Have you ever seen the rain…impact the Patriots offense like this?
Between the torrential downpours falling over Gillette Stadium on Sunday afternoon and the absences of receivers Phillip Dorsett and Mohamed Sanu, New England struggled mightily to move the ball against the visiting Dallas Cowboys.
Fortunately for the Patriots, the visitors from the heart of Texas were ill-equipped for the conditions as well. With an assist from the cold November rain, New England’s defense neutralized what had been the NFL’s No. 1 offense, escaping with a 13-9 win to improve to 10-1 on the season.
"The conditions were challenging out there, but Tom [Brady], the receivers, the backs did a great job, specialists," Bill Belichick said. "I mean, they all did a good job and in less-than-ideal conditions. So, I think anytime you get through a game like that and take care of the football, that’s objective number one. So, that was good. Good to win."
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New England’s lone touchdown was the first of N’Keal Harry’s career, a 10-yard reception with less than a minute to go in the first quarter. In doing so, Harry became the 75th different receiver of a Tom Brady touchdown pass in the regular season.
Harry’s catch came two plays after Matthew Slater blocked a Dallas punt that was recovered by Jonathan Jones, giving the Patriots the short field to work with.
Stephon Gilmore picked off Dak Prescott on the next Cowboys possession, which New England turned into a Nick Folk field goal for a 10-0 lead.
It was the ninth consecutive kick Folk had converted in his brief Patriots career, as fans began to forget about the short-lived Mike Nugent era.
That is, until Folk proceeded to miss field goals from 46 and 48 yards out before the first half was out.
But the failure to extend narrow 10-6 halftime lead hardly lies solely on the right foot of Folk, who was kicking against the team he went to the Pro Bowl with as a rookie in 2007.
Harry's touchdown catch was his only grab from Brady on the afternoon, while fellow rookie Jakobi Meyers had an up-and-down afternoon in his own right.
Make no mistake about it, Meyers had some great plays, including a 32-yard catch in which he appeared dead in the water twice before breaking tackles and winding up with the longest catch of his brief career.
Meyers mixed in the good with two drops, but also had two catches -- including one 9 yards on a third and 7 -- on New England's final scoring drive in the fourth quarter, in which Folk kicked a 42-yard field goal to give the Patriots a 13-6 lead. Meyers would finish with four catches for a career-high 74 yards.
For his part, Brady admired the efforts of his two rookies on Sunday.
"They played a lot of plays and I'm proud of those two," Brady said. "They put a lot of effort in this week and they’re making improvements, and it was great to see. They both came through with some big plays for us -– we needed it -– and did a great job."
An even greater issue for the passing game was the mysterious lack of touches for James White, who had just one catch for -6 yards. Throughout his career, and especially in the last two years, White's presence as a receiver out of the backfield has mitigated the lack of depth up at wide receiver and tight end for the Patriots.
White was hardly alone in his pseudo-absence, as Ben Watson failed to catch a pass, Matt LaCosse had one catch for 5 yards and Rex Burkhead had two for 14.
In all, Brady was 17 of 37 passing for 190 yards and the touchdown pass, which all added up to a 70.8 rating -- the third straight game, and sixth time in the last seven that he's failed to top 90.
Getting all doom and gloom on the undermanned offense isn't a necessary exercise when the defense continues to trend the way it is, though.
Gilmore's pick may have been the only turnover New England forced, but the team managed to limit Cowboys star Amari Cooper to a grand total of zero catches.
Dallas had pulled within 13-9 of the Patriots with 6:04 to go in the fourth quarter on Brett Maher's third field goal of the game -- he missed what would have been a fourth off the upright in the first quarter -- and got the ball back at its own 8 with 2:38 to go with a chance to drive down the field for a game-winning touchdown.
Instead, Cooper had what would have been his first catch of the game overturned on fourth and 11 with 1:49 left in regulation, all but ending the chance for a Cowboys upset.
Dallas got the ball back with 1 second left on the clock, but New England's defense held tight to preserve its 21st straight win at home dating to Week 7 of the 2017 season.
The Patriots are back on the road next week against the other team from the Lone Star State, when they'll make their first trip to Houston since Super Bowl LI to take on the Texans. It's a Sunday Night Football game on NBC 10 Boston beginning at 8:20 p.m.
In winning their 10th game, the Patriots have now reached double figures in victories for 17 straight seasons. The last time New England failed to do so was in 2002, when it finished 9-7, one year after winning Super Bowl XXXVI.