FOXBORO -- It wouldn't be a Patriots game if their defense didn't do an uncanny Swiss cheese imitation at least once, would it?
The 'D' did it late in the second quarter, allowing the Cowboys to gash them for 93 yards over 11 plays. Dallas never once lost yardage -- and, in fact, never even had to convert a third or fourth down -- during the drive. The two big plays were Tony Romo-to-Dez Bryant completions of 33 and 16 yards, and the drive was capped by a one-yard Romo-to-Jason Witten TD pass with 33 seconds to go in the half.
It turned a comfortable 13-3 New England lead into a shaky 13-10 advantage at halftime, and raised questions about how the defense -- which had performed admirably for the first 1 12 quarters -- will stand up to the Cowboys' attack in the second half.
The teams traded interceptions, and subsequent field goals, to forge a 3-3 tie after one quarter.
The first Tony Romo mistake of the day -- an interception by Kyle Arrington at the Patriots' 47 -- led to New England points, though not as many as the Pats would have liked. Tom Brady needed only six plays to get them from the Dallas 47, where the drive started after Arrington's six-yard interception return, to the 8. But he couldn't find an open receiver on second-and-six and threw an incompletion, then was sacked by DeMarcus Ware for a five-yard loss on third down. Stephen Gostkowski came in and kicked a 31-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
Brady returned the favor on the Pats' next possession, getting picked by Terence Newman on a pass intended for Deion Branch and giving Dallas the ball on the New England 23. The Cowboys actually went backwards, losing seven yards on three plays, but Dan Bailey kicked a 48-yard field goal to tie the game.
After trading interceptions, the teams then traded fumbles. Matthew Slater lost the ball on the ensuing kickoff, and Dallas' Gerald Sensabaugh recovered on the Pats' 32. But five plays later, Tashard Choice coughed it up on a second-and-10 from the 21, and Gerard Warren recovered for New England.
The Patriots turned that into points as the first quarter turned to the second. A 45-yard completion from Brady to Branch on third-and-eight moved the ball to the Dallas 33, and the Pats eventually reached the 8 before a holding penalty on rookie Nate Solder pushed the Pats back to the 18. They had to settle for another field goal by Gostkowski, this one of 26 yards, and a 6-3 lead.
They finally got into the end zone on their next try, going 69 yards in 7 plays with Brady throwing five yards to Wes Welker for the score. Welker was originally ruled out on the 1, but a challenge by coach Bill Belichick showed that he got the ball over the pylon on the left sideline for the touchdown.