FOXBORO, Mass. — A wild and wacky game ended in walk-off fashion Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
After the New England Patriots came up empty on the opening drive of overtime, Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott connected with wide receiver CeeDee Lamb on a 35-yard touchdown pass that sent the Cowboys back to Texas with a 35-29 victory.
What went wrong on that game-deciding play? Why was Lamb, who beat cornerback Jalen Mills, so wide open? Multiple Patriots leaders offered explanations after the game.
According to veteran safety Devin McCourty, the Patriots had called an inopportune coverage for the play Dallas ran: a play-action rollout to Prescott’s right. McCourty and safety Kyle Dugger had tight ends Dalton Schultz and Blake Jarwin, respectively, well-covered underneath, but that particular coverage scheme provided no over-the-top help for Mills.
“We were in a tough call, I think, for the route they ran,” McCourty said. “They dialed up a good play for what we tried to do — kind of situational football. What they like to do — we tried to take it away, and Dak was able to hold it for a second. We kind of took the first two reads: the tight ends to the flat on our left side. But (Prescott) extended the play and got back to the middle, and that’s where we were kind of light at. And that was it.”
Head coach Bill Belichick viewed the play similarly.
“We covered a flat receiver, and then he just (hit) the over route with another extended play,” Belichick said. “Obviously didn’t play it well enough, didn’t coach it well enough.”
It also appeared to be simply a poor play by Mills, who looked sluggish as Lamb broke across the field. The second-year wideout quickly knew he’d gotten the better of the Patriots corner, sticking his hand up to call for the ball before he was even 10 yards downfield.
Fatigue could have been a factor at that stage of the game, as Dallas ran 89 offensive snaps to New England’s 54.
Lamb, who led all receivers with nine catches for 149 yards and two touchdowns, said he didn’t expect that final play to result in a walk-in touchdown.
“It wasn’t nothing fancy,” the 2020 first-round draft pick told reporters postgame. “It was kind of blown coverage. I saw it early, so I kind of sprinted to open field, hoping Dak saw me, and he did. … I was expecting somebody to come up behind me. I turned around to my left, and (Mills) was like three steps behind me. I was really surprised, and then I just walked in.”
Mills shoved Lamb to the ground after he crossed the goal line. Lamb stood up and waved at him.
Mills did not speak with reporters after the loss, which dropped the Patriots to 2-4 on the season.