FOXBORO, Mass. -- Between a pregame cold shoulder and a postgame lukewarm hug, Bill Belichick showed his old boss how defense is really played.
Sticking to their game plan of playing down their relationship, neither coach stressed it after the Patriots had three interceptions and outplayed the Cowboys' top-ranked defense.
"Bill congratulated me on the win and I told him I thought he had a good football team," Belichick said of their midfield embrace. "I wished him luck and I do."
Although they stayed at opposite ends of the field during warmups, Parcells shot down the idea that he dislikes Belichick, who resigned as New York Jets coach on Jan. 4, 2000, one day after succeeding Parcells, who planned to remain in the front office.
"I'm about tired of talking about that kind of thing. The guy did a hell of a job for me for a long time," Parcells said. "People in the media can try and drive a stake between us if they want to, but that's not going to happen on my point."
But Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi thought this confrontation had special meaning for Belichick, who spent 12 years as an assistant to Parcells with the Patriots and the New York Giants and Jets.
"I think it was a big win for him," Bruschi said. "If I worked for a coach at one time or was on that staff I'd want to beat him, too. It's just common sense."
The Patriots, helped by two long passes by a mostly ineffective Tom Brady and 10 penalties against the Cowboys, had enough offense to win their sixth straight game and give Belichick a 3-2 career record over Parcells.
New England (8-2) maintained its two-game lead over Miami in the AFC East. Dallas, 7-3 after three 5-11 seasons, dropped into a first-place tie with Philadelphia in the NFC East as Parcells, whose Cowboys beat two of his former teams -- the Giants and Jets -- in his first season with Dallas failed to make it a sweep.
"We're still in first place and not many people thought we could be there 10 weeks into the season," Parcells said. "We have an opportunity. Whether we are good enough to take advantage of that I don't know."
Adam Vinatieri kicked a 23-yard field goal in the first quarter and Antowain Smith scored on a 2-yard run in the second. Then the Patriots' defense dominated with three interceptions in the second half, and Vinatieri finished it with a 26-yard field goal with 1:56 remaining.
"In these types of games, you can't make mistakes and today we made them," Dallas quarterback Quincy Carter said.
The shutout was New England's first in 130 games, although the Patriots beat Cleveland 9-3 in their eighth game this year. They then beat Denver, the NFL's second-ranked defense at the time, 30-26 before taking last weekend off.
"It just goes right down the board," Belichick said. "You can't single anybody out, good team defense."
The Patriots were the toughest opponent so far on a weak schedule for the Cowboys, who have five wins against teams with losing records.
Dallas was blanked for the second time in 22 days and has scored 31 points in its last four games. Terry Glenn, in his first year with Dallas, was held to one catch for eight yards in his return to New England, where he played six seasons.
Parcells coached the Patriots from 1993 to 1996, taking them to the Super Bowl in his last season, when they lost to Green Bay. Belichick was his assistant on two Giants teams that Parcells led to Super Bowl wins.
New England's first-half scoring drives were sparked by two long completions by Brady on blitzes -- one to Deion Branch for 46 yards and the other to David Givens for 57.
"After we hit those two plays, we didn't see those blitzes the rest of the day," Brady said.
Contrast those with a Dallas series in the second quarter that also gained 46 yards but required 14 plays and 7:23 before it ended in a punt.
Vinatieri kicked his first field goal four plays after Branch's catch, and Smith scored one play after the pass to Givens. But the Patriots' two long plays accounted for 103 of their 184 yards in the first half.
"Other than a few plays I think we played pretty sound," Dallas cornerback Terence Newman said.
But the Cowboys struggled on offense the rest of the way.
Dallas drove from its 34-yard line to a first down at the New England 19 late in the third quarter. Then a big rush by Bobby Hamilton and Willie McGinest forced Carter to throw quickly. The short pass bounced off the hands of Jason Witten and was intercepted by Ty Law.
And when the Cowboys went for a first down on fourth-and-1 at the 50 with 9:21 left in the game, Bruschi broke through the line and dumped Troy Hambrick for a 2-yard loss.
The game ended on Law's interception in the end zone.
- The Patriots are 5-0 at home for the first time in team history and are 8-2 for the second time, the first in 1978.
- Two defensive starters in the Patriots' opening game returned. Linebacker Ted Johnson missed eight games with a broken foot, and nose tackle Ted Washington missed six with a broken leg.
- New England won its 22nd game when leading after the third quarter.
The Associated Press News Service
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