Patriots vs. Cowboys takeaways: Instant analysis of New England's 35-29 loss

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Patriots-Cowboys takeaways: Prescott gives MVP-level performance in win originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys played one of the most entertaining games of the 2021 NFL season Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

Two touchdowns and a field goal were scored in the last three minutes of the fourth quarter, setting the stage for the Patriots' first overtime game in the regular season since 2015. After getting a stop on defense, the Cowboys won the game on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Dak Prescott to CeeDee Lamb.

The 35-29 loss drops the Patriots to 2-4, including an 0-4 record at home. There are 10 teams in the AFC with a better record than New England. The Patriots need to start winning games ASAP or they will miss the playoffs for a second consecutive season.

Here are four instant takeaways from this exciting Week 6 matchup.

1. Patriots pass defense got roasted again

The Patriots defense got carved up through the air to Texans rookie quarterback Davis Mills last week. Mills threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions.

New England's adjustments didn't make much of a difference in Week 6. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott threw for 445 yards with three scores.

His game-winning touchdown pass to CeeDee Lamb in overtime was not a good look for Patriots defensive back Jalen Mills, who got beat badly on the play.

Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson also wasn't great. He committed a costly pass interference penalty near the end zone on a third-quarter drive that ended with a Cowboys touchdown.

That score was Lamb's first of the game, which also came with Mills in coverage.

The Patriots pass rush also didn't put any pressure on Prescott. New England tallied zero sacks and was credited with just four five.

There are a bunch more quality quarterbacks on the Patriots' schedule, including Josh Allen (twice), Justin Herbert, Ryan Tannehill, Matt Ryan and Baker Mayfield. The Patriots need to be better against the pass and limit big plays or they will continue losing these close games.

2. Pats run game building consistency

The Patriots gave one of the worst rushing performances in league history in Week 4 when they tallied minus-1 yards during a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The run game bounced back in Week 5 with 126 yards (4.4 per carry) and a touchdown versus the Houston Texans. New England's rushing attack took another step forward against the Cowboys.

The Patriots ran for 120 yards on 27 carries (4.7 per attempt) with two touchdowns, one each by Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson. Harris racked up 101 yards (5.6 per carry), in addition to his first-quarter score.

The Patriots offense struggled to extend drives throughout the game. They didn't have a single drive of four or more plays through three quarters. They finally went on a long drive in the fourth quarter. It went 75 yards on 13 plays and took 6:50 off the clock. The run game powered that pivotal drive, culminating with Stevenson's first career touchdown.

Even in the loss, the run game's effectiveness was very much a bright spot for the Pats.

3. Dak Prescott must be in the MVP conversation

Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray is the deserved betting favorite for NFL MVP, but Prescott is giving him serious competition. 

Prescott was brilliant against the Patriots. He completed 36 of 51 pass attempts for 445 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He led Dallas on a game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter to force overtime, and in the extra period he brought the Cowboys down the field for the game-winning touchdown on a 35-yard pass to Lamb.

Prescott is completing 73.1 percent of his passes for 1,813 yards with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions through six games. The Cowboys have the second-best record in the NFC at 5-1, with the only loss coming to Tom Brady's Buccaneers in Week 1. 

Every list of MVP candidates needs to have Prescott in the top three after Sunday. He did not let the Cowboys lose in a tough place to play.

4. Mac Jones showed impressive resiliency late

For a moment, it looked like Jones had cost the Patriots a win when he was intercepted by Cowboys cornerback and his former Alabama teammate Trevon Diggs late in the fourth quarter. Diggs returned it for a touchdown to give Dallas a 26-20 lead with 2:27 remaining. 

But on the first play of the very next drive, Jones challenged Diggs again with a deep pass down the left side of the field and connected with wide receiver Kendrick Bourne. Diggs got beat by a double move and Bourne raced to the end zone untouched for a 75-yard touchdown.

It was a big-time throw from the rookie quarterback.

Jones showed an impressive ability to bounce back from mistakes during his collegiate career at Alabama -- just look at the 2019 Iron Bowl. This sequence was another example of that ability.