IRVING, Texas — Now the Dallas Cowboys know they're good enough to hang with the big boys in the AFC — just not yet ready to beat them.
Especially not when Tom Brady plays like this.
Brady threw a career-high five touchdown passes, with Donte Stallworth taking the final one 69 yards to break open a tight game early in the fourth quarter, as the New England Patriots won 48-27 on Sunday in a rare battle of teams with 5-0 records.
"We wanted to be one of the elite teams," Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said. "Obviously we're not."
The Patriots (6-0) started strong and finished stronger, their sixth straight blowout win and their highest point total since scoring 50 against Indianapolis in 1984. Yet it wasn't as easy as the final score indicated.
New England gave up its most points of the season and trailed in the second half for the first time this year. Brady was sacked as many times (3) as he'd been all season.
Experience in big games had to be part of the difference. Consider what the Patriots did on their final five drives after the Cowboys went ahead 24-21 early in the third quarter: touchdown, field goal, touchdown, field goal, touchdown. The last one came with 19 seconds left, a 1-yard run by first-year running back Kyle Eckel that Brady celebrated with two huge fist pumps.
Brady went 31-of-46 for 388 yards and did much of his early damage on third downs. His five TDs tied a franchise record and gave him an NFL record with at least three in each of the first six games — he has an NFL-best 21 this year. The league record is 49 by Peyton Manning.
Having insisted all week this was just another regular season game for them, Bill Belichick's players can now start looking forward to facing Indianapolis, the only other unbeaten team, in three weeks.
Wes Welker caught 11 passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns, and Stallworth had 136 yards on seven catches. Moss turned six catches into 59 yards, his first a 6-yard touchdown. He also had a 43-yarder for a touchdown overturned on instant replay. Kyle Brady had the other TD grab.
The Cowboys (5-1) were off to their best start since 1983 and were eager to see how they stacked up against the league's elite. They allowed the most points since Philadelphia scored 49 on Nov. 15, 2004.
Tony Romo cleaned up the turnovers that nearly upended Dallas against Buffalo on Monday night, but was out of rallies. He was 18-of-29 for 199 yards and two touchdowns, with a late interception. The Cowboys were hurt by their continuing trend of slow starts and by racking up 12 penalties.
Terrell Owens caught six passes for 66 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown, but didn't live up to his vow to prove that he, not Moss, was the real No. 81.
Patrick Crayton had Dallas' go-ahead TD among his five catches for 46 yards. Marion Barber rushed for 47 yards, with several runs that helped bring alive the Cowboys in the second quarter. He also had a 2-yard gain in the third quarter that started at the Dallas 10 and nearly ended in a safety until he broke several tackles. He might have turned it into a touchdown if the last defender hadn't gotten him.
The Patriots led 14-0 before the Cowboys even had a first down. Brady already had thrown for 144 yards, with 114 of them — and both touchdowns — coming on third downs.
Dallas got back in it with a field goal and a 29-yard return of Brady's fumble for a touchdown by Jason Hatcher.
Welker's second TD extended New England's lead back to 21-10, then T.O. answered with a score just before halftime. After Dallas sacked Brady to snuff the Patriots' opening drive of the third quarter, Crayton gave the Cowboys the lead with his touchdown catch.
New England trailed for the first time since the second quarter of Week 3 and had two starting offensive players in the locker room with injuries. But the Patriots still had Brady.
Dallas' last, best chance to keep it a game came on the first play of the fourth quarter. Down by a touchdown, Phillips went for it on fourth-and-1 from the 47 and Barber converted — only to have it wiped out by a penalty. The Cowboys punted, and never threatened again.