The Patriots entered their Week 4 game against the Cowboys as underdogs, but they surely hoped things would go better than Sunday’s abysmal 38-3 loss at AT&T Stadium.
New England trailed 28-3 at halftime, suffered multiple key injuries, and benched Mac Jones during one of the worst defeats in Bill Belichick’s history with the team.
Jones completed 12 of 21 pass attempts for 150 yards. He lost a fumble deep in Patriots territory that Dallas’ Leighton Vander Esch easily scooped up and ran into the end zone in the second quarter. Later in the quarter, Jones threw a poor pass that Cowboys cornerback Daron Bland picked off and returned 54 yards for another TD.
By the late third quarter, the Patriots had seen enough, and subbed in Bailey Zappe at quarterback.
Meanwhile, the Dallas offense capitalized on a New England defense beset by injuries. Rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez left the game with a shoulder injury early; Dak Prescott hit top receiver CeeDee Lamb for a touchdown immediately after Gonzalez went to the sidelines. With the game already out of reach, Matthew Judon then suffered an elbow injury during the fourth quarter.
The Patriots fall to 1-3 with the loss. Next week they’ll take on the 2-2 Saints in Foxborough.
Read more about the Patriots’ loss to the Cowboys
- Cowboys 38, Patriots 3: Nothing goes right in worst loss of Bill Belichick’s career
- Bill Belichick said the Patriots are better than their 1-3 record. Against the Cowboys, they didn’t show it.
- Instant analysis: Patriots’ blowout loss to Cowboys is what happens with a physically limited quarterback such as Mac Jones
- Bill Belichick backs Mac Jones as starter despite benching him
- Patriots’ defense takes some huge hits with the losses of Christian Gonzalez and Matthew Judon
Cowboys 38, Patriots 3: How it happened
Matt Judon reportedly suffers torn bicep — 8:55 p.m.
ESPN reports pass rusher Matt Judon suffered a lower bicep tendon tear when he was injured late in the game.
Patriots’ standout pass rusher Matthew Judon suffered a lower bicep tendon tear during today’s loss in Dallas, per source. How much time he will be sidelined for still is being evaluated.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 2, 2023
Bill Belichick backs Mac Jones — 8:30 p.m.
By Ethan Fuller
Bill Belichick was curt after his worst defeat as a head coach, but he made one thing clear in his postgame press conference following Sunday’s 38-3 Patriots loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Belichick said he did not bench Mac Jones late in the game due to the quarterback’s performance.
“There was no point in leaving him out there, so I took him out,” Belichick said.
Jones completed 12 of 21 passes for 150 yards but had three turnovers: including a lost fumble that Dallas recovered for a touchdown, a pick-six, and another interception. Bailey Zappe replaced Jones in the third quarter.
When asked if Jones would start next week against the Saints, Belichick had the same response.
“Yeah, I just said, there was no point in leaving him in the game.”
How was Jones’s benching different from other key Patriots players who stayed in the game late?
“I mean, you’ve got to put somebody out there,” Belichick said.
Belichick didn’t reveal much regarding his thoughts on Jones’s performance either, reiterating the same point that the Patriots have to improve across the board as a team.
“We didn’t do anything well enough as a team,” he said. “That includes everybody. Coaches, players, offense, defense, special teams — there wasn’t anything that was good enough.”
What Mac Jones had to say after that brutal loss — 8:15 p.m.
Mac on concern about starting status and the upcoming week:
“I think it’ll be a good test just for me, just trying to stay focused on what I can control, and that’s playing better. Just got to evaluate everything, and it wasn’t my day to day. Hopefully there’s better days ahead.”
On if this is a low point for him:
“Depends on how you look at it I think, for sure. I’m very competitive, and I put a lot into it and I feel really bad. I let my team down, let the coaches down, the whole organization, everybody, the fans. We’ve got a great fan base and I’ve got to put a better product out there to beat good teams. So I’m going to take the positive route as best as I can, and hopefully it brings the best out of me.”
