Buccaneers fall to Cowboys 31-14

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ season ended on Monday night at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys 31-14.

Cowboys’ quarterback Dak Prescott completed 25 of 33 attempts for 305 yards and 4 touchdowns.  Dalton Schultz led all Dallas receivers with 7 catches for 95 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Tony Pollard carried 15 times for 77 yards.

For Tampa Bay, Tom Brady completed 35 of 66 (!) attempts for 351 yards with 2 touchdowns and one interception.  Rachaad White was Tampa Bay’s leading rusher with 41 yards on 7 carries.  Chris Godwin led all Bucs receivers with 85 yards on 10 catches.

A Slow Start

After a slow start that saw the teams exchange punts after four straight 3 and outs, Dallas drove 80 yards for the game’s first points. Prescott found a wide open Schultz for a 22-yard score.  Brett Maher missed the extra point (a common occurrence on the day), and the lead was 6-0.

A (Bad) First for Brady

The Buccaneers responded with a methodical 14-play drive inside the Dallas 10, and along the way, the ESPN broadcast put something interesting on the screen: Brady had not thrown a red zone interception since 2019.  He had 86 passing touchdowns and 0 interceptions as a Buccaneer in the red zone.  On cue, he had an apparent miscommunication with his receiver, and his lob into the end zone was picked off by Jayron Kearse for a touchback.

Dallas responded with a 15-play 80-yard drive, where they dinked and dunked their way with Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott down the field.  On 4th and goal at the 1, Prescott faked a handoff, and rolled left and raced into the end zone untouched for a 12-0 lead.

A Nightmarish Evening for Dallas Kicker Brett Maher

What followed was difficult to watch…pretty much for everyone.  Maher pushed his first extra point attempt wide, and he did the same thing on his second attempt.  And pulled his third.  And pushed his fourth.

Dallas built a 24-0 lead on four touchdowns, but Maher simply had the yips and couldn’t kick it in the ocean from a boat.  Dallas players were shown visibly frustrated – understandably so – on the sideline after the continuing misses.  At best, the Cowboys have to wonder if they have a kicking issue going into Sunday’s divisional tilt with San Francisco.

Too Little, Too Late

Tampa Bay managed to find paydirt on the final play of the third quarter, drawing to 24-6. Brady connected deep with Julio Jones for a 30-yard score.   Godwin was badly held on the failed two-point attempt, with no flag coming.  Despite this small spark, the Bucs’ defense allowed Dallas to march 66 yards, with CeeDee Lamb being left completely uncovered for an 18-yard touchdown (and, finally, ensuing Brett Maher extra point) that put Dallas up by 4 scores with 10:13 remaining.  The Bucs would score once more on an 8-yard strike to Cameron Brate with 2:04 left and ensuing 2-point pass to Mike Evans.  However, after an onside kick recovery, Tampa Bay turned it over on downs with 1:08 left.

Dallas travels to Santa Clara to take on the 49ers Sunday at 6:30 pm.  Tampa Bay ends their season at 8-10.

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