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Snap Judgments: Patriots 20, Cowboys 16

10.16.11 at 7:21 pm ET
By

FOXBORO — Tom Brady led the Patriots on a 10-play, 80-yard drive, hitting Aaron Hernandez for a eight-yard TD with 22 seconds left in the fourth quarter to give New England a 20-16 lead over the Cowboys, a score that would prove to be the final for the 5-1 Patriots. Brady — who struggled at times in the win with two interceptions in the face of a serious Dallas pass rush — finished the game with 289 yards and two touchdowns.

With a Buffalo loss to the Giants earlier on Sunday, the Patriots head into the bye week with sole possession of first place in the AFC East.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

– Andre Carter had the first two-sack effort of the season for the Patriots (and the 10th of his career). Carter picked up his first sack in the first quarter on a drive-ending third-down takedown of Tony Romo. But Carter’s second sack was even more important, as the end turned a second-and-goal from the seven-yard line into a 3rd-and-goal from the 18. The Cowboys were forced to settle for a field goal on a drive that was looking awfully promising (the sack came after a timeout from the Cowboys. If you are going to waste a timeout with seven minutes left in the third quarter of a 13-10 game it better lead to a TD. Strange decision from Jason Garrett.)

– Kyle Arrington picked off Tony Romo on the Cowboys’ first drive, his team-leading fourth INT of the season. Arrington also had a key pass defensed in the fourth quarter, knocking down a third-down pass intended for Miles Austin.

– The defense did a superb job bailing the Patriots out after a season-high four turnovers, allowing just six points. The Cowboys were able to kick a field-goal after Terrence Newman’s first-quarter INT of Brady, but it came after a four-play, -2 yard drive. Matthew Slater fumbled on a first-quarter kickoff return, but Vince Wilfork forced a Tashard Choice fumble just five plays later (Gerard Warren recovered). And the second Brady INT again led to just a field goal.

WHAT WENT WRONG

– The Patriots entered the game with zero lost fumbles this season. On Sunday that number jumped to two, as Matthew Slater fumbled a first-quarter kickoff return and Aaron Hernandez was stripped in the third quarter by Brady James (Anthony Spencer recovered). Throw a first-quarter Brady INT into the mix (a Kenyon Coleman tipped ball on a pass intended for Deion Branch that was picked off by Terrence Newman) and a fourth-quarter Sean Lee INT and it was a four-turnover day for the Patriots.

– Brady continued to struggle against Rob Ryan, throwing two interceptions. He entered the game with just one home INT this season and had just two at home during the entire 2010 season.

– The offensive line was shaky on Sunday, as Brady faced a fairly consistent pressure and was hit eight times and sacked on three occasions. Matt Light had his problems (as expected) with DeMarcus Ware, as the All-Pro collected a pair of sacks (including a third-quarter sack that saw Ware blow past Light and BenJarvus Green-Ellis). Logan Mankins was beat by Marcus Spears for a sack and Victor Butler was able to get past Mankins and hit Brady on his fourth-quarter INT.

– Zero catches in limited action for Chad Ochocino. He was targeted just once by Brady but appeared to run the incorrect route. Brady chewed him after the play and Ochocinco was pulled (and did not return).

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