On how he can reset and get on track:
“I think just focus on the basic fundamentals of football, and yeah, it really just wasn’t a great day. I’m not going to let it carry over to the next week. It’s going to be done after I watch the film. So, definitely disappointed but at the end of the day, I’m gonna keep grinding and hopefully the guys will will come with me. It’s hard right for me to sit up here and say that, I’m very disappointed in myself, but I’ve got to bounce back.”
On what went wrong with the turnovers:
“I have to watch the film and see what I can do better, but definitely not going to beat anybody good when I’m turning it over like that.”
Wise vouches for Jones — 8:00 p.m.
Deatrich Wise Jr. on Mac Jones
“I’m very confident in Mac. Listen, Mac is a worker. He’s a competitor. He tries to make plays. Sometimes, when you try to make plays, it doesn’t always go your way. But he’s been here three years, he’s made some great plays in his career; this game is one of those games that just happens. But we’re still behind him, we’ll still be behind him tomorrow and the day after that, and I believe in him 100 percent.”
Ben Volin’s instant analysis — 7:50 p.m.
By Ben Volin
Sunday’s embarrassing loss wasn’t simply the result of a poor day from quarterback Mac Jones. It was a stark illustration of Jones’s physical limitations, and how much they are holding back the Patriots’ offense.
As Bill Belichick told Julian Edelman on the field after beating the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, “It’s a player’s game.” For a young quarterback to thrive in today’s NFL, he needs to have at least one “plus” trait — size or speed or arm strength. Jones has none.
Jones doesn’t have a strong arm, and twice Sunday he was intercepted on weak throws to the sideline. His first interception, a pick-6 by DaRon Bland in the second quarter, was an especially poor decision, throwing all the way to the left sideline from the right hash. Only big, strapping quarterbacks such as Josh Allen and Justin Herbert can make that throw. Jones definitely can not, and should know better.
Jones isn’t a fast runner, either, and it cost the Patriots on a sack in the second quarter. Jones tried to escape the pass rush, but Dante Fowler caught him from behind and knocked out the ball, resulting in an 11-yard fumble return touchdown for Leighton Vander Esch.
And Jones isn’t big, listed at 6 feet 3 inches and 214 pounds. The Patriots tried to convert a fourth and 1 with the “Tush Push” play that is taking over the NFL, but Jones was stuffed.
Jones was responsible for both of the Cowboys’ defensive touchdowns. On top of that, he was skittish in the pocket and had no feel for the game, and was mercifully benched for Bailey Zappe late in the third quarter.
But the blowout loss was no anomaly for the Patriots. That is what happens when you have a quarterback who is physically limited.
David Andrews on the turnovers — 7:40 p.m.
David Andrews: “We gave them, 21 points I guess, off of turnovers. Can’t win in this league — you can’t win at any level — doing that. So [we] get behind early, get really behind against a really good front, really talented defense [and] good offense. Can’t win. Not a recipe for success at any level.”
Worst loss in Belichick’s history — 7:30 p.m.
Belichick’s previous worst loss as Patriots coach was a September 2003 31-0 loss to the Bills.
This one’s over — 7:20 p.m.
Cowboys and Patriots are waiting out the clock.
Dallas scores again — 7:05 p.m.
It’s 38-3, Cowboys.
I miss the hope around Malik Cunningham. — Finn
Matt Judon goes down with injury — 6:50 p.m.
And it somehow gets worse for the Patriots. Matthew Judon has now gone down with an apparent injury while the Cowboys chew off clock early in the fourth quarter.
Judon had reached out his right arm in an attempt to tackle Deuce Vaughn, but had his arm pulled back awkwardly during the play. He then headed to the blue medical tent after being down for an extended period. — Fuller
End of third quarter: Cowboys 31, Patriots 3 — 6:47 p.m.
Mac Jones was relieved by Bailey Zappe late in the third quarter. Jones’s final line was 12-for-21 for 150 yards and a pair of interceptions.
