By Shawn S. Lealos
No one really expected the Dallas Cowboys to beat the New England Patriots, but for one half of the game, they made things interesting. With the score only 13-3 at halftime, it looked like the Cowboys could hang in there. However, the Patriots not only ran away with the game in the second half, but also shut down the Cowboys offense the entire game. Here is a look at the Cowboys team grades after their 30-6 loss to the Patriots in week five of the NFL season.
The Dallas Cowboys couldn’t move the ball at all in the first half and only had sporadic action in the second half. In the first half of play, the Cowboys punted the ball five times and scored a field goal on their sixth possession of the half. On the field goal drive, the Cowboys gained 47 yards. On the other five drives, Dallas combined for a total of 18 yards. That is less than 70 total yards in the first half, which is a big reason Dallas couldn’t win the game.
While Dallas played better in the second half, they still only scored one more field goal while Brandon Weeden threw his only interception of the game and Jason Witten fumbled to end drives early as well. For the game, Weeden completed 66 percent of his passes and averaged an extremely low 4.8 yards per completion for 188 total yards. Compare that to Tom Brady’s 10.2 yards per pass, and it was clear the Cowboys offense never got on track.
For the second time in three games with Weeden as the quarterback, number one receiver Terrance Williams was non-existent. He finished with two catches for 30 yards. Jason Witten did nothing in the first half, but finished with five balls for 33 yards. Once again, it was a running back that led the way at receiver as Darren McFadden took over the role that Lance Dunbar played before his ACL tear. Sadly, McFadden was not as successful as Dunbar, with nine catches for only 62 yards. Running the ball, McFadden and Joseph Randle combined for 76 total rushing yards. Nothing worked on offense for the Cowboys in this game.
Greg Hardy made his first appearance with the Dallas Cowboys in this game and his presence was felt. Tom Brady had never been sacked five times in one half in his entire career until facing the Dallas Cowboys in this game. In the first half alone, Tyrone Crawford, Jack Crawford and Rolando McClain each recorded one sack apiece, and Greg Hardy finished the first half with two. By the end of the game, Hardy had knocked down Brady five times.
However, in the second half, the Cowboys couldn’t stop the Patriots. New England opened the second half with two straight 80-yard touchdown drives and added a field goal as well to put the game out of reach. The Cowboys ended up giving up 275 passing yards and 109 rushing yards in the game. It was a promising start, but things unraveled, mostly because the offense couldn’t move the ball and the defense just wore down.
Special Teams: C
The special teams were absolutely no help in this game for Dallas. Three consecutive drives in the first half saw the Cowboys starting from their own 13 yard line and their punt and kick returners couldn’t do anything this game. Lucky Whitehead had one kick return for 21 yards and the punt returners had two returns for a total of six yards. With Dallas buried deep the entire game, they couldn’t get anything going.
Dan Bailey was automatic as usual, hitting both of his field goal attempts, including a perfect 51 yard drive. Chris Jones punted the ball six times with an impressive 49.7 yards per punt. While the kicking game was good for Dallas, the receiving team did nothing.
Jason Garrett seemed to make questionable decisions in the game. For one thing, after promising that Weeden was going to start to air it out more, the play calling was only for short passes. There was one point, a third down situation and newcomer Christine Michael came in and ran for a first down. He never had another carry the entire game. With Garrett stubbornly sticking with something that isn’t working, the Cowboys had no chance to keep pace with the Patriots in this game.
After starting the season at 2-0 with high hopes, the Dallas Cowboys lost three straight without their two biggest offensive stars, Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. However, their defense is back to full strength, and looked great for one half of play before wearing down due to the lack of offensive drive. Dallas gets a bye next week just in time, as Dez Bryant has hinted at returning in the first game after the bye as the team plays the New York Giants once again. If Bryant is back, things might improve, but they need Romo back soon.
Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. Examiner.com.