The Dallas Cowboys played a good football game on the road against a New England Patriots team that is better than them, but they ultimately couldn't find a way to come out of the game with a victory.
Tony Romo threw for 317 yards and averaged 7.7 yards per attempt.
Miles Austin had seven catches; Dez Bryant and Jason Witten each had four.
The Cowboys defense forced the Patriots offense into four turnovers and held the Patriots to 2-of-4 in the red zone. They had been 17-of-26 on red-zone opportunities coming into the game.
They held Tom Brady to just 289 yards passing and just 7.05 yards per attempt. Brady came into the game averaging 374.8 passing yards per game on 9.56 yards per attempt.
They held Wes Welker to just 45 receiving yards on six catches—well below his nine-catch, 145-yard per-game averages.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who last week rushed for a career-high 136 yards and two touchdowns, was held to just 58 rushing yards on 14 carries and no touchdowns.
But none of it was enough.
Good game, bad result.
Terence Newman had a very strong game until the Patriots' last drive.
Brady had been 0-1 throwing at him with an interception—on a tipped pass—to that point, but he completed all three throws he attempted in Newman's direction on the last drive of the game for 36 yards. Newman also had a fumble recovery.
Mike Jenkins had a pretty bad day, as Brady was 4-4 for 37 yards and the game winning touchdown when throwing his way. He let Aaron Hernandez get body position on him for the game winning score.
Abe Elam and Gerald Sensabaugh did a good job of taking away Rob Gronkowski in the first half. He had just two catches for 21 yards. They lost him in the second half though, as the second year tight end got loose for five catches for 53 yards.
Aaron Hernandez had a pretty easy time getting open, and he was targeted 14 times and caught eight passes for 68 yards and the game winning score.
Orlando Scandrick is probably the Cowboys' best cover corner right now, but he can't cover Wes Welker, or anyone else on the Patriots. He was abused to the tune of 7-8 for 54 yards and a touchdown on the day.
They Cowboys held Brady below his season average in passing yards, kept Wes Welker in check with a season low in receiving yards and held the Patriots explosive passing attack to just two scores.
But they also allowed Tom Brady to go 8-of-10 for 106 yards on third downs. They let the Patriots walk right down the field for the game winning touchdown, and that can't be ignored.
So while the secondary didn't allow Tom Brady to go crazy, they didn't really do that great of a job in coverage, especially when it counted.
Dallas' linebackers did a nice job of keeping Tom Brady guessing as to which of them was blitzing for most of the day, but they inexplicably stopped blitzing in the fourth quarter—we'll cover this in the "Coaches" slide later on.
DeMarcus Ware was DeMarcus Ware. He had another two sacks and was generally wreaking havoc all over the pace. I've come to expect nothing less from him, and I recognize that I'm probably a little bit spoiled when two sacks becomes just another ho-hum day at the office.
Sean Lee continued his ascent to stardom with another double-digit tackle game (12), two tackles for loss, an interception and a pass defensed. He did get flattened by Brian Waters on a screen pass, but he had another very strong game.
Anthony Spencer had decent numbers, with seven tackles and two quarterback pressures, but he kept coming up just short on his pass rush and took a couple of bad penalties.
We had a Bradie James sighting this week, as the veteran, despite very little playing time, forced a fumble by Aaron Hernandez that was recovered by Terence Newman.
Victor Butler looks like a playmaker. He had four tackles, a tackle for loss and a knockdown of Brady. If Spencer isn't getting to the quarterback in time, and is taking penalties when he does, it may be time to give Butler a shot at more snaps.
But the linebackers have to share some of the responsibility for Hernandez and Gronkowski combining for 15 catches for 142 yards too.
Good, but not great by any measure, game from this group.
The defensive line had a quiet, but very solid day against a Patriots offensive line that is right up there with the best in the league.
The Pats averaged only 4.0 yards per carry and ran for just 101 yards a week after gashing the Jets' vaunted defensive unit for 152 rushing yards and two scores.
Kenyon Coleman had a deflection on the interception by Terence Newman.
Marcus Spears looked good in relief of the injured Jason Hatcher, and probably earned himself more playing time when Hatcher returns. Spears had four tackles, one for loss and sacked Brady once.
Jay Ratliff's name wasn't called very much early on, and the first time he made any significant impact came in the third quarter when he split the gap between the guard and center to force Brady into an incompletion. He had a strong second half with seven tackles and a hit on Brady.
