AP Sports Writer

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) _ Down three points. Barely two minutes
left. One thought on Tom Brady’s mind.

“You can’t not get the ball in the end zone,” the master of
late comebacks said.

That’s where he got it, throwing an 8-yard touchdown pass to
Aaron Hernandez with 22 seconds left and giving the New England
Patriots a 20-16 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

“He’s probably one of the toughest competitors I’ve ever seen,
especially from a quarterback standpoint,” Patriots defensive
tackle Vince Wilfork said. “There was plenty of time for our

“When it mattered the most, they came up with what we needed.”

It was the 32nd successful comeback of Brady’s career in games
the Patriots trailed or were tied in the fourth quarter. And it
came against a solid defense _ ranked fourth in the NFL _ that had
allowed just one touchdown on the Patriots first nine possessions.

“When you’re playing against a quarterback like Tom Brady, he’s
going to go down as one of the all-time greats,” Cowboys coach
Jason Garrett said. “So you have to try to make it hard on him.”

Dallas, coming off a bye week, did that for most of the day,
sacking him three times and intercepting two passes. But on the
final 80-yard drive that started with 2:31 left, Brady completed
eight of nine passes for 78 yards.

“We prepare hard for that situation every week and when it came
up this week, it’s good to get the ball in the end zone,” Brady
said. “I’d prefer to be up four touchdowns with two minutes left,
but it just wasn’t the case.”

New England (5-1) won despite its first two lost fumbles of the
season. Brady finished the game 27 of 41 for 289 yards with two

Dallas (2-3) ended a five-game road winning streak after a bye
despite coming back from a 13-3 deficit midway through the second

Tony Romo was 27 of 41 for 317 yards, one touchdown and one
interception in his first game since a 34-30 loss to the Detroit
Lions in which the Cowboys squandered a 24-point, third-quarter
lead and Romo threw two interceptions that were returned for

The Cowboys have lost two games by four points and one by three.

“This team is continuing to grow and get better,” Romo said.
“We just need to finish a game like today and we will I think.”

Dan Bailey’s 26-yard field goal, his third of the game, had
broken a 13-13 tie with 5:13 left. After the Patriots punted, the
Cowboys were content to run the ball _ three rushes for 5 yards,
plus a 5-yard penalty _ and punted right back.

“You have to run the ball in that situation because of the time
situation,” said Garrett, who trusted his defense to keep stopping
the Patriots if it had to. “It’s one of the best offenses in the
league. You’re challenging your defense, no doubt about it.”

Wes Welker, who entered the game as the NFL leader with 45
catches and 740 yards receiving, was held to six for 45, but three
of those catches, covering 21 yards, came in the go-ahead drive.
The last one covered 6 yards over the middle, putting the ball at
the 8.

Then Brady found Hernandez in one-on-one coverage.

“I had an in route and (Rob) Gronkowski had an out route and
he’s a great player so he drew the safety’s attention,” Hernandez
said. “I came around and Tom made a great throw and I just had to
make the catch.”

Until the final drive, Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan
was headed for his second straight strong game against the

He held that job with Cleveland when the Browns beat the
Patriots 34-14 last Nov. 7. Since then, the Patriots had scored at
least 30 points in 13 consecutive games. That streak ended Sunday,
but New England still won.

“This is probably, as a whole, one of our worst performances as
an offense,” Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch said. “It’s
times like this when we show what we’re made of _ that last

The regular-season win was the Patriots’ 20th straight at home
and Brady’s 31st in a row at Gillette Stadium.

“When it comes to crunch time, he is at his best,” Cowboys
linebacker Keith Brooking said.

The Patriots took a 3-0 lead on their first possession on a
31-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski. The Cowboys tied it on
Bailey’s 48-yard field goal after Terence Newman intercepted a pass
that was tipped by defensive end Kenyon Coleman.

New England turned the ball over again on the kickoff after the
field goal when Gerald Sensabaugh recovered a fumble by Matthew
Slater. But Dallas gave the ball right back five plays later when
Tashard Choice fumbled and Gerard Warren recovered.

The Patriots capitalized with a 26-yard field goal by Gostkowski
with 12:07 left in the half for a 6-3 lead. They made it 13-3 on
their next possession on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Brady to
Welker. Officials ruled initially that Welker had gone out of
bounds as he reached the ball out toward the goal line but that was
overturned on video review.

That put Brady into eighth place in NFL history with 276
touchdown passes, one more than Vinny Testaverde.

Dallas cut the lead to 13-10 at halftime on Romo’s 1-yard
touchdown pass to Jason Witten with 33 seconds left.

The Cowboys tied it on Bailey’s 22-yard field goal with 5:50
remaining in the third quarter.

Notes: Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Brady have won 116
regular-season games together, tying Miami’s Don Shula and Dan
Marino for most in NFL history. … DeMarcus Ware had two sacks for
Dallas, giving him seven in five games this season. … The teams
met for the 11th time with the Patriots winning their fourth in a
row after losing the first seven.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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