The postseason is here, and the Dallas Cowboys will start their 2022 playoff run on Monday night as they travel to Tampa to take on the Buccaneers. Tampa’s offense, led by Tom Brady, had an up-and-down season and finished the year on a bit of a downward spiral. Before the two teams square off on Monday, here are three things to know about the Buccaneers' offense.
1) A tale as old as Tom
2022 was one of the strangest seasons of Tom Brady’s career. After posting an MVP-caliber campaign in 2021, the veteran signal-caller showed signs of finally slowing down for the first time this year. Brady recorded his fewest touchdown passes (25) since the 2013 season and threw at least one interception in five of Tampa’s final seven games. Looking at some advanced metrics, Brady finished the year 14th in the league in EPA+CPOE (0.081), EPA/Play (0.082), and 15th in CPOE.
At age 45, Brady once again led the league in pass attempts (733) and completions (490). While he has been able to defy time and continue to produce at a high level for many years now, you have to imagine the Buccaneers’ lack of a run game, forcing Brady to throw the ball 40-50 times a game, hurt his long-term production.
Regardless of how he played during the regular season, we all know playoff Brady is a different animal. Over the course of his 23-year career, Brady has thrown 11 touchdowns to just four interceptions in the Wild Card Round, with three of those interceptions coming in one game back in 2010.
Brady is always at his best when it matters most, so the Cowboys will have their hands full trying to beat him for the first time ever on Monday night.
2) An extremely ineffective rushing attack
You could make a solid argument that the Buccaneers’ run game has been the worst rushing attack in the league this season. Tampa Bay finished the regular season last in the league in rushing yards (1,308), rushing touchdowns (5), and Y/A (3.4).
The Buccaneers were also graded (63.7) as the worst running team in football, via Pro Football Focus, and were last in the NFL in rush EPA (-0.207). Five times during the regular season the Buccaneers totaled fewer than 55 rushing yards in a game, and they reached the 100-yard mark in a single game just three times over the course of the 18-game season. Leonard Fournette (3.5 Y/A) and Rashaad White (3.7 Y/A) both averaged under four yards per carry and were arguably the least effective running back duo in football.
When the Cowboys and Bucs met back in Week 1, Tampa bay gashed Dallas on the ground for 152 yards. Since then, they’ve been unable to generate any success in the run game. The Cowboys’ run defense is better than they were back in that matchup, and the Bucs’ rushing attack is much worse. We should see a much different result on the ground when the two teams square off next week.
3) Two game-breaking wide receivers
The Cowboys' success on defense in Monday’s game is going to come down to whether or not they can contain the duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Evans and Godwin were once again one of the best receiving duos in football this season, both surpassing 1,000 receiving yards and scoring a combined nine touchdowns.
Evans, who is the clear 1A of the two, had his best game of the regular season in his final appearance back in Week 17. The 29-year-old wideout torched the Panthers’ secondary, hauling in 10 receptions for an astonishing 207 yards to go with three touchdowns.
Evans’ ability to beat you deep has to worry a Dallas defense which is having plenty of its own struggles in the secondary. If Dallas’ defense is not able to generate a pass rush and Brady has time to throw, Evans and Godwin are fully capable of being true game-breakers and dominating the matchup.