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Cowboys at Buccaneers rating: Dallas offense explodes en path to win, Tampa Bay falls flat

The Dallas Cowboys are transferring on to the divisional spherical after a convincing win at Raymond James Stadium the place they took down the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to wrap up Tremendous Wild Card Weekend, 31-14.

Each offenses had been sluggish out of the gate as every registered consecutive three-and-outs to start the sport. Dallas then got here alive on its third possession of the night, touring 80 yards on seven performs as Dak Prescott linked with Dalton Schultz for the sport’s first landing. That did appear to open the flood gates as Tampa Bay then started transferring the ball and obtained all the way in which to the Cowboys five-yard line. Nonetheless, it was at that time when Tom Brady threw an interception in the long run zone to Jayron Kearse. That was one of many few profitable Bucs possessions of the evening and their solely shot at scoring when the sport was nonetheless inside attain. From there, Dallas scored three touchdowns on consecutive drives to assist set up a 24-point lead.

Even when Tampa Bay lastly discovered the top zone on the finish of the third quarter with a Brady 30-yard landing move to Julio Jones, the Cowboys answered with a nine-play, 66-yard landing drive to go up 31-6. That basically remove any slight inkling that Brady could pull one other miraculous comeback out of his helmet.

Prescott completed with an outstanding stat line. He was 25 of 33 for 305 yards and 4 touchdowns. He additionally rushed for a rating and added 24 yards on the bottom. Schultz was his go-to goal on the evening, catching seven of his eight targets for a team-high 95 yards and two touchdowns. In the meantime, Brady was 35 of 66 for 351 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

For a extra detailed breakdown of how this recreation unfolded, try our takeaways under.

Why the Cowboys received

For a minute, it seemed like Dallas was going to roll out a continuation of the Week 18 dud they’d towards Washington. Their first possession lasted roughly 10 seconds earlier than punting the ball away, they usually had one other three-and-out on the next drive. Throughout that stretch, Dak Prescott was unable to finish a move. After which the swap was flipped.

The Cowboys offense got here alive, and it was due to the arm of Prescott that ripped off 11-straight completions, which had been a brand new franchise playoff document. Throughout that run, he carried out consecutive 80-yard landing drives. The primary concluded with a landing to Dalton Schultz and Prescott then ran it in himself on a nifty fourth-and-goal play-call by Mike McCarthy. Throughout that 11 completion streak, Prescott threw for 135 yards and a landing, whereas additionally including that speeding rating.

Prescott did not decelerate after that both, tossing one other landing earlier than halftime and one other proper after, making it 4 consecutive landing drives to assist Dallas roll on a 24-0 run. These scoring drives additionally weren’t layups both as they traveled 80, 80, 91, and 86 yards, slicing up this Tampa Bay protection up and down the sector. That lead proved to be greater than sufficient to maintain a robust distance in entrance of Bucs. Even once they did lastly get into the top zone, Dallas made certain snuff out any spark they’d as they rapidly answered with a 66-yard landing drive to go up 31-6.

After that preliminary sluggish begin on the opening two drives, Dallas’ offense was additionally sturdy in vital conditions, changing seven of their 11 third down conditions and each fourth down tries. They had been additionally profitable in all 4 of their purple zone journeys, whereas the protection held the Bucs out of the top zone on two of their three journeys.

Because it particularly pertains to Prescott, it is also notable that he didn’t throw a single interception on this recreation. That had been a problem for him all through the common season, being tied for essentially the most interceptions within the league regardless of lacking 5 video games as a result of harm. If he can proceed to maintain the ball away from the opposition, Dallas will proceed to be harmful.

The one actual destructive side of this recreation on the Cowboys facet of issues got here on particular groups with kicker Brett Maher, who missed 4 further level makes an attempt.

Why the Buccaneers misplaced

The massive query surrounding the Buccaneers coming into these playoffs was whether or not or not they had been a real postseason risk or a mere comfort winner of a dreadful division. From what we noticed on Monday evening, Tampa Bay did not seem like a reputable playoff contender by any stretch of the creativeness.

