FOXBORO, Mass. — Tom Brady was noticeably angry last week after the Patriots won a key game against the Jets. He hated the fact that they left so many points on the board, as their offense struggled in key situations.
It was more of the same during Sunday's last-minute, 20-16 victory against the Cowboys. Before Brady's game-winning drive, the offense squandered a number of opportunities, and that will be at the fore of their focus heading into the bye week.
Stephen Gostkowski kicked a pair of field goals inside the red zone, and the offense had two turnovers when they were in field-goal range with the scored tied, 13-13 — tight end Aaron Hernandez's fumble at the Dallas 17-yard line in the third quarter, and Brady's ugly interception into a swarm of defenders early in the fourth quarter.
"I just don't think we executed as well as we were capable," Brady said. "I feel like we're holding ourselves back. It's a lot of self-inflicted issues with communication, mental errors and then, ultimately, execution. At times, it was better than others. And when we needed it in a critical situation, we got it, so that's the most important part."
While Brady was prolific during his game-winning drive, it probably shouldn't have come to that.
Aside from the red-zone miscues and turnovers, the Patriots went three-and-out prior to their last possession and had to punt the ball back to Dallas with less than four minutes remaining in the game. That three-and-out started well, but things went downhill after BenJarvus Green-Ellis' three-yard loss on second-and-1 — an extremely rare occurrence for such a dependable runner — and no one got open on third down.
"We did a lot of things very poorly," left tackle Matt Light said. "Whether it was [the Cowboys] just making great plays and having the kind of guys that can make plays like that, or us just totally being asleep in certain situations, we've got to play better than that. We understand that."
Of course, the struggles were glossed over by Brady's game-winning drive. Brady wasn't exactly ecstatic during his postgame news conference, noting that it's a tad unhealthy to beat himself up after a victory and all, but the path to the win wasn't the easiest route to take.
In the same token, a handful of players on the offensive side said it was good for their team's character to get a win like this. It showed their mental toughness and validated their own confidence while sending a message to their opponents at the same time.
"Mistakes are going to happen in football," tight end Aaron Hernandez said. "Obviously, we had a few too many turnovers, but we kept fighting, and it shows our team. You can't leave any time left on the clock."