DAL 31, TB 14: COWBOYS DEFEAT BUCS FOR 1ST PLAYOFF ROAD WIN SINCE 1992 - Jazz Monet, Inside The Star
The Cowboys defense set the tone early, and the offense did more than enough to keep it out of reach for Tampa Bay.
Dallas took possession at the start of the 4th quarter and showed no signs of slowing down. Tony Pollard was responsible for 33 of the 58 yards that brought the Cowboys into the red zone. On 4th & 4 from the Tampa Bay 18-yard line, Dallas opted not to attempt a field goal. Instead, Dak Prescott made a pass to CeeDee Lamb who found himself all alone with an easy path to jog into the end zone. Brett Maher made his first extra point of the night. DAL 32, TB 6.
Tampa Bay’s following possession started off well. They made it all the way to Dallas’ 2-yard line after nine plays, but then the Cowboys defense turned up the heat. They pressured Brady into two consecutive incomplete passes, sacked him at the 11-yard line, then forced another incomplete pass. The Bucs turned the ball over on downs.
After a Cowboys three-and-out, the Bucs took over at midfield with 4:43 left in the 4th quarter. On the eighth play of that drive, Tampa Bay receiver Russel Gage was injured and had to be carted off the field.
Cowboys LT Jason Peters checks out of game with hip injury - Cameron Burnett, The Cowboys Wire
The Cowboys started Jason Peters at left tackle to give them their best five in pass protection, but only had the veteran for the first half.
Late in the first half, the Cowboys started churning down the field with a chance to make it a safer lead in Tampa Bay. Right after the two-minute warning, starting left tackle Jason Peters was slow to get up and walked to the sideline under his own power.
Peters and the Dallas offensive line has started strong in this wild card duel and the nine-time Pro Bowler’s status is in question for the second half. In his absence, rookie Tyler Smith shifts out to left tackle and Connor McGovern takes over at the left guard spot. Peters didn’t return during the drive and is questionable to return in the second half with a hip injury.
Update: Peters has been ruled out for the game.
3 ways Dak Prescott, Cowboys silenced haters in Wild Card win vs Buccaneers - Jerry Trotta, The Landry Hat
The Cowboys weren’t worried about the Bucs running game, and built a lead that forced Brady to throw a career-high 66 times.
2. Defense made Tom Brady miserable
With three minutes left in the third quarter, the Cowboys defense — sorry the Cowboys’ “soft” defense, as so many analysts put it in the second half of the season — held Tom Brady to 15-of-33 for 125 yards and an interception. His 43.1 passer rating was lower than his age (45).
How rattled was Brady? Well, he threw his first red zone interception as a Buccaneer in the second quarter on pass he clearly meant to throw out of the back of the end zone. When do you see Brady make a mistake like that?
We’re not going to take a huge victory lap here, as the Buccaneers offense has been a mess all season, but what do the haters have to say?
We heard all week that Dallas would have trouble slowing down the GOAT in the playoffs, the cornerback room contending with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, and the run defense (a weakness for most of the year) stopping the 228-pound freight train that is Leonard Fournette in the trenches.
By the end of the third quarter, Dan Quinn’s group pitched a shutout. Fournette and Rachaad White combined for less than 60 yards on 4.3 YPC. Godwin found success underneath, but the Cowboys were clearly willing to give that up.
The big takeaway, though, is Brady’s miserable effort. The narrative all week was Brady’s undefeated record (7-0) against the Cowboys coming into the night. “The Bucs stink, but anything is possible with playoff Brady.”
We all heard it, and Dallas shut them up in emphatic fashion.
Cowboys QB Dak Prescott Sets Playoff Record vs. Bucs, Tom Brady - Zach Dimmitt, CowboysSI.com
Dak Prescott was dynamic through the air and on the ground to earn the Cowboys first road playoff win since 1992.
After his one-yard rushing touchdown on 4th and goal in the second quarter of Monday’s NFC Wild Card matchup against the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium, Prescott set a playoff record with four straight games with at least one rushing touchdown.
The touchdown was one of the highlights of Dallas’ dominant first half, as the Cowboys led 18-0 headed into the break. Kicker Brett Maher missed three (!) extra points.
Entering Monday, Prescott was 1-3 in the postseason since his first playoff game in the 2016 season. But even though he’s gone under 300 passing yards in his past three postseason games, he’s made up for it with three rushing scores.
NFL playoffs divisional round: Schedule, previews for AFC, NFC - Brooke Pryor, Seth Walder, ESPN
After beating the GOAT, how will the Cowboys handle Brock Purdy in a revenge game at the 49ers?
Why the Cowboys will win: When it’s clicking for Dallas on both sides of the ball, the Cowboys are dangerous. It’s not just theoretical — we’ve seen it in their blowout wins over the Vikings and Colts this season. Their wild-card dominance displayed it, too. Prescott was on fire, delivering downfield strikes to receiver CeeDee Lamb and tight end Dalton Schultz, and running back Tony Pollard added efficient running on the ground.
The Cowboys’ defense forced more turnovers than anyone this season (33), a crucial element to any recipe for victory over a team as potent as the 49ers. Parsons has to beat Niners offensive tackle Trent Williams, disrupt Purdy and force mistakes. If he does that, and the offense can keep playing the way it did against the Bucs, Dallas can win. But it has to be an A-game performance for the Cowboys.
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