FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One week after quarterback Tom Brady expressed frustration with the New England Patriots' offense, the short-handed attack sputtered through another game -- a 13-9 win against the visiting Dallas Cowboys.
The optimistic outlook? Playing without top receivers Phillip Dorsett (concussion) and Mohamed Sanu (ankle), they buy themselves more time to find some answers. The Patriots played turnover-free, situational-smart football to complement the club's strengths -- defense and special teams.
The pessimistic view? Questions persist about whether the unit can consistently string together positive plays to lead the team to victory should the defense falter. On a rain-soaked, windy day when the Patriots' three-receiver set consisted of Julian Edelman and rookies N'Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers -- and Benjamin Watson and Matt LaCosse split time at tight end -- there wasn't a lot of firepower in the passing game.
Brady finished 17-of-37 for 190 yards with one touchdown.
According to ESPN's Stats & Information, this is the third-lowest completion percentage of Brady's career (minimum 30 attempts). Earlier this season against the Bills, he had completed 46.2% of his passes, so two of the four games in his career with the lowest completion percentage have come this season.
For context, this was Brady's 204th game with at least 30 attempts.
Describe the game in two words. Seeing red. The Patriots' stellar defensive play in the red zone, holding the Cowboys to field goals after two drives that advanced to the 11-yard line was the difference in the game.
Buying a breakout performance. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore had blanket coverage on receiver Amari Cooper, further solidifying his status among the NFL's best. This was Cooper's 20th game as a Cowboy and the first time he was held without a catch with Dallas.
Biggest hole in the game plan. More Sony Michel. The second-year running back had a season-high 46 rushing yards on seven carries (6.6-yard average) in the first quarter, as the commitment to the ground attack showed some initial promise. But he had just five carries for 14 yards over the second and third quarter, as the Patriots went away from him. He finished with 20 carries for 85 yards.
Pivotal play. Special teams captain Matthew Slater's blocked punt in the first quarter gave the Patriots a short field to score the game's first touchdown. Given the way the rest of the game unfolded, with little coming easy for the Patriots' offense, the exemplary effort by Slater to beat linebacker Joe Thomas was critical.
Promising trend. Although the ledger will show that kicker Nick Folk missed field goal attempts for 46 and 48 yards -- both to the challenging end of the stadium because of wind -- he rebounded to hit a key 42-yarder in the fourth quarter to that same direction. That was a key kick (and a reflection that the Patriots can count on him) because it made it a four-point game, and forced the Cowboys to drive the length of the field for a touchdown instead of playing for a field goal.