The Dallas Cowboys came into their Week 12 matchup vs the New England Patriots with the seventh-best total defense (seventh vs the pass, 14th vs the run) in the NFL. Those numbers can be a little misleading, though, considering only two of the offenses the Cowboys had faced were ranked in the top 10. Also, in two of the three games in which the Cowboys played teams that are currently in the playoffs their defense didn’t answer the challenge.
Unlike in recent years, the Patriots have been carried by their defense in 2019. Even with that being said, you don’t want to give a quarterback like Tom Brady any momentum, especially in Foxboro.
Stopping the run is the main priority of any defense going into every game. Running Back Sony Michel’s 85 yards rushing look pretty good on face value. However, 17 of those yards came on one play which means he only gained 68 yards on 19 carries for the rest of the game, less than four yards per attempt. The other four ball carriers for New England didn’t have any success at all with just 16 yards on seven carries. The Cowboys run defense has struggled at times in 2019 but they were solid for the most part in this game.
The secondary also had a good showing in this contest. Wide Receiver Julian Edelman had a productive day as Brady found him eight times for 93 yards on 12 targets. The rest of the Patriots receiving core, however, were in handcuffs from start to finish. Brady only completed nine of the 23 passes (39%) he attempted to receivers not named Edelman and was under 50% for the game (17 of 37). Can’t really ask more from your secondary going up against an all-time great like Brady.
The most important down on defense is third down. The Cowboys came into this game only allowing conversions on 32.5% of the third downs they have faced this season. In this game, they were even better, holding the Patriots to three conversions on 14 third-down attempts (21%).
In total, the Cowboys defense held the Patriots to just 282 yards and 13 points. Unfortunately, this big-time defensive performance was wasted by the offense who only produced nine points themselves. Nonetheless, this was the kind of outing you want to see from your defense against a playoff-caliber team on the road.
The Cowboys still sit atop the NFC East at 6-5 after this tough loss. They will need more big performances from this defensive unit in the final five games to secure a second consecutive division crown. If they don’t, this team will more than likely be on the outside looking in when the playoffs start.