The final game of the first week of the NFL playoffs turned out to be one-sided on Monday, as the Dallas Cowboys topped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-14.
The Cowboys thus make an appointment with the second-ranked San Francisco 49ers for the divisional playoffs in the National Association.
The team led by Mike McCarthy, who has not participated in the Super Bowl since 1995, ended a 31-year drought since he signed his last playoff success on an opposite turf.
There were also reasons to wonder if the legendary Tom Brady, 45, just played the last game of his NFL career.
“I’ll go home and try to get a good night’s sleep…or the best I can under the circumstances.” A lot of attention has been paid to this game, so it really will be one day at a time. [quant à mon avenir] “, Brady was content to say after the defeat.
“The feeling that inhabits me at the moment is that of a season that ends too soon,” he added, offering an additional clue to the reflection that began in the 2023 calendar.
The No. 12 saw his personal seven-game winning streak against the Cowboys come to an abrupt halt.
Dallas’ offense excelled through the air, and that was reflected in Dak Prescott’s four touchdown passes, as well as 305 yards on 25-of-33 completions.
The Brady-led Bucs offense quickly gave itself a glorious opportunity to counterattack, but his pass inside the Cowboys’ 5 zone was intercepted by Jayron Kearse.
After another methodical run, Prescott hit a great short field early in the second quarter, on fourth down and the goals.
Then, just before halftime, the Cowboys’ general spotted Schultz again, this time from 11 yards out, to add six points to the score.
Returning from the break, Dallas immediately resumed his work of destruction, and came to fruition with a middle finger from Michael Gallup.
Dallas would have led 28-0 at this point had it not been for the dismal performance of kicker Brett Maher, who missed all four of his conversion attempts after touchdowns.
This is the highest total of missed conversions by a single kicker in an NFL playoff game.
“I just played like c… a week ago. I mean, it can happen. Knowing Brett and knowing what he has done in his career thanks to his resilience, personally, I have no doubt that he will be back with us next week and he will be perfect, ”Prescott hammered, about the setbacks from Maher.
McCarthy then appeared to give Maher a vote of confidence, saying the Cowboys “will need some [Brett] at its best” next Sunday, in San Francisco.
The first sign of life for the Bucs finally came on the last play of the third quarter, when Brady joined Julio Jones for 30 yards for the touchdown.
However, the two-run post-touchdown attempt failed and the No. 12 missed his Chris Godwin target.
In the visitors’ ensuing offensive streak, Prescott added a fifth touchdown to his terrific night work, capitalizing on Tampa’s secondary bounty to team up with CeeDee Lamb for 18 yards.
In all, Brady attempted 66 passes in the Bucs’ loss (a career-high in 383 games). They had gone 8-9 in the regular season, but still had the luxury of hosting a playoff game because of their Southern Division title.
Of course, McCarthy was very pleased with Prescott’s performance and the offensive unit he leads, but he especially wanted to praise the Cowboys’ defense.
“As soon as these guys got off the bus today, they were on a mission. At the outset we did not give them much, ”said the instructor of the Texan formation.
Late in the fourth quarter, Tampa catcher Russell Gage suffered a neck injury and concussion when he was tackled hard by an opponent.
Gage had to be transported in a cart after he had been lying on the grass for long minutes.
Instructor Todd Bowles, whose job could well be in jeopardy before the 2023 campaign, claimed Gage “could move his limbs” when he arrived at the hospital.
Moments later, winger Cameron Brate scored the final touchdown of the game. A successful two-point conversion followed, as well as a recovered onside kick by Tampa, but it was too late.
It was the third consecutive year that the Buccaneers reached the playoffs, after a long ordeal of 17 seasons without participating.
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