ARLINGTON, Texas — In a thorough 60-minute beatdown, the Cowboys handed the Patriots their most lopsided loss of the Bill Belichick era.
It was a Murphy’s Law type afternoon for New England, as seemingly everything that could go wrong, did. They lost the game in embarrassing fashion — Mac Jones was lifted in the third quarter — and may have lost their two best defensive players to injury, too.
Here are nine takeaways from a 38-3 drubbing at Jerry World:
1. Mac has a nightmare day
It’s not hyperbolic to say Sunday was Jones’ worst performance (12-of-21 for 150 yards, 2 INTs) as quarterback of the New England Patriots.
He turned the ball over three times, and two of them led directly to defensive touchdowns for Dallas. Jones felt pressure coming and fled the pocket in the second quarter, but still didn’t tuck the ball away and was strip sacked for a touchdown. Later in the quarter, he hit DaRon Bland for the first of his two interceptions. The Cowboys corner stepped in front of a throw Jones clearly didn’t have the arm strength for, snared it, and cruised into the end zone for a pick-six. Jones looked rattled in a way that he hasn’t been before; he was seeing ghosts.
“It wasn’t my day,” Jones said. “I can’t turn the ball over like that and try to beat good teams. So, definitely a lot to learn from. Definitely disappointed in myself. I feel like I can play a lot better and I have to, to beat good teams.”
2. Judon could be the biggest loss
Somehow, the biggest loss of the day might not have come on the scoreboard.
Playing in the fourth quarter of the blowout, Matthew Judon was injured trying to tackle Dallas’ third-string running back Deuce Vaughn. New England’s best player reportedly tore his biceps and might be done for the season.
“Devastating,” Deatich Wise said. “But he was in good spirits, and we’ll be with him mentally throughout the year. I know he will be with us too. There will some guys behind him that will be stepping up and filling his spot… I really don’t know (if he will miss time). I just always hate when guys get hurt.”
3. Gonzo goes down
The Patriots also lost Christian Gonzalez to a shoulder injury as he tackled Tony Pollard in the first quarter. The reigning Defensive Rookie of the Month, it’s not yet known what Gonzalez’s prognosis is moving forward. On the next snap, Dak Prescott targeted Myles Bryant in one-on-one coverage and hit CeeDee Lamb for a 20-yard touchdown pass.
“We got punched in the mouth today; got our ass kicked,” Jabrill Peppers said. “We didn’t come out here and do what we were supposed to do tonight. And that’s just the end of it. I am going to watch the tape, get it corrected, and try to get this bad taste out of our mouth next week.”
4. Tush push doesn’t work
“We have to do a better job in those key moments, key situations,” David Andrews said. ”That was a big play in the game and you get that the ball midfield, you know that’s tough. Just got to be better and do a better job of converting in those situations.” Dallas took over on downs. It’s one thing to telegraph a playcall like that when a team has the Eagles offensive line, but letting an opponent know the plan with New England’s group is a different story.
5. Running game slow in general
Both Rhamondre Stevenson (14 carries, 30 yards) and Zeke Elliott (6 carries, 16 yards) struggled once again, as the Patriots can’t get any traction on the ground. As a team, they averaged 2.3 yards per carry.
“We just gotta put it all together,” Elliott said. “We gotta take care of the fundamentals, take care of the football, we gotta play smart football. We do that and we will be right where we want to be toward the end of those games. Obviously, we want to go out there and win a football game. We just have to handle the fundamentals and do that.”
6. Off day for Onwenu
Usually New England’s steadiest offensive lineman, Mike Onwenu delivered a horrible first half, too. The guard picked up three penalties — two false starts and a hold — and struggled more than usual on the clean plays as well. It was uncharacteristically sloppy.
7. Trick play gets ‘em
The Cowboys decided to add insult to injury on a second quarter touchdown, hitting a fake PAT for a two-point conversion. With Brendan Schooler screaming off the left edge, Chauncey Golston snuck out into the flat and holder Bryan Anger hit the wide open target for two points. After the game, Mike McCarthy said that was a tip they’d picked up on film.
“Got to give (special teams coordinator John Fassel) a ton of credit,” McCarthy said. “It’s something he brought to me on Tuesday night, something he saw on film. So, we repped it all week, we had the check on it. We got the look, and it was just like anything in this game, the players did a great job preparing and it was very well executed. We just felt it was something we may have the chance to take advantage of.”
8. Another quiet day for JuJu
JuJu Smith-Schuster is still looking for his first big game with the Patriots, as the highly priced addition only hauled in one pass for 14 yards on five targets Sunday afternoon. Through four games, he has just 11 catches for 80 yards.
“It sucks to lose like that, especially in the NFL where usually games are close,” Smith-Schuster said of the blowout. “That was a tough one.”
9. Zappe wasn’t much better in relief
When Jones was relegated to the sideline, Zappe didn’t come in and light it up. The backup finished 4-of-9 for 57 yards and didn’t lead any scoring drives. Though Jones struggled mightily, it was a little more than a month ago that the Patriots cut Zappe, so a quarterback controversy between the two doesn’t feel likely. They were clearly OK with life without Zappe.
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Story by Chris Mason, masslive.com.