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In trying to subtract Cowboys’ options, Pats wound up with addition problem | Opinion

·4 min read

Before the Cowboys’ dramatic 35-29 overtime victory, a game in which quarterback Dak Prescott passed for 445 yards and three touchdowns, including the 35-yard, walk-off game-winner to receiver CeeDee Lamb, there was a lot of debate about how the legendary coach Bill Belichick would defend the league’s top-ranked offense.

Belichick has a proven track record of building, and executing, his game plans around eliminating his opponent’s top option, thus forcing teams to try to beat his Patriots with plays or schemes that — in theory — have a lower probability of success.

For the Cowboys, who feel they can run as well as they can pass,the situation would offer some insight into what another coach thought their identity was.

Considering Belichick’s old-school coach ways, the Cowboys made a calculation that he would focus on stopping the run first, especially with the team ranking second in the league in rushing and averaging over 200 yards a game on the ground in their four previous wins.

And in doing so, Belichick messed around and found out what the Cowboys, who are riding a five-game winning streak, already know — this team belongs to Prescott and how he goes is how his team goes.

The Cowboys success on the ground is predicated on Prescott getting them in and out of the right plays at the line of scrimmage. Another contributing factor comes when opponents play their safeties too deep because they were fearful of giving up big plays in the passing game.

But Belichick found out the hard way in record fashion on Sunday.

Not only did Prescott pass for the most yards ever against a Belichick coached team in New England but he directed an offense that gained the most yards (567) ever against Belichick in 27 years of coaching, while running a whopping 82 plays.

It wasn’t always pretty — thanks to an interception, a fumble and a dropped touchdown pass on a play inside the red zone as well as 12 penalties for 115 yards — but it set up a pretty satisfying and thrilling conclusion.

The game-winning toss to Lamb was all about Prescott buying time and coming off his No. 1 option in tight end Dalton Schultz and quickly finding a wide-open Lamb streaking across the field before running to paydirt.

That Prescott suffered a strained right calf on the final play is only a minor concern right now.

He left the stadium in a walking boot confident and smiling, knowing that with the bye he has two weeks to heal before the Cowboys play their next game, a road contest against the Minnesota Vikings on Halloween night.

“Yeah, the last throw, just came down funny,” Prescott said. “That’s what it was. It will be checked out, I’ll be fine, I can promise you that. Great time to be going into the bye week. You all can have fun with it this week.”

Prescott had his fun during the game, attempting passes to nine different receivers and completing passes to eight of them.

Prescott recorded his ninth career 400-yard passing game, which is the most in franchise history and ties Eli Manning and Aaron Rodgers for eighth in NFL history.

With three touchdown passes, Prescott became the first player in Cowboys history to have three or more touchdown passes in four straight games. And his 16 touchdown passes through the first six games are the most ever in franchise history.

Sunday’s performance was simply continuation of what has been a fantastic start to the season and another example of him being at his best in clutch moments as the fourth quarter and overtime were his personal playground.

Prescott recorded his 17th career game-winning drive, which is tied for fourth among quarterbacks since he entered the NFL in 2016, and it’s the second-most among the Cowboys all-time.

And that doesn’t even include the game-tying field goal drive late in the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime.

He converted a fourth-and-4 to No. 3 receiver Cedrick Wilson and hit Lamb for 24 yards on 3rd-and-25 following a bizarre unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on guard Connor Williams to set up a 49-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein.

Prescott was perfect in overtime, completing all five of his pass attempts for 75 yards, including the 35-yard clincher.

“Yeah, he did a good job,” Belichick said of Prescott. “There were a lot of times where I thought we had him covered pretty well, but he was able to extend some plays and made some great throws. They have very good skill players.

“Again, the quarterback was a hard guy to get. In the end — they have a good passing game, and they were probably a little better than we were.”

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