Compared to the first two quarters, the third quarter was a breeze for New England, which yielded only three points. Problem is, it wasn’t enough for the Patriots to simply tread water at this point, as the field goal turned a 28-3 game into a 31-3 contest.
At this point in the game, if you’re the Patriots, you’re looking for small victories. Those include third-quarter sacks from Jahlani Tavai and Deatrich Wise, Jr. — Price
Jones benched for Zappe — 6:40 p.m.
Bailey Zappe is in at quarterback. Zappe completed one of his three pass attempts on his first drive, hitting DeVante Parker for 11 yards. It was another quick possession for New England and another punt. — Fuller
Pats turning to a quarterback who no one claimed on waivers at the end of camp.
(And it’s the right thing to do.) — Finn
Patriots offense goes nowhere again, and Zappe is warming up — 6:30 p.m.
It’s another three and out and punt for the Patriots.
Mac Jones is struggling, but so is the run game, with just 43 total rushing yards on 18 carries and zero double-digit runs.
Bailey Zappe is warming up after the Patriots punted.
Cowboys tack on a field goal — 6:25 p.m.
Cowboys 31, Patriots 3 | 7:42 3rd quarter
Dak Prescott is dissecting the Patriots defense. He’s 23 of 28 on completions so far, and on the Cowboys’ most recent scoring drive, he hit Michael Gallup for 19 yards to convert on third down. Dallas again failed to maximize its red zone chance, settling for a 33-yard field goal from Brandon Aubrey.
Christian Gonzalez (shoulder) out for game, Jones adds insult to injury — 6:15 p.m.
Hunter Henry made a remarkable one-handed diving catch — while fighting through defensive holding — on a quality pass from Mac Jones to pick up 21 yards on third down. That was about all she wrote on New England’s first drive of the half.
On a fourth-down conversion attempt, Mac Jones threw his second interception of the game, again to DaRon Bland.
The Patriots also ruled Christian Gonzalez out for the remainder of the game with a shoulder injury.
• Not sure if we found the bottom quite yet — within a couple of minutes of each other, the Patriots officially announced that cornerback Christian Gonzalez (shoulder) has been ruled out for the rest of the game, and Mac Jones tossed his second interception of the day. — Price
Halftime analysis — 6:05 p.m.
Two quarters are in the books here at AT&T Stadium, and the Patriots are in danger of suffering their biggest blowout in recent memory, trailing 28-3.
Mac Jones: 9 for 16, 122, 1 interception
Rhamondre Stevenson: 7 carries, 15 yards
Demario Douglas: 1 catch, 1 target, 42 yards
Dak Prescott: 19 for 22, 196 yards, 1 TD
Tony Pollard: 7 carries, 26 yards
Jake Ferguson: 6 catches, 6 targets, 73 yards
• Let’s start with the good, because there’s not much of it. The biggest highlight likely came when Jones and Douglas connected on a 42-yard pass play in the first quarter that set the Patriots up with their first score of the game, a 29-yard field goal from Chad Ryland that tied the game, 3-3. Defensively, the positives came in the red zone, where New England had a pair of stops that forced the Cowboys to kick two field goals. And they didn’t allow a sack to Micah Parsons. (At one point, the Patriots had three guys — right guard Mike Onwenu, right tackle Vederian Lowe, and running back Rhamondre Stevenson — blocking Parsons.)
• The bad? All right, settle in, because there’s a lot to consider. Starting with the quarterback, because it was the sort of game that makes you wonder if Bill Belichick would consider going to Bailey Zappe to start the second half. Jones is lucky to have only tossed one pick so far.
• The Patriots were already perilously thin at cornerback, and their situation got even dicier when Christian Gonzalez went down with what looked like a right shoulder injury when he was trying to tackle Pollard with a little less than two minutes left in the first half. Gonzalez went right to the blue medical tent, and then to the locker room. (Small wonder that Prescott went right after Myles Bryant for Dallas’ first touchdown of the game one play later) With just under 12 minutes left in the half, New England announced that Gonzalez’s return was questionable.
