Jan 16, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) reacts after throwing a touchdown pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second half during the wild card game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
TRIUMPH IN TAMPA: 5 observations from the Cowboys’ win over Tampa Bay
Behind one of his better performances of the season, Dak Prescott led the Dallas Cowboys to a 31-14 road win over Tom Brady and the Buccaneers to finish off Super Wild Card Weekend on Monday night at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
The Cowboys needed a big day from quarterback Dak Prescott, and they got just that. The Cowboys leader on offense completed 25 of 33 passes for 305 yards and four touchdowns, and a 143.3 quarterback rating. Most importantly, he ended the game with no turnovers, his first clean sheet since a win over Minnesota in Week 11.
It started slowly, as the Cowboys went three-and-out on their first two series of the game before coming to life for back-to-back-to-back touchdown drives. The Cowboys amassed 246 yards of total offense in the first 30 minutes while keeping the Buccaneers’ defense guessing.
After missing his first four throws of the game, Prescott finished off the half completing 14 of his next 15 passes for 189 yards and a pair of touchdown throws to tight end Dalton Schultz. He also added 20 yards rushing, which included a 1-yard touchdown run on fourth down, and the Cowboys were up just 6-0.
Prescott added two more touchdown passes, one each to Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb, in the second half as the Cowboys put away the Buccaneers.
Defense shuts down run game
After giving up 127 yards rushing to Leonard Fournette in the first meeting, the Cowboys came in looking to stop the run, and they did just that.
Led up front by Micah Parsons and Osa Odighizuwa, the Cowboys held Tampa Bay to just 52 yards on 12 carries in Monday night’s game.
Rachaad White led the way with 41 yards on seven carries, while Leonard Fournette had just 11 yards on five carries.
It started from the opening offensive play for Tampa Bay when White was stopped for a 2-yard loss by Parsons to set the tone.
The Cowboys’ defense kept the Tampa Bay running game in check in the first half, allowing just 24 yards on seven carries. White led the way with 14 yards, but 12 of those came on one run, while Fournette had just 10 yards on four carries.
The Bucs abandoned the run in the second half as they tried to go to the air to get back in the game.
Cowboys run game shows up
The Cowboys needed to find the running game that had been missing for several weeks, and they did that to the tune of 128 yards on 35 carries in Monday night’s win.
Tony Pollard led the way with 77 yards on 15 carries, while backfield mate Ezekiel Elliott added 27 yards on 13 totes. Add that to quarterback Dak Prescott’s 24 yards on seven carries, and the Cowboys were able to keep the Buccaneers’ run defense guessing.
Pollard, who ended with a 5.1 yards per carry average, got the Cowboys going early, with 39 yards in the first half as the Cowboys raced out to an 18-0 lead.
The Cowboys kept running, finishing with an almost perfect balance of runs (35) to passes (33).
Streak ender and extender
With their win on Monday night, the Cowboys ended a 30-year losing streak in road playoff games. Before taking down Tampa Bay, the Cowboys last won on the road in the 1993 NFC Championship Game in San Francisco.
The Cowboys also beat Tom Brady for the first time after going 0-for-7 before this Wild Card round showdown.
Dallas, now 36-29 as a franchise in the playoffs, improves to 3-0 all-time against the Buccaneers in the postseason after picking up wins in 1981 and 1982. They also improve to 8-6 all-time in the Wild Card round.
Before Monday night, the Cowboys’ last playoff win came at home in the Wild Card round of 2018 – a 24-22 victory over Seattle.
Rough night for Maher
Cowboys’ kicker Brett Maher had the worst night of his career, missing four straight extra points. Fortunately for the Cowboys, the misses never really came into play in the game.
Maher, who had been a strength for the entire season, missed his first two extra points wide right, and they weren’t even close.
He then missed his third wide right, while the fourth hit the right upright.
Maher came into the game with just three misses on 53 point-after tries this season.
In the fourth quarter, the Cowboys had a chance to kick a field goal on fourth and four, but head coach Mike McCarthy elected to go for it. The fourth down play resulted in an 18-yard touchdown pass. Maher did connect on the extra point to push the Cowboys’ lead to 31-6.