The New England Patriots begin the season's stretch run with a showdown against the 7-2 Dallas Cowboys in a battle of eastern division leaders. The Patriots come into the game having won five games in a row and seven of their last eight contests to open a two-game lead atop the AFC East. New England will run into a Dallas team that has also won seven of eight games and sits atop the NFC East.
A primary concern for the Patriots will be finding a way around the Dallas defense, which is the top-ranked unit in the NFL. The Patriots have shown the ability to crack tough defenses, having put up 30 points against the then-second ranked Denver defense two weeks ago on Monday Night Football. But Tom Brady and company will face their toughest challenge to date against a Dallas team that has held its opponents to 10 points or less on four separate occasions this season.
The New England defense has been effective against opposing quarterbacks, holding them to a cumulative 59.5 passer rating and surrendering just four touchdown passes, leading the NFL in both categories. Dallas' running back tandem of Adrian Murrell and Troy Hambrick will try to crack the seventh-ranked Patriots run-stuffing unit, while quarterback Quincy Carter and Dallas' leading receiver, former Patriots wideout Terry Glenn, will bid to take to the air.
Dallas head coach Bill Parcells will match up against his former team for the first time since 1999 and for the seventh time since he left New England in 1997. Parcells and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick coached together for 15 seasons with the Giants, Patriots and Jets, and will face each other for the fifth time overall and for the first time since 1995, when Parcells coached the Patriots and Belichick was at the helm of the Cleveland Browns.
This week's game will be televised by ESPN. The game can be seen locally on WCVB-TV Channel 5 in Boston. Mike Patrick will handle the play-by-play duties, while Paul Maguire and Joe Theismann will provide analysis. Suzy Kolber will deliver reports from the sidelines throughout the game. Immediately following the game, the Fifth Quarter postgame show can be seen on WBZ-TV Channel 4 in Boston.
WBCN 104.1 FM is the flagship station for the Patriots Rock Radio Network. Play-by-play broadcaster Gil Santos is in his 27th season as the voice of the Patriots and calls the action along with Patriots Hall of Famer Gino Cappelletti. In 2003, Santos and Cappelletti celebrate their 20th season as a broadcast tandem.
The Patriots are off to their best start to a season in 23 years, equaling the best nine-game start in franchise history with a 7-2 record through nine games. New England is 7-2 for the third time in team history, joining the 1980 and 1978 squads with seven wins in their first nine games. Like the 1978 team, the 2003 Patriots lost their first game, then rattled off seven wins in their next eight games. The Patriots are tied for the second best record in the NFL this season.
The Patriots have seven games left in the 2003 season, and since Bill Belichick took over as head coach in 2000, the Patriots have saved their best football for the end of the season. Since 2000, New England is a combined 13-8 (.619) in its last seven games of the campaign. Last year, the Patriots were 4-3 in their last seven games, following a 2001 season where they closed out with a 6-1 record.
THE ROAD AHEAD
The combined record of the Patriots' remaining opponents is 32-31 (.508), giving the Patriots the easiest remaining schedule in the AFC East. Buffalo and Miami's remaining foes are 36-27 (.571), and the Jets' are 35-28 (.556). New England has dates on tap with Dallas (7-2), Houston (3-6), Indianapolis (7-2), Miami (5-4), Jacksonville (2-7), New York Jets (3-6) and Buffalo (4-5).
The Patriots and Cowboys will meet for the ninth time in the history of the clubs. Dallas won the first seven games of the series, but the Patriots broke their hex with a victory in 1999, the last time the teams met. The series dates back to 1971, when the Cowboys beat the Patriots in the first game ever played at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas. That game resulted in a 23-point Dallas victory, but since then, six of the last seven games between the teams have been decided by a touchdown or less. Prior to the Patriots' most recent win in the series, they had dropped three straight games to the Cowboys by six points or less. This week's game will be just the third time the teams have met since 1987, making the Cowboys the only NFL team the Patriots have played twice or fewer times in the last 16 seasons.
