FOXBORO — Ladies and gentlemen of New England, I'd like to introduce you to an old friend.
You probably didn't notice they were actually around until about 7:15 p.m. last night, when that old magical feeling of certitude, in the game's waning seconds, returned.
You know what I'm talking about. Tom Brady calmly flinging passes while the other 70,000 people around him are chewing their fingernails.
The New England Patriots are back.
Yes, the New England Patriots, warts and all, are back.
Brady's fourth quarter march through the Cowboys defense — 8-for-9, 80 yards, five first downs (he ran for one of them) — with 2:31 remaining was only the final dagger of the 20-16 win.
That's what will make the highlight reel.
But this was vintage Patriots football from the opening kick, with balance on offense and field goals on defense.
Yes, there were several huge mistakes — including two interceptions and two fumbles — but in the end those miscues were trumped by that trusty quality called mental toughness.
This is a trend, which, by the way, has coincided with the disappearance of Brady's surfer dude look. The Patriots, for the third week in a row, have tried, with much success, controlling the football.
That means more BenJarvus Green-Ellis and fewer four-yard passes to Wes Welker, who is developing into a deeper threat.
That means longer, slower drives, which in turn means longer rests for their up-and-coming defense.
In fact, one of the Patriots miscues — an Aaron Hernandez fumble in the third quarter — was on a 16-play drive. Do you think that might have tired Dallas defenders a bit?
The "perfection" thing was fun while it lasted. So were the 400-yard passing games.
But let's be honest, outside of the 1973 Miami Dolphins, nobody's perfect. We here in New England know that better than anybody.