Cowboys at Buccaneers score: Dallas offense explodes en route to win, Tampa Bay falls flat

The Dallas Cowboys move on to the Divisional Round after a convincing win at Raymond James Stadium where they defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to close out Super Wild Card Weekend 31-14.

Both offenses were slow out of the gate each scoring three straight times to start the game. Then Dallas came alive on its third possession of the evening, driving 80 yards in seven plays as Dak Prescott connected with Dalton Schultz for the first touchdown of the game. This appeared to open the flood gates as Tampa Bay began moving the ball and it reached the Cowboys five-yard line. However, it was at that point when Tom Brady threw an interception in the end zone to Jayron Kearse. That was one of the Bucs’ few successful possessions of the night and their only shot on the score when the game was still in hand. From there, Dallas scored three touchdowns on consecutive drives to help build a 24-point lead.

Even when Tampa Bay finally found the end zone at the end of the third quarter with Brady’s 30-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones, the Cowboys answered with a nine-play, 66-yard touchdown drive to go up 31–6. This really kills any slight notion that Brady might pull another miracle running back from his helmet.

Prescott finished with an impressive base line. He was 25-of-33 for 305 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for a score and added 24 yards on the ground. Schultz was his favorite target of the night, catching seven of his eight targets for a team-high 95 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Brady was 35 of 66 for 351 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

For a more in-depth breakdown of how this game will evolve, check out our takeaways below.

Why did the Cowboys win?

For a minute, it looked like Dallas was going to throw up a continuation of their Week 18 loss against Washington. Their first possession lasted about 10 seconds before they punted the ball wide, and they had three more on the next drive. During this stretch, Dak Prescott was unable to complete a pass. Then the switch flipped.

The Cowboys offense came alive, and that was thanks to Prescott’s arm breaking off on an 11-game winning streak, which marked a new franchise playoff record. During this run, he made consecutive 80-yard touchdown drives. The first ended with touchdowns by Dalton Schultz and Prescott then ran it himself on a great fourth-and-goal play call by Mike McCarthy. During that 11 completion streak, Prescott threw for 135 yards and a touchdown, while also adding that rushing score.

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Prescott didn’t slow down after that either, throwing another touchdown before halftime and another right after, making four straight touchdown drives to help Dallas roll over a 24-0 lead. These scoring drives were also no rushes either as they traveled 80, 80, 91 and 86 yards, scattering the Tampa Bay defense up and down the field. This lead proved more than enough to keep the Bucs a solid distance. Even when they finally got into the end zone, Dallas made sure to put out any spark they had as they answered quickly with a 66-yard drive to go up 31-6.

After that initial slow start on its opening two drives, Dallas’ offense was also strong in critical situations, converting seven of 11 third-down situations and attempting a second down each. They’ve also been successful on all four of their drives into the red zone, while the defense has taken the Bucs out of the end zone on two of their three drives.

Since it pertains specifically to Prescott, it is also notable that he did not make a single interception in this game. This was a problem for him throughout the regular season, as he was tied for the most major league interceptions despite missing five games due to injury. If he can keep the ball away from the opponent, Dallas will still be dangerous.

The only real downside to this game on the cowboy side of things came on special teams with kicker Brett Maher, who He missed four extra point attempts.

Why did the pirates lose

The big question surrounding the Buccaneers’ coming into this playoff was whether they were a real postseason threat or just a consolation winner in a dreadful division. From what we saw Monday night, Tampa Bay didn’t look like a legitimate playoff contender by any means.

The offense was very visible and Tom Brady seemed to struggle to find any kind of relationship with his pass catchers – specifically Mike Evans – early on. As the Cowboys advanced to a 24-0 lead, they were attacked five times (three times), had an interception in the end zone, and were unable to score before time ran out in the first half. By the time they actually got to the scoreboard, the game was already out of reach and those hoping to return were only doing so because of the quarterback’s resume and not what the current product on the field was showing us.

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As has been the case all season, the running game hasn’t been there in Tampa Bay, which naturally affects how defenses play against a pass. Even before the Bucs gave up a run to try and throw themselves back in this game, they didn’t get much of anything from a backfield rushing for 24 yards on seven carries in the first half.

While the offense continued to have its fair share of problems, the defense didn’t answer the bell either. They couldn’t get off the field because Dallas sliced ​​them long, soul-wrecking runs, crashing especially in key areas of the field. The entire defense segment ran down guard Dak Prescott’s touchdown where no one followed him when he sprinted to his left and easily entered for a touchdown. One of the biggest back-breaking moments in this loss came after Tampa Bay finally got into the end zone thanks to a 30-yard touchdown run from Brady to Julio Jones. Dallas quickly moved down the field and reached the Buccaneers’ 18-yard line before deciding to go for it on fourth down. On that play, there was a complete coverage breakdown that left CeeDee Lamb wide open for a touchdown that put Tampa down by 25.

This is Tom Brady’s fourth one-off playoff drive in his career. Now, all eyes will be on the midfielder and what he does next. While there will be plenty of time to dissect all of that, this was a game — and season — to forget for the TB12.

turning point

As in most games, there were a few major twists to this one. Brady’s end zone interception was naturally a massive speed bump that blew out the tires of the Bucs offense. It was his first red zone interception since joining Tampa Bay and he caught the longest streak in NFL history (407 attempts) to throw a pick in the now red zone.

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With this spin sandwiched between the Cowboys’ downs, it only compounded bad luck even more.

While that swing was down the middle, there was also a decision by Todd Bowles in the first half that deserved some second guesses. On possession after that interception, the Bucs found themselves down by 12 but found some pace offensively. After starting at their own 25-yard line, they brought the ball to midfield and faced a fourth-and-three situation, where the Bulls elected to field the punting unit. Given that the offense was starting to show signs of life and where they were on the field, this should have been a moment to keep the unit on the field and keep it going.

Instead, they gave the ball back, and Dallas drove 91 yards down the field and went up by 18 points. In a playoff game like this one, a bit of aggression, especially when your team is starting to build some momentum, would have been a smart move by Bowles rather than playing it conservatively.

Play the game

Prescott’s second passing touchdown of the night was arguably the most impressive. With his initial readout packing and center pressing, he was forced out to his left and was rolling towards the sideline before twisting his body to make an off-balance throw that was squeezed directly into Schulz’s arms. That ended with a 91-yard touchdown drive just before halftime that gave Dallas all the cushion they needed to secure the win.

Prescott’s four touchdown assists in this game tied the Cowboys in the playoffs as he joined legends Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach. Prescott also had the highest passer rating (143.3) in a game in Cowboys playoff history (minimum 20 attempts).

What’s Next

From here, the Cowboys will prepare for their Divisional Round game with the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium next Sunday at 6:30 PM ET. As for the Buccaneers, they are about to enter what is about to be a transformative off-season as Brady, slated to hit free agency, decides on his next move.


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