The Patriots were already without Jonathan Jones, Marcus Jones, and Jack Jones, and so when you subtract the reigning AFC Defensive Rookie of the Week from the equation, you can see why things would go from bad to much worse. Bryant is a good third or fourth option, but he is what he is. When he’s your No.1 corner, going wire-to-wire and trying to body up the likes of Lamb in the red zone, it’s going to be a struggle. New England was trying to mix and match in the secondary after Gonzalez left, particularly with veteran Jalen Mills, but the Patriots still struggled to make it work.
• The Cowboys then took it to 18-3 on an awful sequence for New England. It started with a minus-2-yard punt return from Douglas deep in his own end, and was followed up with Onwenu’s second false start of the first half to bury them even deeper in their own end. It was capped by a strip sack of Mac and a scoop and score from Dallas’ Leighton Vander Esch. The Cowboys put the exclamation point on the whole miserable sequence with some trickeration on a two-point conversion, making it 18-3 with 11:09 left in the first half.
• After a field goal, Jones tossed a pick-6 with less than a minute left in the first half. DaRon Bland jumped a quick out for Kendrick Bourne and took it 54 yards for the touchdown to make it 28-3. (The irony of the fact that Cowboys’ defensive coordinator, Dan Quinn, was the head coach of the Falcons for Super Bowl LI was not lost.)
• Three of the four penalties against New England in the first half went against Onwenu: two false starts and one holding. Just an abysmal stretch for the Patriots’ best all-around offensive lineman.
• The running game was mostly forgettable — Elliott’s 9-yard gain was the longest of the first half for the Patriots. The passing game wasn’t much better. Douglas delivered the 42-yard reception, which was one of five plays that went for more than 10 yards for New England in the first half.
• The Patriots got a 29-yard field goal from Chad Ryland for the special teams’ highlight for the first two quarters. The lowlight was the negative punt return from Douglas early in the second quarter that started the miserable stretch for New England. Not sure if that poor choice was the only reason, but Ty Montgomery stepped into the lead returner role in the second quarter.
• The Patriots will get the ball to start the second half. Not sure if it’s going to matter. — Price
Halftime: Cowboys 28, Patriots 3 — 5:55 p.m.
The Patriots went 3-and-out on their last drive of the half and it could have been worse. Jones hurled a ball at point-blank range to Cowboys safety Jayron Kearse, though Kearse wasn’t ready for it.
Mac throws a pick-6, and it’s getting ugly — 5:30 p.m.
Cowboys 28, Patriots 3 | 0:54 2nd quarter
Mac Jones made a risky throw to Kendrick Bourne on the left side after scrambling to his right, but it worked, with Bourne bobbling and securing the ball for a 16-yard gain. Jones hit Hunter Henry over the middle for a big third-down conversion coming out of the two-minute warning. And then things unraveled again.
Jones thew another late right-to-left pass to Bourne, and Cowboys cornerback DaRon Bland was all over it, taking an easy interception 54 yards for a Dallas touchdown.
A Cowboys injury update: Micah Parsons returned to the field after tweaking his knee the previous drive and taking a short stay on the sidelines.
• Greg Olsen, on Mac thinking — mistakenly — that he could make an across-the-field throw again: “Just late with the ball across the field, you can’t make that throw. And even if you get away with it earlier, to come back and test those waters again …” It’s about as close as a color analyst will come to calling a QB a moron. — Finn
Dallas extends lead — 5:30 p.m.
Cowboys 21, Patriots 3 | 4:03 2nd quarter
We’re seeing a theme with the Cowboys offense: Dominance between the 20s, but more red zone struggles. After several large chunk plays, Dallas got the ball down to New England’s 5-yard line, but no further. Aubrey booted a 23-yard field goal through to pad the lead with 4:03 left in the first half.
Patriots go three-and-out — 5:25 p.m.
