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Cowboys dominate Buccaneers, advance to NFC Divisional Round to face 49ers

Dallas Cowboys
2022 · 13-5-0
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2022 · 8-10-0


  1. The Cowboys won a road playoff game! You've likely heard it by now, but Dallas hadn't emerged victorious in a postseason game played away from home since, well, this writer was an infant. Monday's victory wasn't a surprise. Dallas was the stronger team entering a matchup against a division winner that owned a losing record. The Cowboys still have to find a way to advance beyond the Divisional Round, something they haven't done since the 1995 playoffs. But it has to feel so good for Dallas to hit the road and take down Tom Brady's Buccaneers, especially in the fashion in which they did it. The Cowboys justified their on-paper advantage, playing swarming, attacking defense and finding an incredibly impressive groove on the offensive side of the ball. The only poor mark on the entire night came in the kicking game, which we'll tackle later. A resounding road victory is exactly what the Cowboys wanted to propel them into the Divisional Round with some momentum. And we can finally stop referring to their eight-game road playoff drought, which was the second-longest active streak in the NFL.
  2. Dak Prescott lights up the Bucs. We can't dive into this point without first tipping our caps to offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, who called a masterpiece of a game Monday night. Moore drew up a couple of spectacular plays to attack Tampa Bay's defense in key spots, sending CeeDee Lamb in motion to occupy the deep-third defender in the Bucs' Cover 3 look, and Prescott held the safety with his eyes long enough for Dalton Schultz to run a sharp stick nod and find the open space in the zone coverage to catch a touchdown pass. Moore then wisely dialed up a naked bootleg on fourth-and-goal, utilizing Prescott's mobility to get the Cowboys in the end zone a second time. In between, Moore's focus on a no-huddle approach broke down Tampa Bay's defense, creating opportunities to move the chains and keep the foot on the pedal throughout the game. Prescott was masterful throughout, tossing four touchdowns, completing 25 of 33 passes for 305 yards and finishing with a stellar 143.3 passer rating. Prescott could do no wrong. If he plays like this next week, the Cowboys will have a legitimate chance to defeat the stingy, white-hot 49ers.
  3. A frustrating season mercifully ends for Tampa Bay. No one should have been surprised by what they saw from the Buccaneers Monday night, not if they've seen them play for more than the fourth quarter this season. Tampa Bay has long been a team with plenty of talent, but not nearly enough production to match it, trudging through the sludge for most of its games this season before Brady's late-game magic saved them from a few defeats. Tampa Bay was once again that team Monday, struggling to move the ball effectively for much of the game and wasting its best scoring opportunity with a Brady interception thrown in the end zone after Dallas' group effort denied him the chance to connect with Chris Godwin. The Buccaneers gave it one last shot, scoring a touchdown and recovering an onside kick, but once again, their offensive issues appeared again, resulting in a turnover on downs. There will be plenty of questions to answer for the Buccaneers this offseason, and it will be interesting to see if offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich is still on this staff next season. Tampa Bay is simply too talented to be this bad with the football.
  4. Another offseason of speculation begins for Tom Brady. Saddle up, partner. We're about to embark on a journey through the vast wilderness that is an offseason of questions regarding Brady's future. We all know the 45-year-old Brady is well past the usual retirement age, yet we've received zero indication he's done. Sure, he retired for a biblical 40 days last offseason, but that didn't last. Brady had every reason to return to a Buccaneers team built to win now, but after a disappointing 2022 season, it's fair to wonder if we've seen the last of Brady in pewter and red. We'll spend plenty of time wondering whether Brady will move elsewhere (Las Vegas, anyone?), or if he'll finally call it quits. At this point, it would be more surprising if he retired than if he kept playing. One thing is certain: Discussions and debates regarding Brady's future will persist into the new league year. Even if he wasn't great Monday night, he can undoubtedly still sling it. And if anyone was likely to give it another go, it's Brady.
  5. Brett Maher breaks the yips -- and potentially saves his job. While the rest of the Cowboys were playing excellent football Monday night, Maher was decidedly not. A normally reliable kicker (Maher made 90.6% of field goals and 94.3% of extra points this season), Maher had a historically dreadful night at Raymond James Stadium, missing each of his first four extra-point attempts, becoming the first kicker to miss four point-after attempts in a regular or postseason game since the statistic was first tracked for individual players in 1932. The last of the four glanced off the upright, adding insult to injury and confirming he was clearly struggling much like a golfer does when the club just isn't working. Maher couldn't blame the equipment, though, and his teammates couldn't bear to watch him try another kick in a game that should have been more of a blowout than it was. Fortunately for Maher, Mike McCarthy decided against settling for a field goal, leading to Prescott's touchdown pass to a wide-open Lamb on fourth-and-4 from Tampa Bay's 18. On the ensuing snap, Maher -- who spent halftime working on his kicks -- converted the extra point, bringing a much-needed end to his struggles and possibly preventing him from being cut Tuesday. Perhaps it was an aberration; The Cowboys can chalk it up to a bad night for Maher if they want to keep him on the roster. The results from every other game should speak for themselves.

Next Gen stat of the game: Micah Parsons finished with 10 QB pressures and a sack on 58 pass rushes Monday night, registering the most QB pressures in a playoff game in the Next Gen Stats era (dating back to 2016).

NFL Research: Dak Prescott became the fourth player in the Super Bowl era with four-plus passing touchdowns and one or more rushing touchdowns in a playoff game, joining Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan. He also became the first Cowboy to score five-plus total touchdowns in a playoff game in franchise history.

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