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Halftime analysis: Patriots 13, Cowboys 10

10.16.11 at 5:39 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Two quarters are in the books here at Gillette Stadium and it was just like we all predicted — a defensive struggle where two teams have had problems putting together any sort of sustained offense. (Yeah, not so much.) In truth, the Patriots hold a 13-10 lead in a sloppy and ragged ballgame.

Both teams had problems with turnovers in the first two quarters, spotting each other a fumble and an interception. The Patriots did the most to minimize the damage, as kicker Stephen Gostkowski turned both early Dallas turnovers into points with a pair of field goals, while New England also picked up a touchdown on a five-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Wes Welker midway through the second quarter. Meanwhile, the New England defense was able to keep a mostly skittish Tony Romo in check through the first two quarters of play, holding the Cowboys’ offense to one field goal and a touchdown.

Romo tossed his first pick of the game on Dallas’ first drive of the afternoon, and the Patriots were able to take advantage with a nine-play, 34-yard drive that was highlighted by a 16-yard run from Stevan Ridley and ended with a 31-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski to make it 3-0. Brady gave it back on New England’s next series when a tipped pass from the quarterback was intercepted by cornerback Terrence Newman. However, Dallas could only go backwards — they went minus-7 yards on four plays before a field goal from Dan Bailey made a 48-yard field goal to tie the game at three late in the first.

New England fumbled away a kickoff return — its first lost fumble of the season — but the Patriots got the ball back on Dallas fumble of its own (forced by Vince Wilfork, the ball was recovered by Gerard Warren), and on that series, New England got a 45-yard hookup from Brady to Branch (followed immediately by a 12-yard completion involving the same two players) that got New England deep in Dallas territory. That drive ended with a 26-yard field goal to give the Patriots a 6-3 lead with 12:07 left in the first half.

Early in the second quarter, Brady could be seen on the sidelines with a sizable wrap on his right arm, stretching from his upper arm down to his wrist. He shed the wrap before the following Patriots’ offensive series, and didn’t appear too worse for wear when he returned to the game, even coming through with a five-yard sneak in the shadow of the Dallas goal line prior to his five-yard pass play to Welker for the first touchdown of the game. (After heading back to the bench, he was wrapped again.)

The Cowboys’ offense closed out the half with its best drive of the day, a 93–yard sequence that ended with Romo finding Jason Witten for the first time all afternoon, a one-yard catch that made it 13-10 with 33 seconds left in the first half.

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