The Patriots don’t get much going on their next drive with a quick three-and-out. Cowboys star linebacker Micah Parsons was injured during the drive, though, and struggled to put weight on his left leg as he hobbled to the sideline.
Cowboys scoop and score, and salt the wound — 5:15 p.m.
Cowboys 18, Patriots 3 | 11:09 2nd quarter
Mac Jones is stripped from behind, and Leighton Vander Esch takes it 10 yards for the touchdown. The two-point conversion on a fake kick was good, making it 18-3 with 11:09 left in the first half. A brutal sequence for the Patriots. — Price
• Terrible awareness by Mac. Between the Gonzalez injury and the offense’s performance, this couldn’t be going much worse. — Finn
Gonzalez (shoulder) questionable to return — 5:15 p.m.
By Nicole Yang
Patriots rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez suffered a shoulder injury in the first quarter against Dallas.
The team listed him as questionable to return.
Gonzalez hurt his right shoulder while tackling Cowboys running back Tony Pollard near the sideline after a 5-yard run. Gonzalez stayed down on the field before quickly trying to make his way back to his spot on the field. But he couldn’t do so, and crouched down in pain.
Patriots athletic trainers ran out onto the field to attend to Gonzalez, who eventually walked off the field without assistance and immediately visited the blue medical tent. He spent five minutes in the tent before heading back to the locker room. On his way, Gonzalez kept his right arm close to his body and also flexed his fingers.
Gonzalez did not return to the field for New England’s ensuing defensive drive.
Losing Gonzalez for any period of time would be a major hit to the Patriots, as he’s played a major role in helping the secondary contain opposing receivers. Entering Sunday, Gonzalez had been on the field for all but one of the team’s defensive snaps (99.48 percent).
Also troubling for the Patriots is the fact that their cornerback depth is significantly depleted. Jonathan Jones missed his third straight game on Sunday (ankle), while Marcus Jones (torn labrum) and Jack Jones (hamstring) are both on injured reserve.
In Gonzalez’s absence, Myles Bryant, Jalen Mills, and Shaun Wade are likely to get more snaps at cornerback.
Patriots get a stop — 5:10 p.m.
That stop was just what the doctor ordered, a defensive stand that was capped by a third-down sack from Josh Uche. — Price
Patriots turn it over on downs — 5:05 p.m.
Mike Onwenu was flagged for a false start that turned a third and 10 into a third and 15. A third-down pass from Mac to JuJu Smith-Schuster that went for 14 yards set them up with fourth and short, but a failed fourth-down sneak from Mac gave the ball back to the Cowboys.
Dallas takes over with 13:43 left in the half and a 10-3 lead. This feels like an especially tenuous spot in the game for the Patriots, who need to hold here to avoid seeing this one start to get out of hand. — Price
• David Andrews is not Jason Kelce on those QB sneaks. — Finn
End of first: Cowboys 10, Patriots 3 — 5:00 p.m.
It’s 10-3 Dallas at the end of one quarter.
Best moment of the first quarter for the Patriots: The 42-yard pass from Mac Jones to Demario Douglas that set up New England’s first score.
The worst moment of the first quarter for the Patriots: Christian Gonzalez going down with what looked like a shoulder injury with just under two minutes left in the first quarter. He went to the locker room.
Mac Jones: 4 of 5 passing, 75 yards
Ezekiel Elliott: 2 carries, 13 yards
Demario Douglas: 1 catch, 1 target, 42 yards
Cowboys reclaim the lead — 4:55 p.m.
Cowboys 10, Patriots 3 | 1:30 1st quarter
It wasn’t the only reason, but it probably wasn’t coincidental that Dak Prescott found CeeDee Lamb for a 20-yard touchdown pass right after Christian Gonzalez left the game because of what looked like a right shoulder injury. Gonzalez hadn’t been traveling with Lamb, but Prescott did well to find the mismatch with the rookie Gonzalez out — in this case, Myles Bryant — to connect for the score that gave Dallas a 10-3 lead with 1:30 to go in the first quarter. — Price
• Bryant’s No. 27 might as well have been a bull’s-eye. — Finn
Christian Gonzalez goes down — 4:50 p.m.
