Patriots

Patriots

ARLINGTON, Texas – Tom Brady was walking through the lion exhibit in a meat suit for much of the first half Sunday in Dallas.

Brady went down five times in the opening 30 minutes for just the second time in his career (and first time in 13 seasons) as Greg Hardy – bad guy, good football player – wreaked havoc.

So what happened?

Wrinkles, baby. Wrinkles.

“They have some good personnel on defense,” Brady said in brief postgame remarks. “I think they gave us a few different fronts, a few different coverages. They came in with an approach and I thought we settled in, made some plays to start the second half. We did play better."

During the week, Bill Belichick opined that Dallas defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is a coach that adheres to the style he’s used for years. Belichick didn’t expect much different. But Belichick said that Dallas came at times with a 3-2 front featuring six defensive backs.

It seems stupefying that an offensive line of five people can’t hold back a defensive front with three guys. But the number of guys in the front or a reduced number of defenders rushing sometimes serves as confusion and the “I thought you had him, you thought I had him?” post-sack conversation is the evidence.

There seemed to be some of that. And there seemed to be some instances where the Patriots were just overwhelmed 1-on-1.

“It’s a good front. They’ve got big team speed,” said Brady. “I was probably holding the ball too long on some of the plays. The offensive line, I think they did a great job. I see some adjustments in different things. Four games into the year, you can’t practice everything. All we can do it make the adjustments and hope we do better next week.”

“They played hard,” said left tackle Nate Solder, who had a tough go against Hardy and left with a right arm injury in the second half. “We obviously expect more of ourselves than that. We’re gonna have to be a lot better than that.”

When Solder went out, he was replaced by Marcus Cannon who had a play or two of his own where he allowed some heat but also performed well. The Patriots also used Dallas’ aggressiveness against it early in the second half with some screens and rub routes designed to get the pressing corners off Brady’s targets.

Said rookie center David Andrews, “We knew that’s where they were gonna try to do some stuff and they did and we were able to adjust and keep throwing punches. Every week I’ve played I’ve seen something different. They had a good game plan and we just tried to adjust and keep doing our job. We’re surrounded by two veteran tackles and Josh (Kline) who’s played a lot of football and of course Tom and all the coaches put us in the right spots and allow us to play.”

The Patriots offense also had the luxury of knowing that, when they were stopped, the ball would probably be coming back to them soon. The state of the Cowboys offense on Sunday ensured that. This was the first time the Patriots have been stymied for a good stretch in 2015 and they were still able to get a 10-point lead by the half and win by 24. None of it was easy on Sunday. And going forward, it will get harder.