Patriots to face toughest test in Dallas |

Patriots to face toughest test in Dallas

Howard Ulman
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado
Stephan Savoia/APNew England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi, 54, bumps chests with linebacker Junior Seau after Seau intercepted a pass from Cleveland Browns quarterback Derek Anderson in the end zone Sunday.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. ” Get ready, Patriots, you’re finally facing a strong team.

Unbeaten against unimpressive opponents, New England has a much tougher road as it prepares for Sunday’s game in Dallas.

Tom Brady vs. Tony Romo. Randy Moss vs. Terrell Owens. One high-scoring offense against another.

That should be a much better gauge of how good the Patriots are than their previous five wins ” all against teams with losing records.

But Ellis Hobbs swatted that notion away as if it were an errant pass.

“I don’t think of it as a measuring stick,” the Patriots cornerback said Monday. “We think of it as a big game because it’s the next game. Obviously, from the record standpoint this is the best team we’ve faced up to this point.”

The Cowboys scored at least 34 points in each of their first four games going into Monday night’s matchup at Buffalo. New England has scored 38 three times and 34 twice. On Sunday, the Patriots beat Cleveland 34-17, their lowest spread of the season.

Coach Bill Belichick was upset with his team’s troubles converting on third downs and inside the Browns’ 20-yard line.

“We’re still looking for ways to improve and see the things that we could have done better,” said running back Sammy Morris, who ran for more than 100 yards for the second straight game. “What makes this (game) the most important is seeing how we ” I don’t want to say rebound in the sense that we played terrible, but just in the sense of how we’re going to step back up.

“And, again, it happens to be Dallas.”

Romo entered Monday’s game as the NFL’s second rated quarterback. Brady is first.

The last time the teams played, in 2003, Romo was a rookie who didn’t play at all that season, while Brady didn’t play well in that 12-0 win in Foxborough.

Brady has thrown 16 touchdowns and only two interceptions, but Romo is a better rollout passer.

“It’s that much harder because you don’t know what he’s doing,” Hobbs said. “The minute you think he’s going to throw it while he’s scrambling or rolling out, that’s when the receiver ducks behind you.”

That receiver could be Owens. For the Patriots, it most likely would be Moss.

“They’re both hard to cover,” Morris said. “They’re both tall and have long arms and they both play the deep ball really well.”

Morris knows the Cowboys’ history all too well. He lives in Dallas and has heard plenty about “America’s Team.”

“It almost gets frustrating at times,” he said, “in the offseason, anyway.”

The Cowboys have won five Super Bowls, the last in the 1995 season. The Patriots have won three of the last six, but none in the last two seasons.

They could end up there this season, but Sunday’s game is far less important.

“Let’s not make it more than what it is,” Hobbs said. “This isn’t determining the playoffs. This is not, quote, unquote, the Super Bowl matchup or whatever. We’re going into week six and this is the next game.”

It’s against a much tougher opponent than their first five ” the New York Jets, San Diego, Buffalo, Cincinnati and Cleveland.

“I know we’ve got to play better because the team we play this week is probably the best team in the league,” defensive end Jarvis Green said. “The way we played (Sunday), we’d have gotten blown out if it was Dallas.”

At least Belichick would like them to think that.

“We certainly had a lot of problems with some of the things that the Browns did schematically,” he said.

He and his players planned to put in some extra study by watching Monday night’s game, although the camera angles don’t show enough of what the Patriots need to see to prepare for the Cowboys.

Still, they put the Browns game behind them very quickly and headed home for a night in front of the television set.

“Every Monday, we look at mistakes, what we do, watch the film and get critiqued on it,” Green said. “It’s behind us, to be honest, now. I’m going home and I’ve forgotten about the game pretty much. I’m going to try to concentrate on and get ready for Dallas.”

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