Christian Gonzalez went down with what appeared to be a right shoulder injury while he was making a tackle on Dallas running back Tony Pollard with 1:44 to go in the first quarter.
Gonzalez went down and stayed down for a couple of minutes before getting up and running off the field. He went immediately to the blue medical tent. — Price
Patriots strike back — 4:45 p.m.
Patriots 3, Cowboys 3 | 6:41 1st quarter
The 42-yard catch-and-run from Mac Jones to Demario Douglas — capped by the little shake near the end of the run on Cowboys’ defensive back Donovan Wilson — might have been one of the most impressive plays of the year for the New England offense. (There was a loud “Whooaaa!” in AT&T Stadium after that move was shown on the video board.)
The Patriots tie it up with a 29-yard attempt from Chad Ryland. There’s 6:41 to go in the first quarter. — Price
• On the Fox broadcast, Kevin Burkhardt said that Mac “dropped the pass in there” on the incompletion to Mike Gesicki. He probably should have had it — he did get one mitt on it — but it looked to me like another instance of a Patriots pass catcher having to wait a beat too long for the ball to get there. — Finn
Tough start for the defense — 4:40 p.m.
Rough start for the New England defense, which yielded some big chunk plays to Dallas on that drive but stiffened in the red zone. Dallas delivered with a 23-yard field goal from Brandon Aubrey to make it 3-0 with 10:52 left in the first quarter. — Price
Not a great start for my “legitimately excellent Patriots defense” theory, but keeping Dallas to 3 after the way that drive began — the Cowboys picked up 53 yards on their first three plays — counts as a minor victory. — Finn
Cowboys strike first — 4:35 p.m.
Cowboys 3, Patriots 0 | 10:52 1st quarter
The Cowboys’ offense clicked quickly on their first drive as Dak Prescott hit Michael Gallup for 28 yards and Jalen Tolbert for 18 yards. But scoring in the red zone has been a problem for Dallas. After working the ball to a first and goal from the Patriots’ 3-yard line, the Cowboys couldn’t punch it in, and had to settle for a 23-yard field goal from Brandon Aubrey.
Finn’s predictions — 4:10 p.m.
Patriots player to watch: Rhamondre Stevenson. Ezekiel Elliott’s homecoming will get all the attention in Dallas, and he is coming off a strong 80-yard rushing performance. But it’s imperative that Stevenson, who should be the Patriots’ most dynamic offensive player but is averaging just 2.9 yards per carry, gets going against a Cowboys run defense that allowed 222 yards to the Cardinals.
Cowboys player to watch: Micah Parsons. He’s the most destructive defensive force in the NFL. He has four sacks in three games, impressive enough given the attention he draws. Even more impressive? He has 20 quarterback hurries. Twenty. He will make a big play at some point. The Patriots cannot allow that to become plural.
Final score: Patriots 26, Cowboys 24. I didn’t get into this in my preview too much, but Mike McCarthy has made the Cowboys’ offense more boring and, at least last week, less effective. If nothing else, this is going to be the week when people start realizing the Patriots defense is legitimately excellent.
Price’s predictions — 4:10 p.m.
Patriots player to watch: Ezekiel Elliott. Between his return to Dallas and the Cowboys’ occasionally leaky run defense, he sets up to be the single most compelling guy on the field Sunday.
Cowboys player to watch: Micah Parsons. The Cowboys’ premier defender, if he can successfully get after Mac Jones on Sunday, it’ll change the tone of the game.
Final score: With some help from their special teams, the Patriots pull the upset on an overhyped Dallas team, 24-21.
All eyes on Prescott — 4:05 p.m.
Dak Prescott has been under constant scrutiny since he entered the league — like any Cowboys QB — as the two-time Pro Bowler has often flashed impressive numbers but struggled to lead Dallas deep into the playoffs.
