The Dallas Cowboys advance to the divisional round after a convincing victory at Raymond James Stadium, where they defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to conclude Super Wild Card Weekend, 31-14.

Both offenses were slow from the start as each recorded consecutive three and outs to start the game. Then Dallas came alive on its third possession of the night, traveling 80 yards in seven plays as Dak Prescott connected with Dalton Schultz for the first touchdown of the game. That seemed to open the flood gates as Tampa Bay began to move the ball and got all the way to the Cowboys’ five-yard line. However, it was at that moment that 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 chance to score when the game was still within reach. From there, Dallas scored three touchdowns on consecutive drives to help establish a 24-point lead.

Even when Tampa Bay finally found the end zone late in the third quarter with Brady’s 30-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones, the Cowboys responded with a nine-play, 66-yard touchdown drive to go up 31–6. That really removes any hint that Brady can pull another miracle comeback out of his helmet.

Prescott finished with an excellent stat line. He went 25 of 33 for 305 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for the score and added 24 rushing yards. Schultz was his main target on the night, catching seven of his eight targets for 95 yards and a team-high two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Brady was 35 of 66 for 351 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

For a more detailed breakdown of how this game came to be, check out our takeaways below.

Why did the cowboys win?

For a minute, it looked like Dallas was going to launch a follow-up to the Week 18 flop they had against Washington. Their first possession lasted about 10 seconds before punting the ball, and they had another three and out on the ensuing drive. During that stretch, Dak Prescott was unable to complete a pass. And then the switch was flipped.

The Cowboys’ offense came to life, and it was thanks to Prescott’s arm that he ripped off 11 straight completions, which was a new franchise playoff record. During that run, he made back-to-back 80-yard touchdown drives. The first concluded with a touchdown run to Dalton Schultz and Prescott then ran himself on a clever fourth-and-goal play by Mike McCarthy. During that 11-pass completion streak, Prescott threw for 135 yards and a touchdown, as well as adding that rushing touchdown.

Prescott didn’t slow down after that either, throwing another touchdown before halftime and another right after, making it four straight touchdown drives to help Dallas roll on a 24-0 skid. Those scoring drives weren’t layups either, as they traveled 80, 80, 91 and 86 yards, cutting this Tampa Bay defense from one end of the field to the other. That advantage turned out to be more than enough to keep him a long way from the Bucs. Even when they finally got to the end zone, Dallas made sure to snuff out any spark they had as they responded quickly with a 66-yard touchdown drive to go up 31-6.

After that slow early start on the first two drives, Dallas’ offense was also strong in critical situations, converting seven of its 11 third-down situations and both fourth-down attempts. They were also successful on all four of their trips to the red zone, while the defense kept the Bucs out of the end zone on two of their three trips.

As it relates specifically to Prescott, it’s also notable that he didn’t throw a single interception in this game. That had been a problem for him during the regular season, tied for the most interceptions in the league despite missing five games due to injury. If he can continue to keep the ball away from the opposition, Dallas will continue to be dangerous.

The only real negative aspect of this game on the Cowboys side came on special teams with kicker Brett Maher, who missed four extra point attempts.

Why did the Buccaneers lose?

The big question surrounding the Buccaneers leading up to these playoffs was whether or not they were a true postseason threat or merely a consolation winner from a terrible division. From what we saw Monday night, Tampa Bay didn’t look like a legitimate playoff contender by any means.

The offense was awfully flat and Tom Brady seemed to have trouble finding any kind of relationship with his pass catchers, specifically Mike Evans, early on. As the Cowboys took a 24-0 lead, the Bucs’ offense punted five times (three of three and out), had an interception in the end zone, and failed 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 holding out hope for a comeback were simply doing so because of the quarterback’s resume rather than what the current product on the field was showing us to be. they were.

As has been the case throughout the season, the running game was non-existent for Tampa Bay, which naturally affects how defenses play against the pass. Even before the Bucs gave up the race to try to get back into this matchup, they weren’t getting much out of a backfield that rushed for 24 yards on seven first-half carries.

While the offense continued to have its fair share of problems, the defense didn’t exactly respond to the bell either. They couldn’t get off the field as Dallas split them up for long, devastating drives, particularly collapsing in key areas of the field. The entire defense bit into Dak Prescott’s goaltender’s touchdown run, as no one followed as he rolled to his left and easily went in for a touchdown. One of the most painful moments of this loss came after Tampa Bay finally got into the end zone thanks to Brady’s 30-yard touchdown run to Julio Jones. Dallas moved quickly down the field and got to the Buccaneers 18-yard line before deciding to go for it on fourth down. On that play, there was a complete break in coverage that left CeeDee Lamb open for the touchdown that put Tampa down 25.

This is the fourth unique trip to the playoffs for Tom Brady in his career. Now, all eyes will be on the quarterback and what he does next. While there will be plenty of time to dissect all of that, this was a game, and a season, to forget for TB12.

return point

As is the case with most games, there were a handful of key changes in this game. Brady’s end zone interception was, naturally, a huge pothole that blew out the tires of the Bucs’ offense. That was his first red zone interception since he joined Tampa Bay and he snapped the longest streak in NFL history (407 attempts) of now throwing a red zone interception.

With that turnover sandwiched between two Cowboys touchdowns, it further exacerbated the error.

While that hit went to the quarterback, there was also a Todd Bowles decision in the first half that deserves some question. On the possession that followed that interception, the Bucs found themselves down 12 but finding some rhythm offensively. After starting at their own 25-yard line, they brought the ball to midfield and faced a 4th-and-3 situation, in which Bowles elected to send in the punt drive. Since the offense had started to show signs of life and where they were on the field, that should have been a time to keep the unity on the field and go for it.

Instead, they handed the ball back, and Dallas marched 91 yards down the field and put up 18 points. In a playoff scenario like this game, a bit of aggression, especially when his team started to build some momentum, would have been the smart move for Bowles instead of playing conservatively.

play of the game

Prescott’s second touchdown of the night was arguably his most impressive. With his early reads suppressed and the pressure mounting up the middle, he was forced to turn to the left and was rolling towards the sideline before contorting his body to make an off-balance pitch that went straight into Schulz’s arms. . That capped off a 91-yard touchdown drive just before halftime that gave Dallas all the cushion they needed to clinch the win.

Prescott’s four touchdown passes in this game tied a Cowboys tiebreaker when he was joined by legends Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach. Prescott also had the highest passer rating (143.3) in a game in Cowboys playoff history (min. 20 attempts).

Whats Next

From here, the Cowboys will prepare for their divisional round matchup 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 offseason when Brady, who is poised to hit free agency, decides his next move.

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