The Patriots and Cowboys fought into overtime in a dramatic back-and-forth affair that saw two touchdowns and a field goal scored in the final three minutes of the game.
The Patriots got off to a strong start against the Cowboys, building a 14-7 lead after their first two offensive possessions, and made some key red-zone stops in the first half, but were unable to sustain the strong and balanced play into the second half, seeing their lead evaporate.
Dallas would take the lead late in the third quarter but New England would finally respond, putting up a long drive that was capped off with Rhamondre Stevenson's first touchdown. After a missed Cowboy field goal maintained the New England lead, things took a quick turn, with Trevon Diggs grabbing a pick-six and the lead back, just as the Patriots were looking to ice the game.
Mac Jones and the Patriots didn't blink, with Jones hitting Kendrick Bourne for a 75-yard touchdown that instantly gave the Patriots back the game. But Dallas put together their own drive in response, tying the game and sending it to overtime.
The Pats offense failed to get into Cowboys territory on the opening possession of the extra session but were unable to stop Dallas on their ensuing drive, which they capped off a 35-yard touchdown throw to CeeDee Lamb to give Dallas the 35-29 win.
Here is are the five key takeaways from the thrilling game.
Finally, a Great Start
The Patriots needed a good start against the high-powered Cowboys and got just that, highlighted by a fourth-down stop on Dallas' first possession, then countering just three plays later with a Damien Harris rushing touchdown. Veterans Devin McCourty and Dont'a Hightower were the key players on the fourth-down stop as they stepped up and helped set an early tone. However, Dallas would immediately respond on the ensuing drive, reeling off 75 yards in just seven plays, and tying the game with a one-yard touchdown pass to tight end Blake Jarwin.
The Patriots offense rode the momentum of their solid start, needing just four plays to score another touchdown on their second possession. But they would go dead quiet for far too long after the second score.
While the game would present new challenges as it progressed, the Patriots began the game on time and it helped make for a competitive contest. It's a good element to build off of going forward.
Penalties Play a Part
The Cowboys' excessive penalties played a big part in the game, especially in the first half, where Dallas took seven penalties for 76 yards and set an early tone that gave New England some extra yardage and second chances.
A 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on the Patriots' second drive was a nice boost that put New England into the red zone. Mac Jones would hit Hunter Henry for his third game in a row with a touchdown on the next play.
After watching the Cowboys penalty parade into the second quarter, the Patriots took their turn, with James Ferentz's holding penalty erasing a Jakobi Meyers touchdown that would've made the game 21-7. On the very next play, Randy Gregory would come screaming off the edge, beat Yodny Cajuste and deliver a huge hit on Mac Jones that forced a fumble which Dallas would recover.
It was a big two-play swing though the Pats defense would stiffen inside the red zone and hold them to just a field goal.
For the game, Dallas had 12 penalties for 115 yards. New England had five for 47 yards.
Red Zone Defense Shows Up Early
For the second time this season, the Patriots had a punt blocked and it set the Cowboys up deep in Patriots territory just before the half, poised to potentially take the lead with a touchdown. However, the Patriots defense would come up with their best defensive stand of the season, stopping Dallas three straight times from the one-yard-line before Ja'Whaun Bentley punched the ball out of Dak Prescott's hands to prevent any points at all on fourth down.
After a major turn in the game, with things swinging dramatically in the Cowboys' favor, the goal-line stand was a huge moment that saved the Patriots from a disastrous end to the half.
This was in addition to Kyle Dugger's end-zone interception that was deflected by Justin Bethel two drives previously. The Patriots defense had trouble stopping the Cowboys between the 20s but stiffened and made their best plays inside the red zone in the first half.
But the Cowboys would strike in the red zone late in the third quarter to take a 17-14 lead as the Patriots clutch playmaking couldn't keep the Dallas contained for long. They'd rebound on the next drive, keeping the game to a 20-14 score.
Offense Goes Stagnant, Wakes Up Late
The Patriots got the start they needed but as the game wore on the offense went stagnant from Jones' fumbled until mid-way through the fourth quarter. Through that time frame, the Pats would have one punt blocked and then punt three straight times before waking up.
When Dallas took the 20-14 lead it looked like the Patriots were dead in the water, but the running game got into gear and Mac Jones delivered with two third-down conversion throws. Prior to those the Patriots had no third-down conversions in the game. Damien Harris also added a third-down conversion of his own to give New England three on the drive that gave them back the lead, 21-20.
Then there was Jones' strike to Bourne for the long touchdown, the kind of quick-strike score that Patriots fans have been waiting for. The elements are all there for the Patriots offense but they went quiet for too long in this game and were lucky to still have an opportunity to win.
Pats fall to 2-4
Despite the solid start and excellent red zone play by the defense for much of the game, as well as the offense's late-game big-play heroics, it was not enough for the Patriots to knock off the Cowboys. Once again, the reasons for the loss were familiar ones -- turnovers, an inconsistent offense and an inability from the defense to make the last play.
Dallas is a very good team and the Patriots had every opportunity to knock them off but potential only goes so far and time is running out for them to put it all together.