He’s had an up-and-down start to 2023; Prescott didn’t have to do much in a 40–0 rout of the Giants in the opener, then went 31 of 38 for 255 yards and two touchdowns in a comfortable win over the Jets. Things went a little sideways in a stunning upset at the hands of the Cardinals, against whom Prescott threw for 249 yards with one touchdown and one interception and taking two sacks.
Prescott’s 64.8 QB rating is eighth in the NFL through three games.
Offensive line starters? — 4:00 p.m.
Starting offensive line for New England in warmups:
LT Trent Brown; LG Atonio Mafi; C David Andrews; RG Mike Onwenu; RT Vederian Lowe.
If this is the group that starts, it’ll be the fourth different offensive line combination to start for the Patriots in four games. — Price
What we’re seeing — 3:27 p.m.
Patriots young special teamers — in particular, Bryce Baringer, Chad Ryland, and Pop Douglas — are all out on the field taking a good look at angles, the height of the video board, etc. Ryland just hit a 58-yarder that was just nailed.
Jabrill Peppers, Pop Douglas, and Myles Bryant all back returning punts in warmups. — Price
Patriots inactives — 3:15 p.m.
By Christopher Price
The Patriots have just announced their inactives. Here’s the complete list and what it means for today’s game against the Cowboys:
Guard Cole Strange (knee) and cornerback Jonathan Jones (ankle) were ruled out on Saturday. I’d expect rookie lineman Atonio Mafi and defensive back Myles Bryant to take the majority of snaps in their place against the Cowboys.
Mafi went wire to wire in the opener against the Eagles, and was part of the rotation up front against the Dolphins and Jets. Meanwhile, Bryant has stepped in along the boundary in Jones’s absence and performed well in relief of the veteran.
Tackle Tyrone Wheatley Jr. is a healthy scratch, which means New England likely feels good about its tackle depth for the first time this season.
In addition, wide receiver Kayshon Boutte is also a healthy scratch. As we’ve said before, Boutte — who hasn’t played since the opener — could very well be ticketed for a redshirt year where he remains on the active roster, but is a healthy scratch for most of the season. (It was the same path followed by James White, Shane Vereen, and Trey Flowers.)
As was the case in the three games since the season opener, that opens up more opportunities for DeVante Parker. Parker and Boutte share some of the same attributes, another sign that the rookie might have to bide his time when it comes to game action.
And Will Grier was designated as the emergency quarterback.
Among the notable actives include Sidy Sow, who is good to go for the first time since suffering a concussion last month, as well as cornerback Shaun Wade, who popped up on the injury report late in the week with a shoulder issue. Wade could help add to New England’s cornerback depth. In addition, defensive tackles Christian Barmore and Davon Godchaux were on and off the injury report this week, but appear to be good to go for this afternoon.
Is this the week Smith-Schuster breaks out? — 3:00 p.m.
The Cowboys have been dealing with the loss of cornerback Trevon Diggs, which means New England might be able to take advantage of a Dallas secondary that’s still finding its footing after losing a Pro Bowl defender.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, who has 10 catches for 66 yards, says he’s taking the slow start in stride.
“I’ve played in this league for so long that you kind of learn how to adapt and do things that the team is needing,” he said. “I feel like me being here, I love my role. I embrace it. It’s fun. I do a lot of dirty work, which is nice, too.” — Price
Three Cowboys to watch — 2:45 p.m.
LB Micah Parsons: Call him a linebacker, a defensive end, an edge rusher — Parsons will be hard to miss on Sunday. Parsons has become arguably the most impactful defensive player in the league, the sort of game-breaking pass rusher that gives quarterbacks and offensive tackles nightmares. He racked up 26.5 sacks over his first two seasons and already has four through three games, as he draws comparisons to some of the greatest pass rushers the game has seen.
WR CeeDee Lamb: The fourth-year receiver has already made back-to-back Pro Bowls in his young career, establishing himself as Prescott’s top target. Lamb exploded for 1,359 yards and nine scores last season, and will be the focal point for a thinning New England secondary on Sunday.
