Buccaneers Win a Thriller, Top Cowboys 31-29

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Buccaneers quarterback Brady completed 32 of 50 passes for 379 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions, Antonio Brown grabbed five passes for 121 yards and a touchdown, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicked off their 2021 campaign with a 31-29 win over the Dallas Cowboys.

Succop Was Clutch

Ryan Succop converted a 36-yard field goal with two seconds left for the winning margin, capping an 11-play, 57-yard final drive. Dallas had taken the lead with 1:24 remaining on a 48-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein, who missed two field goals and an extra point earlier in the game.

Dak Prescott completed 42 of 58 pass attempts for 403 yards with 3 touchdowns and an interception. Amari Cooper paced the Cowboys with 13 catches for 139 yards and 2 touchdowns, while CeeDee Lamb had 7 receptions for 104 yards and the Cowboys’ first touchdown.

Neither team was able to generate any kind of consistent ground game. The Cowboys ran 18 times for 60 yards (3.3 ypc) while the Buccaneers ran for 52 yards on 14 attempts (3.7). Both teams seemed willing to operate out of the shotgun and rely on their quarterbacks, who threw a combined 108 times.

Striking First

The Buccaneers struck first with a 5-yard pass to Chris Godwin in the first quarter. Dallas answered with a 75-yard drive that finished with a touchdown strike to Lamb. Rob Gronkowski caught the first of his two touchdowns to retake the lead at 14-7 early in the second quarter. Then, after stopping Dallas, Ronald Jones fumbled on the first play of the following drive, allowing Dallas to move 27-yards to pull within 14-13. The Buccaneers turned it right back over on the following play, as Fournette fumbled a pass that fell into the lap of Dallas defender Trevon Diggs. Four plays later Zuerlein put the Cowboys on top for the first time 16-14.

Two plays later, Brady found a streaking Brown, who deked his defender and broke deeply for a 47-yard touchdown for the final points of the half.

Second Half Surge

The Cowboys opened the second half with a 13-play 72-yard drive that resulted in a 21-yard field goal. After a Tampa Bay 3-and-out, the Bucs defense forced its only turnover of the game, with Carlton Davis picking off Prescott and returning it to the 35. Davis was the bright spot for a Buccaneers secondary that struggled to cover Dallas’ receivers one on one for much of the game, and also one that lost Sean Murphy-Bunting to an elbow injury and saw the temporary departure of Mike Edwards due to cramps. Andrew Adams, who was recently elevated from the practice squad, saw extended action and had a key tackle near the goal line to thwart Dallas’ first drive of the second half.

More Gronk, More Better

On the ensuing drive, Brady found Gronkowski again from 11 yards – this time on an impressive delayed seam route where Gronkowski appeared to block, then slipped out behind the blitz for an easy score and a 28-19 lead.

And it was then, late in the third quarter where Dallas slowly marched to the lead. Prescott found Cooper again for a 21-yard touchdown on a corner route to cap a 10-play, 75-yard drive. The teams traded punts to start the fourth quarter when Tampa Bay began what appeared to be a drive to effectively put the game away. However, Godwin fumbled on the Cowboys’ 3-yard line while fighting towards the end zone, and Dallas recovered.

Pesky Cowboys 

The Cowboys marched 60-yards, with CeeDee Lamb putting Dallas in field goal range with a 31-yard catch and run.  Zuerlein converted from 48 yards with 1:24 left for a 29-28 Dallas lead.  Brady took the Buccaneers back down the field, connecting with Bernard twice, Gronkowski twice, and Godwin for 24 yards to put the Buccaneers in the red zone. Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy elected not to call a timeout to ice Succop, who put the winning field goal through the dead center of the uprights.

The Buccaneers host the Falcons on Sunday, September 19, while the Cowboys travel to Los Angeles to face the Chargers.

 

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