Wealth at QB, WR for Pats dooms Cowboys to first loss

By Anthony Bialy  |   Sunday, October 14, 2007  |  Comments( 4 )

Dallas Cowboys
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Football at its simplest revolves around striking a balance between rushing and passing, or stopping same. But in Week 6, the New England Patriots successfully pulled off a modified version of moderation: They indeed achieved equilibrium, but it was between one receiver and the other, not between different modes of gaining ground. Tom Brady's insane afternoon along with the virtually unstoppable play of two of his wideouts, surprisingly neither of whom is named Randy, meant the Cowboys lost by 21 despite scoring 27.

Brady staggered the Dallas secondary with mountainously impressive numbers: He piled up 388 yards, including five touchdowns and no picks. For many quarterbacks, such a huge distance gained passing would actually coincide with poor results for his side: It would be indicative of either a trailing team desperately emphasizing airborne plays to get back in a game or just an offensive coordinator enamored with his passer's arm.

The most notable example of the latter and sometimes the former would be the previous starter for both teams, Drew Bledsoe. But for his replacement in Massachusetts, it just meant he was hitting receivers in stride between confounded members of Dallas' backfield.

The Cowboys were hurt the most by an excused absence. Cornerback Anthony Henry's inactive status for the second straight game thanks to his injured ankle ended up being a brutal setback in the fruitless attempt to slow the Patriots. His ability to generate turnovers of course couldn't be matched by his replacement, Jacques Reeves, who had a total of one start before this season. That's about what should be expected of a 2004 seventh-round pick; unfortunately, Reeves was thrown into a patently unfair situation where he had to try to slow a wide receiver corps that wasn't interested in being held back.

Donte' Stallworth was the primary beneficiary of an all-world quarterback picking on a depleted secondary, going for 136 yards on seven grabs. He has a nice career mark of 15.2 yards per catch, and Sunday's total bettered that at 19.4, as none of Dallas' defenders could match his speed.

The Cowboys also didn't have an answer for the diminutive Wes Welker, who ended the day with 11 catches for 124 yards and a pair of scores. The amazing thing about Welker is that this was his first 100-yard game; his ability to generate highlight footage has been more notable than his games in total, but New England is getting a lot out of him, as it tends to do. When faced with a Dallas zone coverage, Welker often sped past the respective occupants of each territory, using a pure athletic ability to exploit weak spots.

Up at the line of scrimmage, the Cowboys did manage three sacks, which would superficially appear to mean they found success in pressuring the quarterback. But Brady had 46 pass attempts, meaning the number of times Dallas rushers brought him down as a percentage is relatively small.

If reporters had told members of the Cowboys' defense before this game that they would limit their opponent to 75 total rushing yards while concurrently holding Randy Moss to 59 yards, the players would have been universally happy. But we saw that a team dedicated to success at only one of the game's dimensions can still inflict a blowout if it has proper weaponry in its arsenal and a willingness to stick with what works. Dallas simply didn't have the speed or quantity of quality defensive backs to match its adversary.

Dallas shouldn't feel ashamed for falling to unarguably one of the two best teams in the league and, alongside the Colts, arguably the best. At the same time, Wade Phillips and his staff will be left with the specific task of minimizing the cushiness of this team's air defense and the general assignment of rising from being a very good team to the status of an elite one. The most apparent thing to take away from Sunday's game is the fact the Cowboys have been currently relegated to still respectable but clearly lower tier when matched up with the best the league has to offer.
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About Anthony Bialy

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