It was a harrowing victory at Gillette Stadium for the Dallas Cowboys, who outlasted the New England Patriots with a 35-29 overtime victory punctuated by a 35-yard walk-off touchdown pass from Dak Prescott to CeeDee Lamb. The final knockout punch came after the Cowboys overcame a mountain of adversity over the course of four quarters preceding the extra session, with quite a bit of it being self-inflicted while others arrived by way of controversial officiating, i.e., calls, non-calls and replay decisions the Cowboys feel weren't always on the up-and-up -- running back Ezekiel Elliott taking the lead in criticizing what he saw in Foxborough.
"There's no excuse for that," Elliott told media after the victory, via the team's website. "That's ridiculous, the way they called that game tonight. But at least we were able to overcome the Patriots… and the zebras."
At one point, the Cowboys were flagged for a total of six penalties for a total of 71 yards, while the Patriots hadn't been flagged a single time -- with 12 minutes remaining in the first half. There were points in which Prescott looked for a roughing the passer call after being either hit late and/or to the head, but there were none called. Other instances that upset the Cowboys were questionable holding calls that either stalled drives and/or deleted big plays, but one in particular nearly haunted Dallas going forward.
Having thrown an interception into the end zone atop the second quarter, Prescott had a chance to exorcise that demon when he drove downfield late in the quarter to the Patriots one-yard line. The two-time Pro Bowler would QB sneak into the end zone on third down and very clearly broke the plane, but was instead ruled down by officials (see below); and Prescott fumbled on the next play when attempting another sneak on fourth-and-1.
Assuming the extra point, the touchdown on third down would've given the Cowboys a 17-14 lead going into halftime and, subsequently, applied a lot of pressure on Jones and Co. entering the second half. They'd take that very lead late in the third quarter on a one-yard touchdown pass from Prescott to Lamb, but Elliott feels the officials left a Cowboys touchdown on the field.
"We have to figure out a way to get in there," Elliott noted of the aforementioned sequence on the Patriots one-yard line. "I thought we got in there. The refs thought different, but that was kind of the story tonight."
The Patriots finished the game with five penalties for 47 total yards, while the Cowboys finished with 12 penalties for 115 yards, making the latter the first team in NFL history to land a win despite incurring that amount of penalty yardage, on the road, while allowing four touchdowns and also converting less than 25% of their third downs -- per Bobby Belt of NFL Network. It's the gutsiest win yet of the Cowboys 2021 season, one that sees them entering the bye week with a 5-1 record and keeps them the conversation of Super Bowl contenders.
Randy Gregory, who had two sacks on the night and a forced fumble on Jones, agrees with Elliott.
"I think it was a poorly-called game by the refs, if I want to be honest," said Gregory, before explaining it's about controlling what you can control. "You've got to fight through it. We can only worry about ourselves, and that's what we did. Luckily, we came out the winner."