FOXBOROUGH — Michael Bennett didn’t feel like sharing his feelings about his return to Foxborough after Sunday’s 16-9 victory over his Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. Bennett, traded after a short and tumultuous tenure with the Patriots, blew off a small group of reporters following the game.
“My family’s here. We lost. Thank you,” said Bennett, who had two tackles and did hug it out with Belichick during the warmup period.
It was a month to the day after the Patriots agreed to trade the defensive lineman to Dallas for a 2021 seventh-round draft pick. A week before, they’d suspended him for conduct detrimental to the team following a confrontation between Bennett and line coach Bret Bielema.
Bennett was clearly unhappy with his playing time toward the end of his Patriots tenure, though he said his disagreement with Bielema was “both” about football and other topics while declining to get into specifics. He’s played a more significant role in Dallas, and had eight tackles, three sacks, and 12 pressures with the Cowboys heading into the game.
Though he declined to talk on Sunday, Bennett was complimentary of the Patriots earlier in the week, telling reporters in Dallas that he learned a lot from Belichick in his short tenure and thinks the Patriots coach puts players in positions to succeed.
“At the end of the day, I just think Bill is a great motivator. I think he understands football from the beginning,” Bennett said. “He’s a historian when it comes to football, plays. He can remember anything when it comes to it. He’s just a savant.”
Left tackle Isaiah Wynn made his first start since Week 2 in Miami, when he suffered a toe issue that forced him to injured reserve.
Also returning to action was Patrick Chung, who has been dealing with nagging chest and heel injuries, and missed last week’s game. Chung had missed three of the last six games.
Kicking while he’s down
After a Patriots home win, it seems inevitable that a decision in the waning minutes by the losing coach gets called into question. Sunday’s came when Jason Garrett — his Cowboys trailing, 13-6, with 6:08 left after struggling to move the ball all game — elected to kick a 29-yard field goal on fourth-and-7 at the 11 rather than take a shot at the tie.
Even Fox analyst Troy Aikman openly questioned the decision to kick.
“Just to give us a chance coming back the other way,” said Garrett, asked for his rationale. “Fourth-and-7, make it a 4-point game, they go ahead and kick a field goal coming back, you still have a chance to be in the game. We got it back with just under 3 [2:38 left] with a chance to go win it. So we felt good about that decision at that time.”
The Cowboys had two cracks to draw closer on second and third downs, but Dak Prescott threw consecutive incompletions to tight ends Jason Witten and Blake Jarwin.
“When it went to fourth and 7, it became a little bit more, not quite as manageable as you would like in that situation,’’ Garrett said. “If the fourth down is more manageable, you’re more likely to go for it in that situation.”
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones couldn’t contain his frustration following the loss, which dropped his NFC East leaders — they’re still tops after Philadelphia lost to Seattle — to 6-5.
“There’s no moral victory, at all,” Jones said. “I’m just really frustrated with — I thought we could come up here and really put together a better effort in all three phases. We can’t come up here and play like that.”
Jones was upset about the performance of his offense, which couldn’t score a touchdown on Sunday, and his special teams, which gave up a blocked punt.
“Surprised me to really see the setbacks we took on special teams,” Jones said. “It is a significant setback for our team. We needed this win, we needed to win against an opponent like this. I’m surprised we didn’t get a touchdown, even with the weather.”
Gronk puts it to rest
At long last, the Rob Gronkowski reunion tour rumors can be put to bed for the rest of the season.
The big tight end confirmed on Fox’s pregame show he will not return to the Patriots in 2019-20 under any circumstances.
Asked what would happen if received a plea from Brady to strap on the pads, Gronkowski said, “First off, I’m saying I love the guy . . . [But] no, I’m not going back.’’
Sanu, Dorsett sit
Things looked promising for Mohamed Sanu after his pregame workout out in front of receivers coach Joe Judge and head trainer Jim Whalen included sprints, cuts, and a thumbs-up. It wasn’t enough to get clearance however, and the receiver headlined a list of Patriots inactives as he continues to deal with an ankle injury suffered last Sunday against the Eagles.
Fellow receiver Phillip Dorsett also was out as he recovers from a concussion.
Sanu hopped up and down following his brief time on the field, giving the impression he was good to go for the game. The slippery conditions also could have played a role in the decision to keep Sanu sidelined.
Sanu was tweeting throughout the game, sending shoutouts to rookies N’Keal Harry after his first career touchdown and to Jakobi Meyers after his 32-yard catch
Those absences left Brady with just three healthy receivers: Julian Edelman, plus the two rookies.
Cornerback Jason McCourty, who tweaked his groin late last week, was the lone defensive inactive for the Patriots. McCourty’s absence allowed rookie Joejuan Williams to be active for the fifth time this season.
The Patriots’ other inactives were tight end Ryan Izzo, running back Damien Harris, offensive tackle Korey Cunningham, and quarterback Cody Kessler.
A special honor
The Patriots honored fallen members of the armed services as part of the NFL’s “Salute to Service” campaign. Before the game, the national anthem was performed by Musician Second Class Rachel Vennel, a vocalist stationed in Newport, R.I., with Navy Band Northeast, while the All-Military Branches Honor Guard presented the colors. The Patriots also hosted 26 military families from New England who lost family members in service. The team worked with the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors and dedicated the game to the fallen members of the TAPS families. Each Patriots player and coach wore a helmet decal or button with the initials of one of the fallen during the game . . . This was the Patriots 21st straight win at home (including the postseason) . . . Matthew Slater’s first career blocked punt was the club’s record-tying third of the season . . . Brady improved to 5-0 against the Cowboys . . . New England has a plus-183-point differential through 11 games, which ranks fifth best during the Super Bowl era (since 1966).
Katie McInerney, Nora Princiotti, Scott Thurston, and Ben Volin of Globe Staff contributed to this report.