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Cowboys dominate Patriots, force Mac Jones to the bench

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DaRon Bland returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown, Leighton Vander Esch scooped up a fumble for a score and the Dallas Cowboys beat the New England Patriots 38-3 on Sunday.

Mac Jones was responsible for all three turnovers and was pulled in the second half of the Patriots’ worst loss in 24 seasons under Bill Belichick, surpassing a 31-0 defeat at Buffalo in 2003.

The six-time Super Bowl-winning coach will have to wait at least another week for his 300th career regular-season victory.

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The Cowboys (3-1) spoiled former star running back Ezekiel Elliott’s Dallas homecoming with their 10th consecutive home victory. It’s the longest home streak since 1991-92, or almost two decades before AT&T Stadium opened.

Bland had his second pick-6 of the season after getting one in a 40-0 season-opening rout of the New York Giants, when Dallas also returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown in that game.

The Patriots (1-3) trailed by just seven early in the second quarter when Jones was sacked from behind by Dante Fowler, leading to the easy 11-yard scoop-and-score from Vander Esch.

In the final seconds of the first half, Jones tried to throw across the field to Kendrick Bourne when Bland stepped in front and ran 54 yards untouched for a 28-3 Dallas lead.

New England’s previous biggest halftime deficit under Belichick was 24 points twice, including a 47-17 wild-card loss to Buffalo two seasons ago. In the famous rally from 28-3 down to beat Atlanta in Super Bowl 51, the Patriots trailed 21-3 at the break.

Leighton Vander Esch celebrates

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch celebrates after recovering a New England Patriots’ Mac Jones fumble and returning it for a touch down in the first half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023.  (AP Photo/Roger Steinman)

Bland, who moved to the outside at cornerback after 2021 All-Pro Trevon Diggs’ season-ending knee injury, got his second interception early in the second half, leading to the last of Brandon Aubrey’s three field goals.

Jones played one more series after that before he was replaced by Bailey Zappe. Jones was 12 of 21 for 150 yards with a 39.9 passer rating.

Elliott didn’t get the start for the Patriots after watching a video tribute on the big screen above the field a few minutes before kickoff.

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A two-time rushing champion for the Cowboys, Elliott waved as the crowd gave him a huge ovation and offered an understated version of the signature “feed me” gesture that endeared him to fans over seven seasons in Dallas.

Elliott got the first two carries on New England’s second series and picked up 13 of his 16 yards (on just six carries). By the time he had a chance to be a factor again, the Patriots were two touchdowns behind.

Dak Prescott threw his first touchdown to a receiver this season with a 20-yarder to CeeDee Lamb in the first quarter for a 10-3 lead.

Prescott was 28 of 34 for 261 yards without an interception as Dallas, the NFL leader in turnover margin coming in, finished plus-3.

All three Dallas victories have been blowouts with an average margin of 32 points. The Cowboys were coming off a surprising loss at Arizona in which they never led.

ANYONE OTHER THAN BRADY

It was the second consecutive victory for the Cowboys over New England, both over Jones. They are now 9-1 against the Patriots when facing quarterbacks not named Tom Brady. He was 5-0 against Dallas.

TRICKERY FOR TWO

After Vander Esch’s touchdown, the Cowboys faked the extra point, and holder Bryan Anger threw a 15-yard pass to defensive end Chauncey Golston for the 2-point conversion.

INJURIES

The Patriots lost two defensive players in rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez and pass rusher Matthew Judon. Gonzalez injured a shoulder when he took on Tony Pollard on a tackle on the sideline. Judon injured an elbow. … Dallas RB Rico Dowdle sustained a hip injury and didn’t return.

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UP NEXT

Patriots: New Orleans at home next Sunday.

Cowboys: At San Francisco next Sunday in a matchup of teams that met in the playoffs each of the past two seasons. The 49ers won both.

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