The Sports Xchange

Brady's late heroics lead Patriots to 20-16 win over Cowboys

By Mike Shalin

FOXBORO -- The precision of a surgeon.

"There's no quarterback I'd rather have. I've said it before," New England coach Bill Belichick said after Tom Brady took his team 80 yards in the closing minutes to lift the Patriots to a 20-16 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

"I'm not going to get into the rankings and all that but I'm glad he's our quarterback."

Brady, completing his 32nd career win with his team behind or tied in the fourth quarter, was 8-for-9 on the winning drive, capping the march and completing the surgery with an 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Aaron Hernandez with 22 seconds left.

On the drive, Brady passed for 78 yards, with the other two coming on his quarterback sneak on a third-and-2 from the Dallas 29.

He then hit Wes Welker with passes of 13 and six yards before the winner to Hernandez in the back of the end zone.

"I'd prefer to be up four touchdowns with two minutes left but that really wasn't the case today," said Brady. "You just keep playing. You keep fighting."

Taking the ball at the 20 with 2:31 left after his defense forced a three-and-out just after the Patriots had one, Brady, intercepted twice as the Patriots turned the ball over four times, hit Hernandez for 16 yards to start the drive. He then hit Rob Gronkowski for 11, Welker for five and then 10 yard connections and Danny Woodhead with a nine-yard dumpoff before the last three completions.

The only incompletion on the drive was followed by the sneak, Brady's third sneak for a first down in the game.

The Patriots hadn't scored since midway through the second quarter before pulling out the win to go to 5-1.

"Tom obviously has a great track record," said opposing quarterback Tony Romo. "He's a great quarterback, he has won Super Bowls here for a reason.

"By the same token, I believe in my defense. They have shown over and over again that they can come up big in those situations. It's football, it is going to happen at some point. But I'll tell you what, I will take our defense every day of the week. Those guys did a great job. Obviously, we came up a little short and that's what everyone is going to talk about. Guys gave great effort and, going forward, we're excited."

David Bailey's 26-yard field goal with 5:13 left gave the Cowboys (2-3) their first lead, setting the stage for Brady's heroics, which produced his 31st straight regular season home win. It was also the Patriots' 20th straight regular-season win at home and their 18th straight home win against NFC teams.

The Patriots failed to score 30 points for the first time in their last 14 regular season games, leaving them one shy of the NFL record. The last time they didn't do it in the regular season was last Nov. 7 when the Browns held them to 14. Rob Ryan was the Cleveland defensive coordinator in that game and now has the same job with the Cowboys.

Extending the Ryan angle a bit further, the Jets held the Patriots to 21 points in beating them in the playoffs, with Rob's brother Rex the head coach of that team.

Rob Ryan's defense made it a long day for the Patriots, but not at the end. "We worked hard for this one," Brady said.