FOXBORO -- The Cowboys came into Gillette Stadium with arguably the most efficient passing offense in the league. Dak Prescott averaged 8.8 yards per pass attempt, best in football. He helped Dallas cook up 47 explosive pass plays, leading to the third-best explosive-play percentage in the NFL. 

The Cowboys left Gillette Stadium with some abysmal numbers. Prescott's yards-per-attempt number was down more than two full yards (6.2). He completed just 18 of 32 attempts and didn't break 200 yards for the first time this season.

The weather wasn't exactly conducive to a good-looking passing attack for either side, but Prescott ran into the best pass defense in football and came away with a 13-9 loss. 

The play of the night for the Patriots defense? The Turning Point this week? That came early, with 14:17 remaining in the first half. Prescott felt it a good time -- on third-and-two from his own 26 -- to target No. 1 receiver Amari Cooper for the first time. 

It wasn't. 

Running through the traffic schemed up by the Cowboys on an over route, Stephon Gilmore stuck with Cooper stride for stride and then cut off Prescott's wobbler for an interception. Cooper was officially targeted just once more. (He caught a third-down throw in the third quarter, but it was called back after a holding call on left tackle Tyron Smith. A fourth-down target hit the turf as Cooper reeled it in. It was ruled incomplete upon review.)

Gilmore's pick led to a field goal and made the score 10-0.


It might've been a wise decision on Prescott's part to stay away from his best option. Gilmore is considered by many to be the best cover corner in football for a reason. But the Cowboys passing game never really recovered. 

A rub route in the fourth quarter led to a long catch-and-run for Randall Cobb that set up a field goal. Prescott found Cobb for another 18-yarder late in the final minutes. 

Otherwise . . . nothing. 

Steering Prescott away from Cooper effectively turned the Cowboys into a pre-Cooper passing offense. Not good. Take a look at the numbers in terms of who's been the team's most efficient receiver -- by a wide margin -- since his arrival last season.

The trade that brought Cooper to Dallas last year coincided with Prescott's rise as one of the top quarterbacks in football. He's now an MVP candidate with a true No. 1. But the Patriots took Cooper away, and won the game because of it. 

If there was any question as to which Patriot has been the team's most valuable in 2019, Gilmore answered on Sunday.

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