Patriots 20, Cowboys 16

The Dallas Cowboys turned the game over to their defense in the

final minutes, trusting Rob Ryan’s game plan to shut down the

Patriots one more time.

Against Tom Brady, that’s a risky strategy.

The Cowboys went conservative on their final possession, running

the ball three straight times to wind down the clock before punting

the ball back to New England. Brady got the ball with 80 yards to

go and 2:31 left, and he swiftly moved the Patriots down the field

for the game-winning touchdown and a 20-16 victory.

”Whenever you get the ball into the hands of a player like

Brady at home, you’ve got problems,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones

said in the locker room. ”We are up here on their field and we

knew what the odds were, so we flipped a coin and it came up

against us. We know what they are about and what our challenge was

there.”

Dan Bailey kicked a 26-yard field goal to break a 13-13 tie with

5:13 left to play, then Dallas forced New England to go

three-and-out. Getting the ball back at their own 28 with 3:36

left, the Cowboys had three rushing plays and a false start before

punting the ball back to the Patriots.

That gave Brady one more chance. And he delivered, hitting Aaron

Hernandez in the middle of the end zone from 8 yards out for the

winning score.

”Tom obviously has a good track record. He’s a great

quarterback. He’s won Super Bowls here for a reason,” Cowboys

quarterback Tony Romo said. ”At the same time, I believe in our

defense. I’ll take our defense any day of the week going

forward.”

He had good reason for confidence, because the defense had

already slowed down a Patriots team that had scored 30 or more

points in 13 consecutive games.

The last team to hold New England under 30: the Cleveland

Browns, last Nov. 7. The defensive coordinator of that team: Rob

Ryan, who now leads the defense on the Cowboys.

”You have to run the ball in that situation because of the time

situation, and I thought our defense had done a good job,” Cowboys

coach Jason Garrett said. ”It’s an outstanding offense; it’s one

of the best offenses in the league. You’re challenging your

defense, no doubt about it.

”When you’re playing against a quarterback like Tom Brady –

he’s going to go down as one of the all-time greats, so you have to

try to make it hard on him.”

New England (5-1) won despite its first two lost fumbles of the

season and Brady’s two interceptions. He finished the game 27 of 41

for 289 yards with two touchdowns.

It was the 32nd successful comeback of Brady’s career in games

the Patriots trailed or were tied in the fourth quarter. And it

came against a solid defense – ranked fourth in the NFL – that had

allowed just one touchdown on the Patriots first nine

possessions.

Dallas, coming off a bye week, did that for most of the day,

sacking him three times and intercepting two passes. But on the

final 80-yard drive that started with 2:31 left, Brady completed

eight of nine passes for 78 yards.

”We prepare hard for that situation every week and when it came

up this week, it’s good to get the ball in the end zone,” Brady

said. ”I’d prefer to be up four touchdowns with two minutes left,

but it just wasn’t the case.”

Dallas (2-3) ended a five-game road winning streak after a bye

despite coming back from a 13-3 deficit midway through the second

quarter. Romo was 27 of 41 for 317 yards, one touchdown and one

interception in his first game since a 34-30 loss to the Detroit

Lions in which the Cowboys squandered a 24-point, third-quarter

lead and Romo threw two interceptions that were returned for

touchdowns.

The Cowboys have lost two games by four points and one by

three.

Wes Welker, who entered the game as the NFL leader with 45

catches and 740 yards receiving, was held to six for 45, but three

of those catches, covering 21 yards, came in the go-ahead drive.

The last one covered six yards over the middle, putting the ball at

the 8.

Then Brady found Hernandez in one-on-one coverage.

”This is probably, as a whole, one of our worst performances as

an offense,” Patriots receiver Deion Branch said. ”It’s times

like this when we show what we’re made of – that last drive.”

The regular-season win was the Patriots’ 20th straight at home

and Brady’s 31st in a row at Gillette Stadium.

”When it comes to crunch time, he is at his best,” Cowboys

linebacker Keith Brooking said.

Notes: Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Brady have won 116

regular-season games together, tying Miami’s Don Shula and Dan

Marino for most in NFL history. … DeMarcus Ware had two sacks for

Dallas, giving him seven in five games this season. … The teams

met for the 11th time with the Patriots winning their fourth in a

row after losing the first seven.