TAMPA, FL – The Dallas Cowboys came into Raymond James Stadium looking for revenge. They managed to defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-14 in a drubbing that was far worse than the score indicates.
Both teams struggled offensively, with multiple three-and-out sequences in the first quarter.
Dak Prescott came into the game with something to prove. He had a chip on his shoulder after a dreadful gala against Washington on the final game of the season, which was meaningless to Dallas, and they played like it in the 26-6 loss.
“Didn’t listen,” Prescott said about all the talk about the Cowboys not being ready for the playoffs.
“Simply just didn’t listen to anybody else’s opinions, anybody else’s thoughts. Made sure I was conscious of what I put in my own head,” Prescott added. “Got a great supporting cast in my team, people that believe in me. That’s all that really matters to me, and just stay focused on what I can do.”
Prescott redeemed himself on Monday night, with a 25 for 33 day for 305 yards and 4 four touchdowns. Most importantly, NO interceptions on the day for Prescott, which had become a problem late in the season. Prescott lead the league in interceptions this year.
Prescott also rushed for 74 yard including a fourth down rush in the red zone for a touchdown.
Dallas was plagued by a poor kicking performance by the usually excellent Brett Maher. Maher missed a record four extra points, finally making his final kick for an extra point late in the game on his fifth try.
If there was concern that the Buccaneers and Tom Brady would mount a classic “Brady” comeback, it proved to be unwarranted.
Dalles moved quickly up the field, playing a hurry up offense and keeping the vaunted Tamp defense on its heels. Once they got out of their jitters, Dallas was able to make some progress as the Bucs Defense started to show fatigue.
The Bucs offense was the same slugging offense that was no match for the fired up Dallas defense. Though Brady was only sacked twice, the Cowboys D managed to be in his face for much of the game, causing his to rush passes to shorter routs.
Chris Godwin was pounded heavily by the ‘Boys defense as he caught ten passes from Brady for 85 yards, many of the passes followed by punishing blows from Dallas defenders.
As in the past the Buc’s rushing game was nonexistent, rushing 12 attempts for only 52 yards. It put Brady in the position of a majority pass offense for much of the game.
Dallas schemed to take away the deep threats that Tampa used to defeat the Carolina Panthers by playing a two deep defense, covering receivers that tried to get open over the top for Brady to drop the ball in.
Julio Jones’ name wasn’t even mentioned until late in the fourth quarter the he made a couple of key receptions that were in a meaningless drive at that point.
Tom Brady had good numbers for the game, but the anemic rushing game, dropped passes, and that pesky Dallas defense held Tampa at bay.
Brady went 35 for 66 for 351 yards, yes, 66 pass attempts. Two touchdowns one missed 2-point conversion and one successful one.
After the gam, Brady stated that He gave the Cowboys a lot of credit, and that they made a lot more plays that he did. Brad had his first Redzone interception in years, with a first quarter throw that was caught by the Cowboys.
“Not the way we wanted to end it,” Brady said. “Kind of typical of the way we played all season.”
“You watched this team that had all the reasons in the world to have criticism — you can call it doubt, you can call it whatever you want — and they came back and they’re not the same team that came to town,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “They’re a better team having beaten Tampa and beaten a great player at quarterback.”
The Cowboys had dropped eight straight playoff games away from home since winning the NFC championship game in San Francisco on Jan. 17, 1993.
Tampa Bay receiver Russell Gage was strapped to a backboard and carted off the field late in the fourth quarter. Gage slipped and fell to the turf while running a route and took a blow to the neck as he went down. He was unable to get to his feet and silence fell over the stadium as players took a knee and medical personnel tended to him.
Coach Todd Bowles said Gage was taken to a hospital with a concussion and was being evaluated for a neck injury.
This game is at the end of Tom Brady’s contract to play with the Buccaneers. He had sated to friends that he would not rush to make a decision about his future as he had done in the past. Speculations is all over the place about his future, be it with Tampa Bay, another franchise, or hanging up his cleats.
It was clear that the Buc’s talent level did not match well among the best of the league, and this was not the same Tampa Bay team that Brady drove to the Super Bowl in recent years.
Brady, who signed with Tampa Bay in 2020 and led the Bucs to a Super Bowl title two years ago, will be a free agent this winter.