FOXBORO, Mass. — The Patriots admitted they won an ugly game Sunday against the Cowboys, but they can live with ugly when it smells like victory. Now, they head into their bye week with a 5-1 record and sole possession of first place in the AFC East.
Let's break out the grades.
Jeff Howe: C
Wide receiver Deion Branch said the offense played its worst game of the season, and there were too many missed opportunities, including two field goals in the red zone and two turnovers in field-goal range. It's a good thing Tom Brady was brilliant in the last two and a half minutes.
Jeff Howe: B+
There were some serious lapses in zone coverage when the Cowboys ran crossing routes, and I think that plays into Jerod Mayo's absence. But on the whole, the Patriots held a heck of an offense to 16 points and forced a quick three-and-out at the end of the game.
Jeff Howe: C-
Matthew Slater filled in for injured Julian Edelman as a kickoff returner and fumbled away his only opportunity. Stephen Gostkowski made both of his attempts, Zoltan Mesko was solid again and the coverage units were on point to save the grade.
Jeff Howe: A-
It's tough to blame the coaching staff for four turnovers and the missed opportunities on offense. Bill Belichick installed a solid defensive game plan and also won his third challenge of the last two weeks.
Jeff Howe: C
The Cowboys played very well defensively, but they were out of sync on offense, though the Patriots deserve credit for some of that. Dallas will take some heat in Texas this week for its ineptitude on its final offensive possession. And it's tough to criticize the Cowboys' defense on Brady's final drive. His execution was nearly indefensible.
Jeff Howe: Tom Brady
He showed his value on the game-winning drive, completing 7 of 8 passes for 78 yards and the touchdown strike.
Jeff Howe:Vince Wilfork
He outclassed the Cowboys' offensive line all game, and Wilfork was a big reason why the Cowboys couldn't run the ball, either. Wilfork opened up a lot for his teammates and was even a fingertip away from his third interception.