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Oct 17, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) is tackled by the New England Patriots in the first quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Going into Sunday’s game, everybody knew it was going to be a tough day for the Patriots’ defense. Running up and down the field against the second-highest scoring offense in the league, that pairs a prolific passing attack with a smashmouth run game, isn’t an easy task even for the most skilled efensive unit.

Adding to the difficulty was Dallas’ third-down efficiency. They entered the game ranked second in the NFL in third down percentage at 51.6 percent, one of just two teams over 50 percent in that category. On Sunday though, the Patriots managed to stop the Cowboys offense again, and again, and again, holding them to 3-of-13 on third down.

But therein lies the problem. The Patriots continually had to stop the Cowboys, over and over, without much help from the offense. It turned the game into a marathon for the defense, with Dallas winning the time of possession battle 39:17 to 26:51, and out-snapping the Patriots 82 plays to 50.

That 32-snap differential is far and away the biggest play discrepancy the Patriots have faced this year, with the Patriots having ran the exact same number of plays as their opponents (62.4 per game) entering Week 6. Simply put, it was an uncharacteristically long day for the defense.

MORE: Full Patriots postgame coverage

Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.