Credit to Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. He held the Patriots to fewer than 30 points for the second straight matchup (he did it previously last November, when he was with the Browns). Unfortunately, he didn't have the benefit of Cleveland's high-powered offense.
Okay, that's an exaggeration; the Browns weren't very good last year, even if they did manage to beat the Patriots. Sunday, however, the Cowboys allowed just 16 points, and forced New England into four turnovers (including two Tom Brady picks), but it still wasn't enough to eke out a win.
Brady, as he's done countless times in his Hall of Fame career, led the Patriots on a game-winning drive, this time finding Aaron Hernandez in the end zone for the lead with just 22 seconds to go in the game.
“We haven’t had really a true two-minute situation at the end of the game where we needed a touchdown in a long time,” said Brady, who completed 27-of-41 passes for 289 yards, according to ESPNBoston.com.
“We practice it quite a bit. We prepare hard for that situation every week. When it came up this week, it’s good to get the ball in the end zone,” said Brady, who moved into eighth on the all-time touchdown list, throwing for at least one score in his 22nd straight regular-season game, extending his franchise record.
Head coach Bill Belichick, who seldom offers much in his weekly press conferences, reiterated after the game what everybody already knew.
“I’ve said it before, there’s no quarterback I’d rather have,” Belichick said. “I’m not going to get in the ranking and all of that, but I’m glad he’s our quarterback."
And while Peyton Manning supporters no doubt have his back (when he's healthy anyway), and Aaron Rodgers is making a case for the best quarterback in the NFL right now, the point remains: Brady knows how to win, especially when the game hangs in the balance. And against the Cowboys Sunday, he was able to do it with something than his best stuff. It's akin to a power pitcher finding ways to get guys out when his fastball has lost its zip.
“They played a good game defensively,” Brady said. They have a lot of good players and a good scheme. Our execution wasn’t great at times but when we needed it, it was. Everyone is sitting in the locker room at 5-1 going into the bye week feeling pretty good. Obviously there are a lot of things we need to correct, but it’s much better to be 5-1 than 4-2. We worked hard for this one."
And that -- being 5-1 -- is all that matters.