FOXBORO Tom Brady engineered yet another late-game rally as New England squeaked out a 20-16 win over the Dallas Cowboys. The much-maligned Patriots defense continues to trend in the right direction, as they did their part to get the ball back in Brady's hands as he went about engineering comeback win No. 32 if you're keeping track at home.
But for anyone who saw Sunday's game, there was one word that probably best described the Patriots' fifth win of the season - ug-gah-lee.
"I would second that, without a shadow of a doubt," said Patriots guard Brian Waters. "I know that around here that's not anything new, to be honest with you. I know there have been a lot of close games around here and as well for Dallas. It was expected to come down to the end."
Maybe so, but certainly not like this in a game that featured more mental blunders on the Patriots part than usual.
"We did a lot of things very poorly," said New England tackle Matt Light. "And look, whether it was those guys just making great plays and having the kind of guys that can make plays like that or us just totally being asleep in certain situations. We've got to play better than that; we understand that."
Missed assignments is one thing. Penalties can kind of be explained away as well.
But more than anything else, it was New England's woeful job of tackling the Cowboys that was most disturbing.
In the first quarter with a first-and10 at their own 23-yard line, New England's defense stuffed Felix Jones for a one-yard gain - but only after he broke four tackles.
And the biggest play of the game for the Cowboys - a 33-yard catch by Dez Bryant - involved New England players missing tackles.
"We had some problems with tackling," acknowledged Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes, who came up with arguably the biggest tackle of the game when he disrupted a shovel pass near the end zone in the fourth quarter which resulted in a three-yard loss and even more important, forced the Cowboys to settle for a field goal. "But getting all those hats to the ball, we took care of it."
Said coach Bill Belichick: "We missed a lot of tackles today. That was the biggest problem. We've got to do a better job of tackling, but we were able to play well in the red (zone) area and hold them to some field goals. Ultimately, the touchdowns beat the field goals, so we were fortunate there."
In addition to the missed tackles and penalties (5-for-35 yards), the Pats turned the ball over four times which included a pair of interceptions by Brady.
"We really squandered away some opportunities throughout the game but came up big when we needed it," Brady said.
To a large degree, it has been like that all season for the Patriots.
With every victory, there has usually been one aspect of their play that was noticeably bad relative to others.
On Sunday, it seemed as though the Patriots were unable to get into a nice flow in a number of phases of play.
And that, more than anything else, makes Sunday's victory so impressive.
"Everyone battled back and played hard," Light said. "These are the kind of wins you want, but you don't necessarily want to be in those situations."