The offense was tremendously flat and Tom Brady did appear to wrestle to seek out any type of rapport together with his move catchers — particularly Mike Evans — early. Because the Cowboys rolled out to a 24-0 lead, they Bucs offense punted 5 occasions (three three-and-outs), had an interception in the long run zone, and had been unable to attain earlier than time ran out within the first half. By the point they really obtained on the scoreboard, the sport was already out of attain and people holding out hope of a comeback had been merely doing so due to the quarterback’s résumé fairly than what the present product on the sector was exhibiting us they had been.

As has been the case all through the season, the working recreation was nonexistent for Tampa Bay, which naturally impacts how defenses play towards the move. Even earlier than the Bucs deserted the run to attempt to throw themselves again into this matchup, they weren’t getting a lot of something out of a backfield that rushed for twenty-four yards on seven carries within the first half.

Whereas the offense continued to have its fair proportion of points, the protection did not precisely reply the bell both. They could not get off the sector as Dallas carved them up for lengthy, soul-crushing drives, and significantly broke down in key areas of the sector. The whole protection bit on Dak Prescott’s keeper landing run as nobody adopted him as he rolled out to his left and simply walked in for a landing. One of many larger back-breaking moments on this loss got here after Tampa Bay lastly obtained into the top zone due to a 30-yard landing from Brady to Julio Jones. Dallas rapidly moved down the sector and obtained to the Buccaneers 18-yard line earlier than deciding to go for it on fourth down. On that play, there was a whole breakdown in protection that left CeeDee Lamb wide-open for the landing that put Tampa down by 25.

That is the fourth one-and-done playoff journey for Tom Brady in his profession. Now, all eyes shall be on the quarterback and what he’ll do subsequent. Whereas there shall be loads of time to dissect all that, this was a recreation — and a season — to neglect for TB12.

Turning level

As is the case in most video games, there have been a handful of key swings on this recreation. Brady’s finish zone interception was naturally an enormous pace bump that blew out the tires of the Bucs offense. That was his first purple zone interception since he joined Tampa Bay and snapped the longest streak in NFL historical past (407 makes an attempt) of now throwing a choose within the purple zone.

With that turnover being sandwiched in between two Cowboys touchdowns, it exacerbated the miscue much more.

Whereas that swing was on the quarterback, there was additionally a choice by Todd Bowles within the first half that does deserve some second-guessing. On the possession following that interception, the Bucs discovered themselves down by 12 however discovering some rhythm offensively. After beginning at their very own 25-yard line, they introduced the ball to midfield and confronted a fourth-and-3 scenario, the place Bowles elected to ship out the punting unit. On condition that the offense had began to point out indicators of life and the place they had been on the sector, that ought to have been a second to maintain the unit on the sector and go for it.

As a substitute, they gave the ball again, and Dallas marched 91 yards down the sector and went up by 18 factors. In a playoff setting like this recreation, a bit of aggressiveness particularly when your group began to construct some momentum would’ve been the savvy transfer there by Bowles fairly than enjoying it conservatively.

Play of the sport

Prescott’s second passing landing of the evening was arguably his most spectacular. Together with his preliminary reads bottled up and stress arising the center, he was pressured out to his left and was rolling in direction of the sideline earlier than contorting his physique to make an off-balanced throw that zipped proper into the arms of Schulz. That concluded a 91-yard landing drive proper earlier than halftime that gave Dallas all of the cushion they’d want to make sure the win.

Prescott’s 4 passing touchdowns on this recreation tied a Cowboys playoff as he joined legends Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach. Prescott additionally had the best passer ranking (143.3) in a recreation in Cowboys playoff historical past (min. 20 makes an attempt).

What’s subsequent

From right here, the Cowboys will gear up for his or her divisional spherical matchup with the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium subsequent Sunday at 6:30 pm ET. As for the Buccaneers, they’re about to enter what’s poised to be a transformative offseason as Brady, who is about to hit free company, decides his subsequent transfer.

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