The New England Patriots’ defense showed their potential Sunday. Now they’ll just need to keep it up against better competition.
The Patriots’ defense forced six three-and-outs and two turnovers, and they didn’t allow a single touchdown in the 30-6 win over the Dallas Cowboys. One has to consider the competition, however. The Cowboys were without starting quarterback Tony Romo and No. 1 receiver Dez Bryant, and their receiving corps took a further hit when Brice Butler suffered a hamstring injury last week. Pass-catching running back Lance Dunbar was lost for the season last week.
Backup quarterback Brandon Weeden was targeting receivers Terrence Williams, Cole Beasley, Devin Street, running back Darren McFadden and tight end Jason Witten, but the Patriots’ defense responded accordingly by shutting down the Cowboys’ offense.
Check out this week’s advanced stats:
Tarell Brown: 4-6, 30 yards, illegal use of hands
Jerod Mayo: 2-2, 26 yards
Jamie Collins: 3-3, 25 yards
Malcolm Butler: 1-4, 17 yards, PBU
Justin Coleman: 1-1, 13 yards, illegal contact
Devin McCourty: 2-4, -1 yards
Patrick Chung: 1-3, 6 yards, PBU, defensive holding
Logan Ryan: 1-3, 3 yards INT
Rob Ninkovich: 0-2
Chandler Jones: PBU
— Butler shadowed Terrance Williams for most of the game and allowed just one catch to the Cowboys’ de facto wide receiver. Butler got lucky late in the fourth quarter, when he bit on an in route, then Williams kept going for end zone fade. Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden overthrew Williams, and it went for an incompletion.
— McCourty wears a lot of hats as the Patriots’ highest paid defender. He plays free safety when he’s playing next to Patrick Chung and he comes down to play near the line of scrimmage when Duron Harmon is on the field. He spent much of Sunday’s game covering tight end Jason Witten and allowed just one reception for 2 yards.
— Logan Ryan was an unsung hero, allowing just 3 yards and pulling in an interception. Tarell Brown and Justin Coleman also played well at cornerback.
— The Patriots dropped into zone late in the fourth quarter when Weeden dink and dunked down the field. Since no one was individually covering the Cowboys’ running backs on those plays, they weren’t counted against one player.
Malcolm Butler: 13-20, 257 yards, 3 TDs, INT, 4 PBUs
Bradley Fletcher: 7-10, 124 yards, 1 TD, 1 DPI
Logan Ryan: 9-14, 91 yards, INT
Tarell Brown: 7-14, 70 yards
Justin Coleman: 3-5, 70 yards
Jamie Collins: 9-14, 59 yards
Devin McCourty: 5-8, 48 yards, INT
Jerod Mayo: 4-4, 49 yards
Dont’a Hightower: 4-7, 39 yards
Patrick Chung: 5-12, 30 yards, PBU, pass interference
Rob Ninkovich: 3-5, 25 yards
Jonathan Freeny: 2-2, 11 yards
Jordan Richards: 1-3, 6 yards, TD
Duron Harmon: 2 INTs
Chandler Jones: PBU
Jabaal Sheard: two sacks, one QB hit, two hurries
Chandler Jones: one QB hit, one hurry
Rob Ninkovich: two hurries
Dont’a Hightower: one sack
Malcom Brown: one hurry
Dominique Easley: one hurry
Jamie Collins: drew holding penalty
— Jamie Collins had a sack called back because of a defensive holding penalty by Jabaal Sheard.
— Dont’a Hightower injured his ribs midway through the third quarter. Jonathan Freeny replaced him in the game.
— Sheard continues to impress as a pass rusher and run defender. He leads the Patriots’ defenders in total pressures.
Jabaal Sheard: 18 pressures, four sacks, two QB hits, 12 hurries
Chandler Jones: 12 pressures, three sacks, three QB hits, six hurries
Jamie Collins: nine pressures, 3.5 sacks, one QB hit, four hurries
Rob Ninkovich: nine pressures, one sack, one QB hit, seven hurries
Dont’a Hightower: seven pressures, 2.5 sacks, four hurries
Alan Branch: two pressures, one sack, one hurry
Geneo Grissom: two pressures, one QB hit, one hurry
Malcom Brown: one pressure, one sack
Logan Ryan: one pressure, one QB hit
Sealver Siliga: one pressure, one hurry
Rufus Johnson: one pressure, one hurry
Justin Coleman: one pressure, one hurry
Dominique Easley: one pressure, one hurry
Nate Solder: 2 sacks, 3 QB hits
Sebastian Vollmer: 1 sack, 1 QB hit, 2 hurries
Marcus Cannon: 1 sack, 1 QB hit, 1 hurry
Josh Kline: 1 sack, 1 hurry
David Andrews: 1 hurry
— The Patriots’ offensive line had issues attempting to block defensive end Greg Hardy early in the game.
— The Patriots allowed just two pressures in the second half after they made some offensive adjustments. Quarterback Tom Brady began to get rid of the ball faster.
— Neither rookie guard, Shaq Mason or Tre’ Jackson, allowed a pressure. The Patriots continued to rotate their offensive line.
Nate Solder: three sacks, three QB hits, 10 hurries
Marcus Cannon: two sacks, one QB hit, 10 hurries
Sebastian Vollmer: two sacks, two QB hits, seven hurries
Shaq Mason: sack, two QB hits, two hurries
David Andrews: one sack, two QB hits, one hurry
Josh Kline: one sack, two QB hits, two hurries
Tre’ Jackson: one QB hit, one hurry
Tom Brady: one sack
Dion Lewis: one sack
Brady managed to go another game without a turnover. He threw just seven incompletions, and the Patriots didn’t suffer a drop for the first time this season.
Three incompletions can be credited to the Cowboys’ defense, three were inaccurate passes by Brady and one can be blamed on the offensive line.
Brady was 2 for 3 on passes that traveled over 15 yards in the air. He missed Matthew Slater on go route, hit Keshawn Martin over the middle of the field and Edelman for a 59-yard touchdown.
Here are Brady’s incompletions, tracked:
1. Under pressure
2. David Lee PBU
4. Tipped at the line
5. Thrown behind Rob Gronkowski
6. Thrown out of bounds on go route to Matthew Slater
7. Tipped at the line of scrimmage
Thumbnail photo via Kevin Hoffman/USA TODAY Sports Images