IRVING, Texas - All week, the New England Patriots insisted this was just another game. Well, it wasn’t.
It was better.
In a rare battle of 5-0 teams, the New England Patriots stomped the Dallas Cowboys as badly as everyone else they’ve faced this season, winning 48-27 Sunday behind a career-best five touchdown passes from Tom Brady.
Although the Patriots put up their most points in 23 years, the game wasn’t as lopsided as the score indicates — which is what makes this victory so impressive. They won by three touchdowns despite giving up their most points of the season and trailing in the second half for the first time all year.
“The reality is we got a win on the road and we’re 6-0. That’s what is important,” Brady said. “Any time you win you’re doing just fine. It’s another step in the process. We have to continue to make improvements.”
Brady was 31-of-46 for 388 yards. His five TDs tied a franchise record and gave him an NFL record with at least three in each of the first six games of the season. However, he was sacked as many times (3) as he’d been all season; on one, he lost a fumble that Dallas returned for a touchdown.
What made his performance special was the way he responded to that third-quarter deficit: touchdown, field goal, touchdown, field goal, touchdown. The last score came with 19 seconds left, a 1-yard run by first-year running back Kyle Eckel that Brady celebrated with two huge fist pumps.
That’s about all the celebrating this team is willing to do, especially when coach Bill Belichick comes away saying the Patriots “were lucky to hang in there.”
“There will probably be a couple of lashes waiting for us,” Randy Moss said. “I’m not saying we’re unstoppable, we just work hard at what we do.”
The Cowboys (5-1) were off to their best start since 1983 and were eager to see how they stacked up against the league’s elite. Now they know they can compete, but still have a ways to go. The next 10 games will show whether that might be good enough in the NFC.
“Hopefully we’ll see them down the road,” said Terrell Owens, referring to a possible Super Bowl rematch. “We just got to regroup. There’s no confidence lost in the locker room.”
Dallas trailed 14-0 before gaining a first down. The defense provided the first touchdown, Jason Hatcher’s 29-yard return of Brady’s fumble, then Tony Romo threw a touchdown to T.O. just before halftime and another to Patrick Crayton early in the third quarter, putting the Cowboys up 24-21.
New England was trailing for the first time since the second quarter of Week 3 and had two starting offensive players in the locker room with injuries. But the Patriots still had Brady.
“It’s almost a blessing in disguise,” cornerback Terence Newman said. “It’s the sixth game of the season, not even halfway done yet. So that just gives us incentive to work that much harder.”
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
He now has an NFL-best 21 touchdown passes, putting him in position to challenge Peyton Manning’s league record of 49.
“That’s not what this team is about,” Brady said. “Individual records are based on opportunities. What I get excited about is team records.”
Wes Welker caught 11 passes for a career-high 124 yards and two touchdowns. Stallworth had seven catches for 136 yards. Moss turned six catches into 59 yards, his first a 6-yard touchdown, and Kyle Brady had the other TD grab.
ProFootballTalk: Patriots QB Tom Brady addressed Wes Welker’s decision to head West to Denver. Brady says he isn’t surprised by anything after being in the league for so long and hopes that Welker has a great season with the Broncos.
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