This group didn't get any pressure on Brady at all on the last drive of the game when Rob Ryan stopped bringing pressure with the linebackers, which shouldn't be a surprise because they're not really pass rushers.
Defensive ends in 3-4 systems are normally better run defenders anyway, but that's especially true for the Cowboys. You have to give them help to get pressure on the quarterback.
This group had a rough day. They had two holding penalties called, and Kyle Kosier had another that wiped out a pass interference call in the end zone.
The Cowboys offensive line allowed Tony Romo to be sacked twice by a Patriots pass rush that is among the worst in the NFL. Romo was hit four times on the day and was forced into several rushed passes.
Doug Free continued his regression from last year's strong season with another poor performance today, and Tyron Smith wasn't much better.
Smith gave up a terrible sack in the red zone that moved the Cowboys off the goal line and led to them taking a field goal when they could have gotten a touchdown.
Phil Costa didn't lose any snaps today, so I guess that counts as an improvement.
The running game was pretty non existent today, and what yards the running backs were able to get they seemingly got without much help from the line. There were barely any holes for the Cowboys' backs to run through but they fought for extra yards all afternoon.
The Cowboys wound up running for 77 yards on 24 carries.
The offensive line did a nice job on pass protection on the drives where the Cowboys were in the no huddle, and I'm not really sure why they didn't stay with that strategy once it was working.
Bill Nagy was lost for the season due to a broken ankle, and it looks like Kevin Kowalski will be filling in at left guard for now; unless Derrick Dockery comes back from injury and immediately takes the starting spot.
That's No. 29 DeMarco Murray in the picture and not No. 28 starting running back Felix Jones, in case you didn't notice. Murray is pictured because he was the best Cowboys running back on the field today, which is sad because he ran just for 32 yards on 10 carries.
I'm ready to give up on Felix Jones ever becoming a feature back. He might not miss many games, but he's always leaving early with some kind of injury. He simply can't hold up over the course of a season.
It's probably good to figure this out because Jones seemed to be more effective when used in a limited role as Marion Barber's backup in his rookie season. He's been regressing since.
Jones ran strongly in the first half and turned some runs that should have been losses into minimal gains, but he didn't produce very much.
Tashard Choice had a strong eight yard run at one point, but he lost a fumble for the second time in his career in this one (I'm sure we all remember his first fumble). Choice would like to be more involved in the offense, but its mistakes like the fumble which keep Jason Garrett from giving him more opportunities.
Murray ran well with limited opportunities and I'd like to see him get more of a shot moving forward regardless of whether Felix Jones is going to miss any time with his ankle injury.
Miles Austin and Dez Bryant were on the field together for just the second time all season, and first since the opening week loss to the New York Jets.
They picked up right where they left off early in the game, as they repeatedly beat the Patriots corners on quick hitches and slants when they were getting a big cushion.
Dez Bryant had a strong first half with four catches for 78 yards, but he didn't catch any balls in the second half and was visibly frustrated with that. It's becoming far too commonplace for Bryant to produce in the first half but not the second. He has just two second half catches on the season, and they both came in the Washington game.
Miles continued to show excellent chemistry with Romo, as he caught seven of the 10 passes thrown his way for 78 yards, but he also had at least one drop that cost the Cowboys a first down.
Laurent Robinson and Kevin Ogletree each came up with big plays in the fourth quarter, as Robinson broke a tackle for a huge run after the catch and Ogletree hung onto the ball despite a big hit from Patrick Chung to set the Cowboys up with a first and goal.
Jason Witten didn't have a very strong game, despite the fact that he caught a touchdown. He struggled to get open for much of the day and finished with a season low four catches and 48 receiving yards.
Martellus Bennett caught two of the three passes thrown his way, but wasn't much of a factor. Third tight end John Phillips had a catch too.
Other than Miles Austin, no one in the Cowboys' pass catching crew had pretty numbers, and that's an accurate picture of how they played. Against a suspect-at-best Patriots secondary, they could have and should have had a much stronger day.
Tony Romo rebounded from a terrible start to the day to have a strong game. After Week 4's three-interception debacle, that was very much needed for the Cowboys signal-caller.
After throwing an interception on the opening drive, Romo went 25-38 for 291 yards and a touchdown to tight end Jason Witten.
He generally took what the defense gave him all day and made very few questionable decisions other than the early pick.
He led the Cowboys on a couple of very good, long drives, especially the one to end the first half. That drive lasted 11 plays, 93 yards and took over seven minutes off the clock.
