Cowboys earn first road playoff win in 30 years, take down Tampa Bay 31-14 to advance to Divisional Round

Jan 16, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first half during the wild card game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys earn first road playoff win in 30 years, take down Tampa Bay 31-14 to advance to Divisional Round

The Cowboys earned their first road playoff win since 1992 in their 31-14 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night in Tampa. It is an encouraging sign for them going forward as they found success on both sides of the ball.

Dak Prescott put together one of his best games all season, relieving the worry of what was a terrible Week 18. He completed 25-of-33 pass attempts for 305 yards and four touchdowns to go along with a rushing touchdown. Dak was in rhythm throwing the football, which we have not seen much of this season to this point, and avoided making too many bad decisions. He also used his legs when necessary, which added an element to his game that he has not used as frequently as some may like. It was Dak that spearheaded the 425-yard effort by the Cowboys. They led in time of possession by more than 10 minutes and were 7-of-13 on third down.

Dalton Schultz was the leading receiver for Dallas, pulling in seven balls for 95 yards and two scores. He was the key target for Dak in this game from beginning to end. Each of Dallas’ top receivers pulled in touchdowns as both CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup found the end zone. Tony Pollard broke out numerous times, totaling 77 yards on 15 carries.

Though the offense played great, Dallas’ defense was outstanding, especially in the first half, as they held Tom Brady scoreless in the first two quarters. Brady looked off-balance and uncomfortable all game. Brady finished 35-of-66 for 351 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. The interception came in the first half and was his first red-zone pick as a Buccaneer. Tampa Bay simply could not run the football. Rachaad White was the Bucs’ leading rusher with just 41 yards on seven carries.

Dallas consistently got pressure on Brady and did well stopping the run. Micah Parsons led all players with nine pressures on the night and a sack. This was as impressive as their defense has been, at least since the injuries hit late in the year.

The only part of the game Dallas struggled in was converting on kicks. Brett Maher, who has been magnificent all season, missed four straight extra points before finally hitting one in the fourth quarter. Maher has only missed three extra points on 53 tries over the course of the year. No other kicker has missed four extra points in a game.

The intensity and physicality of the game showed in the early going as both teams traded four straight three-and-outs to start the game. It took until Dallas’ third possession to finally hit the scoreboard. The Cowboys would lead a seven-play drive resulting in a 22-yard touchdown pass from Prescott to Dalton Schultz, giving Dallas a 6-0 lead midway through the first quarter. Brett Maher’s missed extra point kept the score at 6-0, which would remain until the end of the first quarter.

The Dallas defense had a remarkable start to the game, and a forced turnover would help keep the momentum in their direction. After a 13-play drive to set up the Bucs inside the Dallas 5-yard line, Tom Brady would throw his first red zone interception as a Buccaneer as Jayron Kearse picked off the pass in the end zone giving Dallas the ball back at the 20.

On Dallas’ ensuing drive, they would find the end zone for the second time extending their lead to double digits. A 15-play drive would end in a 1-yard touchdown run from Dak Prescott on fourth down, giving the Cowboys a 12-0 lead with just over six minutes to play in the first half. Brett Maher missed his second extra point of the game after being nearly perfect all season.

After another stop by the Dallas defense, the Cowboys would come out firing and tack on another touchdown at the end of the half. Rolling to his left, Dak hit Dalton Schultz on an 11-yard touchdown pass to extend the Dallas lead to 18-0 with just 27 seconds to play in the half. Maher would miss his third extra point keeping the score at 18-0 to end the half.

At halftime, Dak had completed 75% of his throws for 189 yards and two touchdowns, with his biggest beneficiary being Dalton Schultz with 59 yards and both touchdown receptions. The Dallas defense had held Tom Brady to a sub-50% completion percentage in the first half and held the Bucs scoreless.

After forcing a three-and-out to open the second half, Dallas would continue their momentum offensively and find the end zone yet again. This time, an eight-play drive would end in a 2-yard touchdown pass from Dak to Michael Gallup, giving Dallas a 24-0 lead. Maher missed his fourth straight extra point in an unprecedented performance by the Dallas kicker. He had more extra-point misses in this game than he had the entire season.

Before the end of the third quarter, Tampa Bay would finally find the scoreboard with a touchdown. A 10-play drive would result in a 30-yard touchdown strike from Brady to Julio Jones to put the Bucs on the board 24-6 as time expired in the third quarter. Tampa would go for two and fail to convert, keeping the deficit at 18.

The Cowboys would answer right back on their next possession with yet another touchdown, this time with a successful point-after try. A nine-play drive would be capped off with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Dak to CeeDee Lamb, giving Dallas a 31-6 lead with just over 10 minutes to play in the fourth. The touchdown came on a fourth-and-four try, seemingly indicating a lack of faith in Brett Maher to make the field goal. He then would hit the extra point after the touchdown.

After both teams traded unsuccessful drives, the Buccaneers would find the end zone for the second time. This time, Brady hits Cameron Brate on an 8-yard touchdown pass and, following a successful 2-point conversion, narrowed the Dallas lead to 31-14 with just over two minutes to play.

Tampa Bay would give the Cowboys a bit of a scare toward the end of the game as they recovered an onside kick giving them the ball back around midfield. Following that, on the first play of the drive, Brady missed Mike Evans on a deep ball by just inches that would have resulted in a touchdown. Instead, Dallas would force a turnover on downs and lock up their first road playoff win in 30 years.

The Cowboys now head to the divisional round, where they will take on the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara for a chance at the NFC Championship Game.

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