The Dallas Cowboys did something that we haven’t seen in nearly 30 years, win a playoff road game. Obviously, this is long overdue given the teams that have been assembled during this stretch. In addition to this streak, the team was finally able to conquer the almighty legend, Tom Brady. Quite the night for Dallas all around. It wasn’t a perfect game, but it was close to it. The game itself was very one-sided as they defeated the Buccaneers, 31-14. A 17-point margin at the end of the game suggests that it was a closer affair than what it truly was. This was the most complete performance on offense and defense that we’ve seen since the Vikings game. The special teams group, however, had a different night from the other two.
Let’s break down this week’s grades for America’s Team.
The offense, led by quarterback Dak Prescott, played arguably its best game of the season
After probably the worst game of his career, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott bounced back in dramatic fashion. With last week’s stinker versus the Commanders in the rear view, Prescott played his best game at least this season, if not his entire career. That’s just how good he was against the Buccaneers. They literally could not stop him all game long. Prescott threw for over 300 yards, completed nearly 76% of his passes, and threw for four touchdowns. He would also add a rushing score to his tally as well. With five total touchdowns by the franchise quarterback, it was easy to see how much of a zone that he was in. He is simply playing out of his mind right now, and what a time to do it.
Prescott was not the only offensive player who balled out on Monday night, as Dalton Schultz has entered the room. Schultz caught seven passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns. This type of performance from him could go a long way in potentially keeping him in Dallas going forward. Receivers CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup each scored a touchdown as well, and both look to be in an excellent position to keep this type of form going for however long this postseason run lasts.
Running back Tony Pollard also had a solid game as he carried the ball 15 times for 77 yards. He didn’t break off a monster run in the Wild Card game, but with an average of 5.1 yards per carry, he played well. With Pollard playing at a much higher level than Ezekiel Elliott, it made sense to have number 20 handling the bulk of the carries.
With the offense firing on all cylinders, a huge credit has to go to the offensive line for playing great all game long. Dak was able to have a clean pocket to make throws, and holes opened up in the ground game as well. If the Cowboys can sustain this type of success on offense, they will be a tough out the rest of the way.
The defensive group regained its previous form, and played well
Guess who’s back? That’s right, the elite Cowboys defensive unit. What a great time to get back to prior form from earlier in the season. The unicorn himself, Micah Parsons, played very well and was bothering Tom Brady all game long. Parsons, in addition to being a nuisance to Brady, got a sack and also had nearly two interceptions during the game. It was good to see run-stuffer Johnathan Hankins join the sack party in his return, after missing nearly a month of action due to injury. Parsons and Hankins were the only two to record a sack on Tom Brady, but the rest the pass rushing unit pressured him all game long.
With the pass rush returning to form, the secondary played very well against the elite pass catching group led by Mike Evans. Safety Jayron Kearse made a great play from inside the Cowboys own five-yard line by picking off Brady. Kearse was not alone in his quality play, as DaRon Bland and Israel Mukuamu played very solid as well. It was a surprise to see Nahshon Wright as a scratch before the game, but what came from this move was even a bigger deal as Mukuamu played great as the third cornerback/safety. Having Trevon Diggs, and DaRon Bland on the outside, and Israel Mukuamu on the inside, makes for a formidable trio if this kind of effort continues.
Let’s also give credit to the returning Leighton Vander Esch for his performance as well. It was very apparent from the get-go versus Tampa Bay how important Vander Esch is to this defense. All three levels performed very well, and if this play can continue, then things should be good going forward.
The special teams unit led by kicker Brett Maher, put a slight damper on what was a great game
Another week, and another awful performance from the special teams group. This time, Brett Maher is the focus as to why the special teams unit was a major let down Monday night. Maher missed four straight extra points, and finally made one on his fifth try. This is a shocking development due to how he has played all season long. Thankfully, the game was out of reach for the majority of the game and his embarrassing performance didn’t prove to be costly. At the moment, it sounds like the organization is going to stick by him for the time being. If he doesn’t correct things in a hurry, he will be out of a job and the team will be potentially searching for a new kicker in short order.
Punter Bryan Anger had a bounce-back game and performed well when called into action. Return specialist KaVontae Turpin almost broke off a monster kick return until he ran into Kelvin Joseph once again. Two out of the three players mentioned from this unit did their job, but because of how poorly Maher played is why this unit graded as poorly as it did this week. Let’s just hope adjustments are made in a hurry.