Romo did a solid job of keeping the Patriots off balance by varying his snap counts. He checked to a different play at the line of scrimmage pretty often in this one, and most of the time he got them into a—presumably—better play.
I do have a bone to pick with Romo today, though: If you come to the line of scrimmage and recognize that Dez Bryant has a one on one matchup, you should nearly always give him a shot at a jump ball. I'm not sure how many times he has to come down with it in order to be given consistent opportunities in that area of the field.
The Lions run that play for Calvin Johnson nearly every time they get in the red zone and have great success. It's usually communicated through hand singles just between him and Matthew Stafford that they're going to change the play. Bryant has similar size and very strong hands just like Johnson and should be given the opportunity to make those type of plays.
Romo needs to recognize that matchup and change the play to get him the ball. He clearly has the freedom to do so, he checks out of plays all the time.
Dallas was just 1-3 in the red zone today. The converted four Patriots turnovers into just six points. You need touchdowns if you want to beat the New England Patriots on the road, and Dallas wasn't able to get them.
Overall, Romo had a strong game and put his team in a position to win with a late drive for a tie breaking field goal, but didn't do quite enough to win the game.
Joe DeCamillis' unit should be lambasted in the film room this week.
The special teams took four of the Cowboys' 10 penalties on the day, which is utterly inexcusable. You cannot expect to beat the New England Patriots in Foxborough if you're taking penalties on special teams.
Keith Brooking, Phillip Tanner, Antony Spencer and Barry Church were the culprits.
Yes, they forced a turnover on a kick return, but that was pretty fluky as Matthew Slater was barely hit when he fumbled the ball.
Dan Bailey continues to be excellent, as does Mat McBriar.
Grade for Bailey and McBriar: A
Grade for the rest of the Special Teams: F
Rob Ryan's defense played as well as you can possibly play against the New England Patriots offense. For 57 minutes.
For the first 57 minutes of the game, Rob Ryan and his defense had Tom Brady under siege. They sacked him twice and hit him four times, and they forced him into two interceptions.
They had held Wes Welker to four catches for 34 yards. They had held Aaron Hernandez to six for 44 and Rob Gronkowski to six for 63.
The Cowboys were stopping the run, bringing pressure and getting the job done. The explosive Patriots offense had been held to just 13 points.
But on the Patriots' last drive of the game, the Cowboys were in their prevent defense, and Brady walked the Pats right up the field for the game winning score.
This should surprise no one, because when Brady has time to throw, it's basically a free completion.
This should surprise no one, because the Cowboys' defensive backs have not been strong in coverage at all, and it's only because Dallas was getting pressure that they looked good earlier in the game.
Brady went 8-9 for 78 yards and the game winning score on the drive. Welker and Hernandez caught two passes each, and Gronkowski caught one.
Ryan's defense was also terrible on third down, where they allowed Brady to complete eight of 10 passes for 106 yards. As a defense you have to be able to get off the field and get the ball back for your offense.
The defense had a very good game, but they let up late and couldn't secure the victory.
I've said my piece about Garrett before, and I'm actually not going to lay much of the blame for this one at his feet. That doesn't mean he's blameless, though.
Obviously, not managing more than 16 points against a Patriots defense that is among the worst in the league is less than optimal. When the defense holds Tom Brady to just 20 points, you have to be able to pick up a win.
I am once again baffled by his goal line play calling. A shovel pass on third and goal in a tie game shows no confidence in your quarterback, who is the best player on the offense.
I continue to be mystified by the allergy to giving Dez Bryant a chance in the red zone and I still don't understand the infatuation with the shotgun draw on third and more than 15.
Garrett should also be held responsible for the fact that the Cowboys had 10 penalties, which is one of the things he set out to eliminate when the took the head coaching job.
You can criticize his conservative play-calling on the last drive before the Patriots' march down the field, but I'm not sure I will. Many will say he was playing not to lose the game, but if the offensive line does its job and opens a hole for DeMarco Murray or Tashard Choice, they Cowboys win the game with just one first down.
I was all over Garrett for not running the ball late in the game with the lead against the Lions, so I'm not going to sit here and do it again just because it backfired. At this point, after Tony Romo has already cost you two games with fourth quarter turnovers, its complete reasonable to trust Rob Ryan's defense more than Romo - after all, the defense had held the Patriots in check all game.
Garrett had the team in a position to win against a better team on the road, and that's kind of all you can ask for. Obviously, it came with the usual bumps in the road that you usually get from a Jason Garrett team: penalties, turnovers, questionable play calls and a loss in a game you probably should have won.