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Keys to victory: How Cowboys can beat Patriots for first time since 1996

The New England Patriots aren’t the Tom Brady team of old but they offer a challenge to the streaking Dallas Cowboys in a Week 6 matchup from Foxborough

DALLAS — The next challenge for the Dallas Cowboys is to go on the road and beat a team led by one of the best head coaches in the NFL. The New England Patriots might be 2-3, but they are far from an easy win, especially with Bill Belichick at the helm.

It’s been 25 years since the Cowboys have beaten the Patriots and they’ve had issues scoring touchdowns in their last three games against Belichick’s teams. 

One TD in their last three games against the Patriots has made for some miserable games for the Cowboys, who are hoping to end the losing streak against New England and extend their winning streak in 2021 to five games.

Here are the keys to beating the Patriots for the first time since 1996:

Force rookie quarterback Mac Jones to beat them Jones might be the best rookie QB so far this season, but he’s still learning how to play big boy football. The Patriots rarely push the ball down field in the passing game as they rely more on shorter throws and on Jones’ quick release. 

Josh McDaniels’ offense hasn’t yet asked Jones to open up the passing attack and they rank 19th in the league through the air. If the Cowboys can force the Patriots into throwing the ball deeper down the field, they’ll increase the chances of forcing turnovers from a rookie QB.

Pound the rock – One of the things that the Cowboys have done well during their winning streak is run the ball effectively. Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard both rank inside the top 11 in the league in rushing, with Pollard leading the NFL in yards per rush at 6.4 and Elliott not far behind at 5.3.

The offensive line is helping the rushing game dominate on the ground, which has racked up two straight 200-yard games.

If teams are going to allow the Cowboys to run in order to stop Dak Prescott from beating them with the passing game, the franchise QB and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore are happy to oblige. 

Keep Dak Prescott clean – The Cowboys have done a good job of keeping Prescott out of harm's way for most of the season, especially considering that they’ve been without right guard Zack Martin for one game, and right tackle La’el Collins for the last four contests.

However, the offense might be down another starter if All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith can’t go after getting an MRI on his neck on Thursday. 

Regardless, the offensive line needs to protect Prescott from a Patriots defense that ranks seventh in sacks. It’s a unit led by LB/DL Matt Judon, who is second in the league in sacks with 6.5 on the year. 

If Prescott is given time to throw, the passing offense should be able to move the chains. The Patriots allowed rookie Houston Texans rookie QB Davis Mills to throw for 312 yards and three touchdowns last week; Prescott has the weapons to do even better if he is kept upright in the pocket.

Win the Special Teams battle – The Patriots under Belichick have always had one of the better special teams units in the league. They find the hidden yardage in games more often than not and have one of the best special team players in the game in Matthew Slater, who is a seven-time All-Pro and nine-time Pro Bowl player. 

It’ll be a challenge for the Cowboys to win the special teams phase of the game, but if they do, it would help clear a path to victory.

Be prepared for anything! – New England is one of the biggest trick play teams in the league. They’ve run a tight end jet sweep twice this season and wide receiver Jakobi Meyers has also thrown two passes, so the Patriots are very likely to run something unconventional on Sunday to sneak up on the Cowboys.

Dallas must be like the Boy Scouts in all three phases of this game. They must be prepared for any and everything that Bill Belichick and the Patriots will throw at them. 

Do you foresee the Cowboys coming away with their first win against New England since the Clinton administration? Share your predictions with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.