IRVING, Texas - What they say is true. Everything is bigger and better in Texas, especially the Patriots offense.
It’s tough for a team that came in averaging a league-best 36.4 points per game to up the ante, but that’s exactly what the Patriots did yesterday with a 48-27 win over the Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium, the Patriots’ first ever in the edifice.
Befitting its Southwestern setting, the much-anticipated matchup between the two unbeatens turned into a shootout and the Patriots (6-0) were the only undefeated team left standing. The teams combined for 731 yards of total offense, 448 of which belonged to the Patriots, and 75 points.
But America’s Former Team was no match for its new one.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw a career-high five touchdown passes and finished 31 of 46 for 388 yards. Wide receiver Wes Welker, who played his college ball at Texas Tech, set career highs in catches (11) and receiving yards (124) and caught two touchdowns, doubling his career total, and Donte’ Stallworth led all Patriots receivers with seven catches for 136 yards and a back-breaking 69-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter that gave New England a 38-24 lead.
The Cowboys (5-1) ended up playing Texas fold ‘em when it really counted against New England, which scored its most points since hanging 50 on the Indianapolis Colts in a 50-17 win Nov. 18, 1984.
Can anyone stop the Patriots’ offense?
"I don’t really know. I don’t want to say yes. I don’t want to say no," said receiver Randy Moss, who broke his silence after the game. "We work hard that’s one thing. Tom Brady does not let us lollygag in practice. He wants the best out of us every day. If we can make it happen in practice against the defense we have then we can make it happen against anyone."
The Cowboys tried to slow the Patriots by pressuring Brady, whom they sacked three times, and standing a lot of players near the line of scrimmage to disguise where the pressure was coming from.
Save for a second-quarter strip sack by Cowboys linebacker Greg Ellis that Jason Hatcher turned into a touchdown that trimmed the Patriots’ lead to 14-10, it didn’t work.
Cornerback Ellis Hobbs, part of a defense that held the Cowboys to 283 yards of offense, 146 below their average, and 20 points, said there is no good defense for the Patriots offense.
"One-on-one coverage is not a good defense. Cover-2 might not be a good defense. Cover-5 might not be a good defense. You don’t know what to do, man," he said.
The Patriots were a gaudy 11 of 17 on third down, after going 2 for 12 last week against the Browns, and they were 4 for 4 on their first possession, which ended in a Moss 6-yard TD reception. Dallas was just 4 for 11 on third down and was hurt by its undisciplined play - 12 penalties for 98 yards.
"They just killed us on third down the whole game," said Dallas coach Wade Phillips. "We tried about everything we could do, almost every coverage and blitz. They seem to have an answer for everything, and that’s certainly the quarterback."
Dallas had no answers on offense in the first quarter, as the Patriots jumped to a 14-0 lead.
New England outgained the Cowboys, 144 yards to 23, in the first quarter. Dallas gained just 7 yards on its first three possessions and didn’t gain a first down until Marion Barber’s stiff-arming 13-yard run with less than a minute left in the first quarter.
But the Cowboys rallied to cut the New England lead to 21-17 at the half, as Terrell Owens, who didn’t record his first reception until early in the second quarter, hauled in a 12-yard touchdown with 46 seconds left before the half.
The showdown of diva 81s featuring Moss and Owens never really materialized. Moss had six catches for 59 yards and a TD and Owens had six catches for 66 yards and a score.
Entering the game, Moss had lit up the Cowboys like a Christmas tree, averaging 112.5 yards per game against them. In six games, he had caught 29 passes for 675 yards and 10 touchdowns. But the most important stat Moss has against the Cowboys is that his teams are now 7-0.
"Never in my career have I really gotten into that," said Moss. "You are the media. You know who TO is. I just wanted to do what I could to help my team win this game. I didn’t want to feed off what he was saying [or not saying] or the hype over the game between the 81s. I’ve got a job to do and that’s to try to catch touchdowns and get first downs. That’s what I tried to do today."
Former Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin, who received his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring during halftime, pronounced to the Texas Stadium throng that the Glory Days are back in Dallas.
It appeared that way when the Cowboys pulled ahead of the Patriots, 24-21, early in the third quarter on Patrick Crayton’s 8-yard touchdown reception, the first time this season New England had trailed in the second half. But the Glory Days were short-lived as the Patriots roared back, outscoring the Cowboys, 27-3, the rest of the way.
Brady threw his fourth TD pass of the game, a 1-yarder to Kyle Brady with 4:56 left in the third that put New England back on top and allowed him to pass Drew Bledsoe (166 career TD passes) for second place on the team’s all-time list.
Then, following a 45-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal, Stallworth put the game away with his 69-yard scoring reception, shedding Jacques Reeves.
"I thought we played a good second half of football," said coach Bill Belichick. "That was a big drive after they took the lead, no doubt they had a lot of momentum at the end of the second quarter and then in the third after they stopped us, and then we got back on the board."
Rodney Harrison said it’s refreshing to have an Indianapolis-style offense.
"I’ve played against some pretty good quarterbacks: John Elway, Dan Marino, I think even Joe Montana," said Harrison. "I’ve really had a chance to play against some Hall of Fame quarterbacks and Tom he is definitely in the same class of those guys. Tom is really in the zone."
So, are the Patriots - the end zone.