|**COWBOYS 7, PATRIOTS 1**|
|10/24/71||Dallas 44, Patriots 21||-23||Texas|
|11/16/75||Dallas 34, Patriots 31||-3||Schaefer|
|12/03/78||Dallas 17, Patriots 10||-7||Texas|
|09/21/81||Dallas 35, Patriots 21||-14||Schaefer|
|11/22/84||Dallas 20, Patriots 17||-3||Texas|
|11/15/87||Dallas 23, Patriots 17 (OT)||-6||Sullivan|
|12/14/96||Dallas 12, Patriots 6||-6||Foxboro|
|12/05/99||Patriots 13, Dallas 6||7||Foxboro|
|Record in New England||1-4|
|Record in Dallas||0-3|
|Total Points in the Series||Dallas 191, Patriots 136|
|Largest Margin of Victory||7 points (12/05/99)|
|Largest Margin of Defeat||23 points (10/24/71)|
|Bill Belichick vs. Dallas||1-1|
|Bill Parcells vs. New England||6-2|
THE LAST TIME
Patriots 13, Cowboys 6 – December 5, 1999
The Patriots used a 3-yard run from Terry Allen and a pair of Adam Vinatieri field goals to defeat the Dallas Cowboys, 13-6, at Foxboro Stadium. The win broke a three-game losing streak and improved the Patriots' record to 7-5 in the 1999 season. The Patriots' defense limited the Cowboys' rushing attack, led by Emmitt Smith, to just 63 total yards on the ground. New England also held Dallas' Troy Aikman to just 160 passing yards while not allowing a touchdown in the game. Tedy Bruschi led the New England defensive attack with eight tackles and two pass breakups.
The Patriots got on the board first, getting the opening kickoff and driving down for a 41-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead. After forcing a Dallas punt, New England got the ball back, but was victimized by an interception by Dexter Coakley that was returned to the Patriots' 8-yard line. New England's defense held down the fort, though, and forced Dallas to settle for a 20-yard field goal that tied the game at three. Vinatieri added a 23-yard kick in the second quarter to give the Patriots a 6-3 halftime lead. After a scoreless third quarter, the Patriots used their first fourth-quarter possession to drive 65 yards on 10 plays and take a 13-3 lead on a 3-yard touchdown run by Terry Allen. The Cowboys cut the lead to 13-6 with a late field goal, but New England held the ball for the game's final minutes to preserve the 13-6 win.
|**TALE OF THE TAPE**|
|**2003 Regular Season**||**New England**||**Dallas**|
|Total Yards Gained||2,901||2,968|
|Total Offense (Rank)||322.3 (14)||329.8 (12)|
|Rush Offense||103.6 (19)||133.1 (7)|
|Pass Offense||218.8 (10)||196.7 (20)|
|Points Per Game||20.4||20.1|
|Total Yards Allowed||2,771||2,111|
|Total Defense||307.9 (11)||234.6 (1)|
|Rush Defense||92.4 (7)||85.1 (3)|
|Pass Defense||215.4 (23)||149.4 (1)|
|Sacks Allowed/Yards Lost||17/133||18/94|
BILL BELICHICK VS. BILL PARCELLS
This week's game will mark the fifth time Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells have matched wits from opposing sidelines as head coaches. The two coaches have split the previous four games, with each coach coming out victorious on two occasions. All four of the previous meetings came when Belichick was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns and Parcells was at the reigns of the Patriots.
|**BELICHICK vs. PARCELLS (2-2)**|
|12/19/93||Browns 20, Patriots 17||Cleveland Municipal|
|11/06/94||Patriots 13, Browns 6||Cleveland Municipal|
|01/01/95*||Browns 20, Patriots 13||Cleveland Municipal|
|09/03/95||Patriots 17, Browns 14||Foxboro|
|*-AFC Wild Card Game|
NEW ENGLAND VS. BILL PARCELLS
The Patriots have played against teams coached by Bill Parcells on eight occasions and have a 2-6 record in those games. New England lost both games against Parcells when he was the head coach of the New York Giants (1983-90), and were 2-4 in the six games against their former mentor while he was at the helm of the New York Jets (1997-99).
|**PATRIOTS vs. PARCELLS (2-6)**|
|11/08/87||Giants 17, Patriots 10||Giants Stadium|
|12/30/90||Giants 13, Patriots 10||Foxboro|
|09/14/97||Patriots 27, Jets 24 (OT)||Foxboro|
|10/19/97||Jets 24, Patriots 19||Meadowlands|
|10/19/98||Jets 24, Patriots 14||Foxboro|
|12/27/98||Jets 31, Patriots 10||Meadowlands|
|09/12/99||Patriots 30, Jets 28||Meadowlands|
|11/15/99||Jets 24, Patriots 17||Foxboro|