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Cowboys score twice on defense in 38-3 blowout of Patriots, Belichick's worst loss

By The Associated Press
Posted 7:29PM on Sunday 1st October 2023 ( 4 months ago )

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Dak Prescott is getting used to sitting back and watching the Dallas defense do its thing.

DaRon Bland returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown, Leighton Vander Esch scooped up a fumble for a score and the Cowboys blew out the New England Patriots 38-3 on Sunday.

Mac Jones was responsible for all three turnovers and was pulled in the second half of the worst loss in Bill Belichick's 29 seasons as a head coach, 24 of them in New England.

The six-time Super Bowl winner will have to wait at least another week to join George Halas and Don Shula as the only NFL coaches with 300 career regular-season victories.

Bland had his second pick-6 of the season after getting one in a season-opening rout of the New York Giants, when Dallas also returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown in a 40-0 win.

“Just to sit back and watch the defense do that, it’s awesome,” said Prescott, who had a touchdown pass before the defense took over. “I’d love to get out there and throw it over and over and be back and forth. But, I sit back and cross my legs and wait another five, six minutes. If they want to score, keep doing it.”

The Cowboys (3-1) spoiled former star running back Ezekiel Elliott's Dallas homecoming with their 10th consecutive home victory. It's the longest home streak since 1991-92, or almost two decades before AT&T Stadium opened.

The Patriots (1-3) trailed by just seven early in the second quarter when Jones was sacked from behind by Dante Fowler, leading to the easy 11-yard scoop-and-score from Vander Esch.

In the final seconds of the first half, Jones tried to throw across the field to Kendrick Bourne when Bland stepped in front and ran 54 yards untouched for a 28-3 Dallas lead.

“He got an early one across the field so I couldn’t let him do that again,” said Bland, who led the Cowboys with five interceptions as a rookie last season and has eight in 21 games. “I saw open field as soon as I got the ball and I was like, ‘Nobody is catching me from here.’”

New England's previous biggest halftime deficit under Belichick was 24 points twice, including a 47-17 wild-card loss to Buffalo two seasons ago. In the famous rally from 28-3 down to beat Atlanta in Super Bowl 51, the Patriots trailed 21-3 at the break.

The Patriots are off to a 1-3 start for the third consecutive season, all with Jones as the starter.

“We’re a lot better team than we showed out there tonight,” Belichick said. “Need to do a better job playing, coaching. Not much to say.”

Bland, who moved to the outside at cornerback after 2021 All-Pro Trevon Diggs' season-ending knee injury in practice Sept. 21, got his second interception early in the second half, leading to the last of Brandon Aubrey's three field goals.

Jones played one more series after that before he was replaced by Bailey Zappe. Jones was 12 of 21 for 150 yards with a 39.9 passer rating.

Elliott didn't get the start for the Patriots after watching a video tribute on the big screen above the field a few minutes before kickoff.

A two-time rushing champion for the Cowboys, Elliott waved as the crowd gave him a huge ovation and offered an understated version of the signature “feed me” gesture that endeared him to fans over seven seasons in Dallas.

“Honestly, I wasn’t too emotional,” said Elliott, the third-leading rusher in Dallas history.

Elliott got the first two carries on New England's second series and picked up 13 of his 16 yards (on just six carries). By the time he had a chance to be a factor again, the Patriots were two touchdowns behind.

Prescott threw his first touchdown to a receiver this season with a 20-yarder to CeeDee Lamb in the first quarter for a 10-3 lead.

Prescott was 28 of 34 for 261 yards without an interception as Dallas, the NFL leader in turnover margin coming in, finished plus-3.

All three Dallas victories have been blowouts with an average margin of 32 points. The Cowboys were coming off a surprising loss at Arizona in which they never led.

LOW POINT

Belichick's previous worst loss, playoffs included, was 31-0 at Buffalo in 2003. The biggest blowout defeat in five seasons with Cleveland from 1991-95 was 37-10 to the Houston Oilers in his final year. The 71-year-old is now 299-155 in the regular season.

ANYONE OTHER THAN BRADY

It was the second consecutive victory for the Cowboys over New England, both over Jones. They are now 9-1 against the Patriots when facing quarterbacks not named Tom Brady. He was 5-0 against Dallas.

TRICKERY FOR TWO

After Vander Esch's touchdown, the Cowboys faked the extra point, and holder Bryan Anger threw a 15-yard pass to defensive end Chauncey Golston for the 2-point conversion.

INJURIES

The Patriots lost two defensive players in rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez and pass rusher Matthew Judon. Gonzalez injured a shoulder when he took on Tony Pollard on a tackle on the sideline. Judon injured an elbow. ... Dallas RB Rico Dowdle sustained a hip injury and didn't return.

UP NEXT

Patriots: New Orleans at home next Sunday.

Cowboys: At San Francisco next Sunday in a matchup of teams that met in the playoffs each of the past two seasons. The 49ers won both.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch celebrates after recovering a New England Patriots' Mac Jones fumble and returning it for a touch down in the first half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman)
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches play against the Dallas Cowboys in the second half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Dallas Cowboys cornerback DaRon Bland (26) and safety Juanyeh Thomas (30) celebrate aftere Bland intercepted a pass thrown by New England Patriots' Mac Jones in the second half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman)
New England Patriots running back Ezekiel Elliott sits on the bench late in the second half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) throws a pass in the first half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman)
Dallas Cowboys' Luke Schoonmaker (86), Brandon Aubrey (17) and others celebrate a field goal that was kicked by Aubrey in the second half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Dallas Cowboys cornerback DaRon Bland (26) intercepts a pass intended for New England Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne (84) in the first half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. Bland returned the interception for a touchdown. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Dallas Cowboys' Chauncey Golston (99) celebrates after catching a pass for a two-point conversion on a trick play in the first half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman)

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