FOXBORO The Dallas Cowboys once again found themselves in a down-to-the-wire nailbiter.
And once again, the Cowboys came up short as the New England Patriots rallied in the closing seconds for a record-setting 20-16 win.
Several mistakes and missteps throughout the game contributed to the Cowboys (2-3) losing their second straight game, but the usual suspect for their late-game collapses -- Tony Romo -- was not to blame for this one.
New England certainly played a major role in Dallas' problems, but the Cowboys committed 10 penalties for 77 yards, which included some late-game, drive-killing mistakes.
On Dallas' second-to-last offensive series, negative yardage run plays on first and second-down, set up a third-and-long with 2:47 to play. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett certainly gave some thought to throwing the ball in that situation. But those thoughts were tossed to the curb following a false start penalty on rookie tackle Tyron Smith, which made it third-and-18 from their own 20.
Romo's play was actually one of the bright spots for a Dallas team that continues to come up short when the game matters most.
After an early interception, Romo seemed to get into a nice groove for Dallas. He completed 27-of-41 passes for 317 yards which included a touchdown. He also had 17 yards on the ground, which more than doubled his rushing total (8 yards) this season.
Dallas didn't come into Gillette Stadium looking for any moral victories, but Romo's play falls under the category of things to build on moving forward.
"He did a good job," Garrett said. "He managed the game well. We got into a little bit of a rhythm after the first couple of drives on offense."
The Patriots were concerned with the big-play ability of Dallas' 6-foot-2 wide receivers, Dez Bryant and Miles Austin. By preventing the Cowboys from launching the deep ball, it opened up several passing lanes for Romo underneath the coverage, and create a number of one-on-one situations that at times seemed to work in Dallas' favor.
"Tony did a good job of seeing what they were playing, getting the ball to the right guy," Garrett said.
Hurting Romo's play to some degree was the Cowboys' inability to balance his passing game with a adequate running game. Dallas came into the game with the sixth-best offense in the NFL, which includes 86.8 yards rushing which ranks 27th (out of 32 teams) in the NFL.
On Sunday, the Patriots limited the Cowboys to just 77 yards on the ground.
Dallas' top running back, Felix Jones, suffered an ankle injury that limited him to just eight carries for 14 yards. Leading the Cowboys rushing attack -- if you can even call it that -- was DeMarco Murray, who had 10 carries for 32 yards.
"We didn't run the ball the way we needed to run the ball," Garrett said.
Despite the woeful running game, Romo did his part to at least give the Cowboys a shot at beating a New England team that has now won a franchise-record 20 straight regular-season games at home.
For Romo, Sunday's game was the fourth time this season he has passed for more than 300 yards. But after yet another disappointing finish -- one that for a change, he had little control over -- Romo was in no mood to talk much about his play.
"I don't even think about that," he said. "It's just about winning and losing. Nothing feels good when you lose."