How Patriots defense could struggle with Amari Cooper, Cowboys' receivers

NBC Sports Boston Staff

The New England Patriots will face one of their toughest opponents of the season in the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon.

While the offense continues to struggle, frustrating Tom Brady, the defense has been a game-changer throughout the campaign -- helping New England eke out a 17-10 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles last weekend. 

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The only time the defense really struggled this season was when it allowed 37 points to the Lamar Jackson-led Baltimore Ravens in Week 9. With a similar offensive style to the Ravens, Dallas could potentially shred the Patriots defense if given the opportunity.

Wide receivers Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb and Tavon Austin have combined for 141 catches, 2,149 yards and 13 touchdowns this season. 37-year-old tight end Jason Witten also has 41 receptions for 371 yards and two TDs.

None of those receivers would be having such great seasons if it weren't for quarterback Dak Prescott. The 26-year-old's 3,221 passing yards lead all NFL quarterbacks, and his 21 touchdowns rank second behind Russell Wilson -- he'll be just as dangerous, if not more dangerous than the receivers.

The combination of speed and skill the offense brings to the Cowboys' lineup has caused Patriots' cornerbacks coach Mike Pellegrino to take notice. 

"These guys can keep you up at night," Pellegrino said of Dallas' wide receivers on a Tuesday conference call. 

And it's no surprise as to why Dallas ranks first in total yards per game and sixth in scoring. So, the Prescott-led Cowboys could potentially cause New England some problems -- and Pellegrino alluded to that. 

"We've got Cooper, Cobb, Gallup and then you've got Austin," Pellegrino said. "Starting with the coaching staff over there, they've done a great job with these guys – the OC, [Kellen] Moore, and the wide receiver coach, Sanjay [Lal]. ... We've got our work cut out for us this week and we're excited for the opportunity to go against these guys. It should be a good challenge for us."

Although they pose a challenge, the Patriots also have a few notable players with some pretty impressive stats on the defensive side of the ball. Devin McCourty is tied for first in the NFL with five interceptions, while Jamie Collins and Stephon Gilmore (among others) are tied for fifth with three. 

It's clear that Sunday's matchup will be a good one -- especially considering the two are leading their respective divisions. 

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How Patriots defense could struggle with Amari Cooper, Cowboys' receivers originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

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