IRVING, Texas — The Patriots lost linebacker Dont’a Hightower to a rib injury midway through the first quarter of Sunday’s 30-6 win over the Cowboys.
Hightower combined with Jamie Collins to take down Dallas running back Joseph Randle after a 2-yard gain and was clearly in pain right away. After being attended to by team medical staff and coach Bill Belichick, Hightower came to the sideline on his own, carrying his helmet.
He spent a few minutes on the bench before getting up and pacing the sideline, clapping his hands, and exhorting his teammates. He left the sideline shortly after and headed to the locker room. He did not return and wasn’t spotted in the locker room postgame. Hightower already had collected four tackles, including a 9-yard sack of Brandon Weeden.
Hightower entered the game as the Patriots’ leading tackler with 22, including 17 unassisted.
In his absence, Collins stepped up, making 10 tackles, including one for a loss. Jerod Mayo (two tackles) and Jonathan Freeny (fumble recovery) also played extensively.
“Linebackers were in on a lot of the plays up front,’’ said Belichick. “Good game. Good team defense.’’
Solder hurts elbow
Left tackle Nate Solder left early in the second half with an elbow injury.
“It’s hard to tell [the severity],’’ said Solder, who declined to say how the injury happened. “We’re just going to roll forward and see what happens.’’
Marcus Cannon filled in for Solder and was solid, as the Patriots didn’t allow a second-half sack.
“I was just trying to help the team as best I can,’’ said Cannon. “I have lots of improvements to make. Lots of them. We practice hard so if we’re called on, we can do whatever it takes to help the team.’’
Stephen Gostkowski was 3 for 3 on field goals, including a career-long 57-yarder right before halftime to give the Patriots a 13-3 lead. He is 14 for 14 on field goals this season.
His previous career long was 54 yards, on Oct. 13, 2013, at Gillette Stadium.
Gostkowski, who extended his NFL mark for consecutive extra points made to 426, was 3 for 3 on PATs, making him 17 for 17 on the season.
Lewis keeps rolling
Dion Lewis made the play of the game when he collected a 10-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to give the Patriots a 20-3 lead in the third quarter.
Lewis corralled the ball with one hand and slipped two defenders (including ducking underneath safety Barry Church) before scooting into the end zone.
“I was just trying to make a play and trying not to get hit,’’ said Lewis with a laugh when asked to describe his TD.
It left at least one Cowboy in awe.
“Dion Lewis. Super tough kid, guy is quick as lightning,’’ said Church. “He kind of ducked under my arms, I don’t know what the hell happened. Super quick guy.’’
Jabaal Sheard doubled his season sack total, collecting two to give him four in four games. Both came against Weeden, his former teammate in Cleveland.
Asked about the sacks, Sheard deferred to the solid work of his defensive teammates.
“Obviously good coverage in the secondary, first thought is giving those guys their props,” said Sheard, who had 23 sacks in four seasons with the Browns. “One of them, Jamie [Collins] got good penetration and I just played off of Jamie. The other one was just a complementary rush.”
He’s No. 1
Brady set the franchise mark by playing in his 213th game. He had been tied with Bruce Armstrong . . . The season debut of Ryan Wendell and the Patriots debut of Jonathan Bostic must wait at least another week, with both players among the seven inactive Sunday. Wendell, an offensive lineman, returned to practice last week after missing two straight games with an unspecified illness (he also sat out the opener). The Patriots added to their linebacker depth by trading for Bostic on Sept. 29. Receiver Aaron Dobson sat out his first game, with safety Tavon Wilson missing his third game of the season. Rookie defensive end Trey Flowers, who has been dealing with knee and shoulder injuries, was also inactive. He has yet to play this season. The two other inactives — linebacker Rufus Johnson and defensive lineman Khyri Thornton — joined Bostic, Dobson, and Wilson as healthy scratches.
According to police in Arlington, Texas, a man in his early 40s was shot and critically injured during a fight in a parking lot outside AT&T Stadium following the game. The Dallas Morning News reported the man was transported to a local hospital with life-threatening injuries. Police arrested a male suspect, who has been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon . . . Former Bruins phenom Tyler Seguin was in the house with some of his Dallas Stars teammates.
. . . Also spotted was Boston comedian Lenny Clarke, who visited the Patriots locker room before crashing Belichick’s postgame press conference with his brother.
Jim McBride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.