The New England Patriots beat the Houston Texans 25-22 to get back in the win column on Sunday. The Patriots picked up their second win of the season and will now get ready to host the Dallas Cowboys (4-1) this afternoon at Gillette Stadium. It wasn’t easy for the Patriots and they struggled with the Texans, but a win is a win.
The defense allowed Texans rookie quarterback Davis Mills to pass for 312 yards and three touchdowns. With the win, Bill Belichick improved his record to 23-6 against rookie quarterbacks. Mac Jones, a rookie quarterback himself, was 23-30 for 231 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
The Patriots, now 2-3, will take on the Cowboys who are currently leading the NFC East division. They are coming off a 44-20 win over the New York Giants. The current line has the Cowboys favored at -1. New England will have to play better than they did against the Texans to beat the Cowboys. Let’s take a look at their keys to victory.
Top Keys for a Patriots Victory
1. Limit Dak Prescott
Bill Belichick likes to take away a team’s best player and make someone else beat you. The Cowboys have Ezekiel Elliot, CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, and Tony Pollard. Their best player right now is quarterback Dak Prescott.
Prescott has bounced back from a gruesome ankle injury that cost him most of the 2020 season. He is off to a great start in 2021 and has completed 122 of 165 passes for 1,368 yards, with 13 touchdowns and three interceptions.
The Cowboy’s offense has been pretty good this season and is second in the NFL in total offense averaging 439.6 yards per game. The Patriot’s defense is fifth in total defense and is allowing 317.6 yards per game. They played the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week Four and kept Tom Brady in check for the most part.
They will have to limit Dak and hold the explosive Cowboys offense in check to win this game. The Patriots will not win a shootout against the Cowboys.
2. Establish The Run
The Cowboys have an explosive offense. So unless you have Brady, Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, or Matthew Stafford you do not want to get into a shootout with them. The best way to counter an explosive offense is to keep them on the sidelines.
The key to that is to establish the running game. The Patriots are fourth in the NFL in rushing offense at 146.6 yards per game. That is even without Trent Brown, who has been out since week one with a calf injury. Last week they were without four of their five starters on the offensive line, but still rushed for 126 yards.
Starting running back Damien Harris was injured last week. That means it may be Brandon Bolden and Rhamondre Stevenson getting the bulk of the carries. Stevenson, who had not played the last three games, had 11 carries but managed only 23 yards. If the Patriots can establish the run, it will keep the Cowboys’ offense on the sideline. This would then allow Mac Jones to take some shots downfield.
3. Bill Belichick
This Patriots team is not the juggernaut of the past but Bill Belichick is still in charge and he remains one of the greatest defensive minds in the league. Two weeks ago the Patriots took on the Buccaneers and he came up with a game plan that mostly kept Tom Brady in check. The Patriots would lose the game that was competitive until the very end. Belichick came up with some looks that confused Brady.
I think he will come up with something similar for Prescott. Look for them to play coverage and come with a pass rush occasionally. Matt Judon leads the Patriots with 6.5 sacks and has been their best pass rusher. If he can get to Prescott and sack him a couple of times that will go a long way in deciding this game. Dak is no Brady, but he is off to a hot start this season. By slowing him and the passing game down, they will force someone else to beat them. If the Patriots’ defense does this they will win.
This game will come down to whether or not the Patriot’s defense can slow down the Cowboy’s offense. The Cowboys have not beaten the Patriots since the 1996 season when Bill Parcells was leading the Patriots. I think this will be a tight game that would favor the Patriots. As much as it pains me to say is, with their defensive struggles and red zone woes, the Cowboys win a close one.
Cowboys 27 Patriots 24
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