CB Stephon Gilmore: With star cornerback Diggs done for the season with an ACL injury, more responsibility will be piled onto the 33-year-old Gilmore, who won Defensive Player of the Year during his time in New England. Gilmore has played 90 percent of the Cowboys’ defensive snaps through three games, and should see even more time in Diggs’s absence.
Is this finally the week Mac Jones delivers a signature win? — 2:30 p.m.
One of the rare valid points in the never-ending discourse regarding whether Mac Jones is the answer at quarterback for the Patriots is that, three games into his third season, he is yet to be even a main reason they won a game over a high-quality opponent.
The biggest win of his tenure came when he threw three passes, completing two for 19 yards, in their 14-10 win over the Bills in Week 13 of the 2021 season. That game was played in weather that replicated a wind tunnel, but the victory — their seventh straight, improving their record to 9-4 — constitutes the high point of this still-developing post-Tom Brady period of Patriots history.
Perhaps most memorably, they could have beaten this week’s opponent, the Dallas Cowboys, in Week 6 of that ‘21 season. They even took a lead with 2 minutes 11 seconds remaining on Kendrick Bourne’s 75-yard catch and run. But Dallas, which got 445 passing yards and three touchdown passes from Dak Prescott, tied it with 20 seconds left, then won in overtime, by 6.
The Patriots are 10-15 since that wind-tunnel win over the Bills, and the kind of quality wins that seemed so possible after that OT loss to the Cowboys just have not come.
Another chance comes Sunday against the Cowboys, this time in Texas. The Cowboys are 2-1 after suffering an embarrassing 28-16 loss to Josh Dobbs and the Cardinals last week. That stemmed some of the talk of the Cowboys being a Super Bowl contender, but Prescott leads an offense that is tied for fifth in the NFL in points (28.7 per game), while Dallas’s aggressive, quarterback-hunting defense is ranked third (12.7 points allowed per game).
Where have all the Patriots’ playmakers gone? — 2:15 p.m.
The Patriots’ offense finally hit a big play last Sunday, a second-quarter strike from Mac Jones to Pharaoh Brown that, in earning an early 10-point lead, felt like more than enough against the hapless Jets.
The good news? It was an exciting and well-scripted play, worthy of the sideline celebration and home-couch joy it unleashed.
The bad news? It remains the Patriots’ biggest gainer through three games, a sad reminder of a most alarming truth about the 2023 roster.
Where have all the playmakers gone?
It’s painful to recall what it used to be like around here, when Tom Brady was the playmaker in charge but had plenty of supercharged threats around him. Rob Gronkowski, pummeling would-be tacklers as he rumbled toward the end zone. Julian Edelman, darting and weaving his diminutive but pesky frame around the field. Danny Amendola deftly getting his hands on anything in his reach. Randy Moss, only one of the best deep threats the NFL has ever known.
This year’s roster? Who scares opposing defenses? Who do they worry will torch them on the ground or in the air? Who do they have to game-plan around?
The answer, as of now, is no one.
Last time they played — 2:00 p.m.
The Patriots last played the Cowboys in Week 6 in 2021, dropping a thriller in overtime after a chaotic end to regulation at Gillette Stadium.
With the Patriots leading, 21-20, just before the two-minute warning, Mac Jones — then a rookie — threw across the middle to Kendrick Bourne and the ball bounced off the receiver’s hands and into the arms of Cowboys corner Trevon Diggs for a back-breaking pick-6. It took one play for Jones and Bourne to redeem themselves, as the two connected on a 75-yard touchdown to open the next drive, and a 2-point conversion gave New England a 29-26 lead with 2:11 to play.
Dak Prescott led the Cowboys into field goal range to send the game to overtime, and after Jones and the offense stalled out at midfield to start the extra period, Prescott hit receiver CeeDee Lamb for a 35-yard touchdown to end it.
The Patriots last played in Dallas in 2015, a dominant 30-6 win for New England.
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