Brady's Perfect Patriots Pull Away

Donte' Stallworth, celebrating with Stephen Neal, has something to point out: The Patriots are 6-0.
Donte' Stallworth, celebrating with Stephen Neal, has something to point out: The Patriots are 6-0. (By Lm Otero -- Associated Press)
By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 15, 2007

IRVING, Tex., Oct. 14 -- The New England Patriots aren't completely invulnerable, after all. They actually trailed the Dallas Cowboys in the second half Sunday in the first truly glamorous matchup of the NFL season. But the Patriots are every bit as resilient as they are talented, and they remained unbeaten by getting five touchdown passes from quarterback Tom Brady and pulling away late for a 48-27 triumph at Texas Stadium.

"Well," Cowboys Coach Wade Phillips said, "they are that good."

Brady had one of the best days of a brilliant career that has produced three Super Bowl victories. With the Cowboys doing all they could to surround wide receiver Randy Moss with defenders, Brady looked elsewhere most of the time and threw two touchdown passes to Wes Welker, one to Donte' Stallworth and another to tight end Kyle Brady. Moss managed to get into the act with a touchdown catch of his own.

The Cowboys (5-1) couldn't keep pace, although they did manage to lead by 24-21 in the third quarter after trailing early by two touchdowns before they even mustered a first down. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo threw two touchdown passes, one to wideout Terrell Owens.

But the Cowboys had no answers for Brady, who set a career high and matched the franchise record for touchdown passes in a game. He became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw at least three touchdown passes in each of the first six games of a season. He has 21 touchdown passes and the Patriots (6-0) have scored at least 34 points in each game.

"I've always had a saying: Peyton Manning has his wide receivers. Why can't Tom Brady have his?" Moss said. "Now that Tom has his, we'll see."

So the Patriots are threatening not only to pursue an unblemished season, but also to rewrite the NFL record book for offensive production. Yet they weren't about to get carried away over what was, for them, just another routine, efficient workday.

"It's game six," linebacker Tedy Bruschi said. "That's the way we looked at it. We weren't going to put any more magnitude on it than it was."

Said Brady: "It's really early in the season. It's a win on the road and we're 6-0. I'm happy about that. But the season doesn't really start until Thanksgiving, anyway."

Brady completed 31 of 46 passes for 388 yards. Welker had 11 catches for 124 yards, and Stallworth had seven for 136 yards. The Patriots and Indianapolis Colts, who were idle Sunday, were left as the league's only undefeated teams, while the Cowboys learned that the gap between lording over the NFC and being able to compete with the AFC heavyweights remains sizable.

"We've got a lot of work to do," Phillips said. "We wanted to be one of the elite teams. But obviously we're not, for them to come into our place and beat us like that."

This was only the fifth meeting in league history of unbeaten teams with at least five wins apiece, and it was accompanied by Super Bowl-like buildup. The Patriots struck first. Brady overthrew an open Moss on a deep pass on the Patriots' first play but remained calm and connected on four third-down completions on the opening drive, the final one to Moss for a six-yard touchdown.

The Patriots squandered good field position the second time they got the ball but cashed in on their third possession. Again, it was third-down completions by Brady that made the difference. He kept the drive going with a 28-yard strike to tight end Benjamin Watson on a third-and-seven play. On another third and seven, this time from the Cowboys 35, Welker went in motion, sprinted past cornerback Nathan Jones and caught Brady's on-target throw for a touchdown.

The Cowboys, to that point, were performing a running-in-place routine on offense. Romo was coming off a six-turnover performance in last Monday night's miraculous victory at Buffalo, in which the Cowboys scored nine points in the game's final 20 seconds to prevail by one. It was clear that he and the Cowboys would have to be far sharper in this game, but they went three plays and out on each of their first three possessions. When they finally started moving the ball, they faltered in New England territory and had to settle for a 38-yard field goal by rookie Nick Folk.

They got back into the game with a touchdown by their defense. Veteran linebacker Greg Ellis sacked Brady and forced a fumble, and defensive end Jason Hatcher scooped up the ball and raced 29 yards to the end zone. Brady had an immediate reply, throwing a 12-yard touchdown pass to Welker on the play after getting a first down on a fourth-down sneak. This time, it was the Dallas offense that responded, as Romo threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Owens into the teeth of a Patriots blitz in the final minute of the first half. When Romo teamed with wideout Patrick Crayton for an eight-yard touchdown early in the third quarter, the Cowboys had their first lead.

"I thought we had it going for a while," said Romo, whose strained left (non-throwing) shoulder was wrapped in ice after the game. "But they kept scoring points as well."

Brady's fourth touchdown pass, a one-yarder to Kyle Brady, put New England back in front, and kicker Stephen Gostkowski provided a 45-yard field goal just after a would-be touchdown throw to Moss was overturned by an instant replay review. A perfectly thrown deep ball to Stallworth produced a 69-yard touchdown just more than 2 1/2 minutes into the fourth quarter.

"We're not going to panic when we get behind," Bruschi said. "They're a good team. They're well-coached. We expected it to be tough. We might have gotten a little cushion there at the end, but it was a tough game."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company