The Dallas Cowboys, 9.5 underdogs, fought the Tampa Bay Buccaneers until the very end to fall just short of a score of 31-29. The game featured drama, lead changes in the final two-minute warning and redemption for a field goalie. The outcome was still uncertain until the dying seconds, and NBC likely secured an audience boon thanks to the defenders’ confrontation. super bowl champions and the most watched team in the NFL.
The game quickly turned into a quarterfinal battle, as Dak Prescott and Tom Brady led their teams up and down the field. Prescott has been pretty impressive against the much-vaunted Buccaneers defense, while Brady just used common sense and good line protection to continue to separate the Cowboys. It made for an exciting game that went on to the end and was much, much more competitive than the punters expected. Prescott was as good as he was before the injury last year, finishing with 403 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
However, Dallas clearly won the turnover battle, intercepting Brady twice and forcing two fumbles, while losing only one Prescott interception. It should have led to an easy win for the Cowboys, but there were just enough mistakes on their part to make it a highlight.
Going into the game, the only vulnerability in the Tampa Bay defense was the secondary, and Kellen Moore and Prescott attacked them relentlessly. This was evident in the Cowboys’ first offensive play of the game, when Moore dialed an empty backfield from his own two-yard line and scored 28 yards. Not only did Prescott and his receivers stack the yards, they drew a lot of flags that got them the first downs. Overall, in fact, the Buccaneers didn’t have the advantage that so many of Tom Brady’s teams have enjoyed with umpires. Much of the laundry on the field was on them, and that often kept the records alive for the Cowboys.
Mike McCarthy is getting a lot of attention this year, and he didn’t impress with a few cautious calls in fourth place. One of the most significant was the decision to hit a basket from the Buccaneers three-yard line early in the third quarter. Dallas lost five points and Tom Brady had a lot of bad luck at that point. Playing it safe and just hitting the basket was betting too much that Brady wouldn’t get hot afterwards.
One question that was definitely answered was that Dak Prescott was indeed back. At halftime, he already had 224 yards and two touchdowns, completing 23 of 32. It wasn’t without faults, as he had up to three passes that probably should have been interceptions. Hps luck would end with a pass that went through the hands of CeeDee Lamb. The resulting pick would give the Buccaneers short ground, and it didn’t take long for Tom Brady to knock out his longtime sidekick Rob Gronkowski to open the game’s first two points, 28-19 in the third quarter. Still, he stood against the run and moved around when necessary. He also has eight yards on two carries, one of which looked like a designed run. Neither the reconstructed ankle nor the strained shoulder was a problem at all. He even escaped what appeared to be a safe bag to win a couple.
Most importantly, Dak continued to lead the team. After that nine-point deficit, he would bring the Cowboys back to less than two on a touchdown to Amari Cooper, who was the main receiver with well over 100 yards and two scores.
Sadly, Tom Brady was pretty sexy as well. He had 213 yards and three half touchdowns. He only made 13 of 21 shots. Dallas ‘defense was hot and cold, giving up big wins but stopping the Buccaneers’ offense at other times. They got three turnovers before half-time, a ball hit by DeMarcus Lawrence that was picked up by Randy Gregory, an interception that slipped out of the hands of Leonard Fournette and right to Trevon Diggs, and Jourdan Lewis’s pick of a pass from Hail Mary caroming as he ran out of the end zone for 66 yards. He was about to go all the way and give the Cowboys a lead at halftime.
Still, they hung out at intermission, 21-16. Part of the reason was that the special teams were just awful. They gave up 55 yards on first-half kick returns and punters, and Greg Zuerlein missed three kicks, an extra run and two baskets. FG’s last attempt was a 60-yard one so he can’t be too faulted for it, but the others were just bad duds. However, he would come a long way to redemption, nailing a 48-yard yardstick to give the Cowboys a one-point lead with 1:24 remaining in the game. Not only did Dallas drop points on the field, they were also seriously losing position on the field, starting too many runs in the shadow of their own goalposts. And his poor kicking coverage continued into the second half. John Fassel hasn’t gotten much out of his team unit, something that really needs to be fixed, stat.
As mentioned, Moore was much better at his job. The offense was creative, he totally ignored the establishment of the run because it wasn’t working, and it was mostly poor execution at key points that stopped the offense, not the dreaded Tampa Bay defense. And the offensive line is to be congratulated, because despite the absence of Zack Martin, they held up well. Prescott rarely ran for his life. He took a few hits to deliver the ball, but only had one sack in the first three quarters.
Dan Quinn’s defense rating was more mixed. They looked like the porous unit from last season at times – but it wasn’t continuous, as they also had good saves and threes and outs. It will likely require more analysis, but if they can build on that departure, they likely won’t be at the expense of defense in 2020.
The running back position was non-existent for the Cowboys for most of the game, with just 20 yards on the ground in the first as Ezekiel Elliott barely touched the ball. The Buccaneers weren’t much better at this point, totaling just 32. Despite that, the play was a great illustration of how you don’t have to run the ball a lot for the playing action to work, because both teams put it to good use. effect.
Elliott was always important, as he was essential in picking up blitzers to protect his quarterback. It is an element of his game that is not enough noticed.
The injury bug was with the other team to change, as three different Buccaneers were helped off the field. Two were in secondary school. Some appeared to be just cramps, but one did not return with an arm injury. But Michael Gallup, who was having a good game, left in the second half with an ankle injury, hopefully not serious.
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