as the starter and won the first of four Super Bowls.
Hardy, the defensive end making his Dallas debut after a four-game ban for his role in a domestic violence case, was credited with two sacks, including one that resulted in a fumble recovered for a short gain by the Patriots.
He made headlines during the week for commenting on Brady’s supermodel wife, Gisele Bundchen, after being suspended because the NFL believed he roughed up his former girlfriend last year.
McClain, in the first game of his second season with Dallas following a violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy, had the first sack.
"Those are two great players," said Brady, who threw for 275 yards, about 96 fewer than he averaged in the first three games for the league’s No. 1 offense. "They add `em to the mix and they’ve got a defense."
But the Cowboys didn’t get to Brady after halftime, and the offense got rolling on a pair of throws to tight end Rob Gronkowski, who had 51 of his 67 yards receiving on the opening drive of the second half. Dion Lewis had a 10-yard scoring catch to finish that drive.
Brady’s sneak to put New England ahead for good in the second quarter was his first rushing TD since Dec. 16, 2012, when he had the last of his career-high four that season.
His 59-yard scoring pass to Edelman put New England up 27-6 early in the fourth. Brady was 20 of 27, and Edelman had 120 yards receiving.
"We made those adjustments from the first series," New England coach Bill Belichick said. "We didn’t wait until halftime. There’s nothing magic about halftime. As soon as we see it, we’re doing it."
NOTES: Stephen Gostkowski extended his NFL-best streak of made field goals to 19 with three, including a career-long of 57 yards in the final seconds of the first half. His previous long was 54. … Patriots LB Dont’a Hightower didn’t return after leaving with a rib injury in the first half. He sacked Weeden before the injury.