Capitalizing on strong field position and a much-improved first half by the starters, the Patriots cruised to a 34-14 win over Dallas Saturday night. Drew Bledsoe threw for two touchdowns on 13 of 19 passing for 147 yards and Terry Glenn led all receivers with five catches for 85 yards. On defense, New England held Dallas to only 74 yards on the ground.
Troy Brown set up two first-half New England scoring drives with punt returns of 27 and 22 yards. The returns started two of four Patriots touchdown drives that began in Dallas territory.
After the New England defense stopped the Cowboys' opening drive in three plays, Brown fielded a Toby Gowin punt in full stride at his own 38-yard line. Brown slashed all the way to the Dallas 35-yard line, and New England struck quickly. The offense capped a five-play, one minute, 53 second drive on a Kevin Faulk touchdown run from the two-yard line. The key play of the drive was a 21-yard pass from Drew Bledsoe to Terry Glenn.
After Dallas tied the game on a touchdown pass to Dave LaFleur, both teams had short drives ending in punts. Brown struck again with a 22-yard punt return to the Dallas 37. Bledsoe needed just two plays to hit Glenn with a 24-yard touchdown pass that gave the Patriots the lead for good.
"Troy [Brown] is a big play guy," said New England Head Coach Pete Carroll. "The punt he caught was a fantastic play."
Bledsoe said the returns by Brown made the job of the offense much easier.
"Troy Brown is a huge part of our game," Bledsoe said. "He gave us great field position tonight, which was huge."
The Patriots had solid field position all night long, as they had six drives that began on the Cowboys' side of the field. Much of that was the result of a vastly improved performance by the defense. Spearheaded by rookie linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer, the defense held Dallas to 5-of-14 on third down conversions and 0-of-2 on fourth downs.
Katzenmoyer, who looked far more comfortable on the field in his second pro game, had four solo tackles and an assist on a fifth play. He also broke up a pass intended for LaFleur and caused an incomplete pass by pressuring quarterback Troy Aikman.
"We were out there, we had fun and we tried to get the offense the ball," Katzenmoyer said of the performance of the defense.
"He came through," Carroll said of Katzenmoyer. "He did some nice things tonight. His getting better is important to us."
For the second straight week, quarterback Michael Bishop and wide receiver Sean Morey provided late fireworks. Bishop ran the ball four times for 26 yards and also hooked up with Morey on a 36-yard touchdown pass for the final score of the game