ARLINGTON - The Patriots were good enough to put on a clinic. And the Cowboys are sick enough to be admitted to one.
Sunday’s 30-6 Cowboys’ home loss to undefeated New England was predictable in many senses, starting with the fact that Tom Brady and company are superior to Brandon Weeden and company. The Cowboys defense -led by the dynamic efforts of Sean Lee and the now unsuspended Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain — contested that notion for a time. But even a battered Brady bests a Dallas offense struggling to keep its head above water without weapons like Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and Lance Dunbar.
“With where our offense is, our defense is expected to get it done, no matter how many snaps we have to play,’’ cornerback Mo Claiborne told me. “We didn’t get it done.’'
But in truth, even at 2-3, there is something for Dallas to build on defensively. Linebacker Lee was everywhere. McClain was even more noticeable with a sack and eight tackles. And whether you despite Hardy (due to his involvement in a domestic-violence case) or accept him (maybe because you can root for the Cowboys while still finding malevolent behavior horrific) you cannot deny his rare gift for harassing QBs.
"“We’ve got a lot of phenomenal guys, a lot of fast guys, a lot of big guys,’' said Hardy, who was in Brady’s face all day, recording two of Dallas’ five sacks. “A beautiful combination of everything.’'
In other words, ultimately, the Cowboys’ now fully-assembled defense seems playoff-worthy (yes, even after allowing 30 points).
But what about the offense — and not the one that might be special again when Romo (broken collarbone) returns in late November or when Dez (foot surgery) returns as soon as the next game, at New York after next week’s bye?
“We’ve got a couple of weeks here,’’ owner Jerry Jones said. “We’ve got to come up with a way to play better. Play better and (create) better plans. …We’ve got to have better offense. Usually that does mean you need better quarterback play.’'
Jerry’s answer was a response to questions from me and others about changing out Brandon Weeden (26/39 for 188 yards and an interception) in favor of Matt Cassel while Cowboys Nation waits on Romo. The Cowboys offense had five three-and-outs on their first seven drives in the first half and in this three-game losing skid have tied or lost the turnover differential every week. This was a 3-3 game for what seemed like a long time, until … it wasn’t. And while that’s obviously not all the QB’s fault …
“I understand how it really is,’’ Weeden told me. "Everybody’s going to point fingers. That’s the way it is. … Some people get it, some people don’t.’'
Having said that, there are dozens of reasons to explore a change at QB when a team is struggling. And Dallas is struggling — at least on offense. Otherwise? The newest “celebrity’’ (for better or worse) in this locker room sees reasons for Cowboys positivity. … and yet sees the bottom line.
The All-Pro Hardy was then asked to assign himself a grade for his first-ever Cowboys game.
“An ‘F,’’’ he said. "Because we lost it.’'