Cowboys Crush Bucs in Wild Card

By Terrance Turner

Jan. 16, 2023

Super Wild Card Weekend concluded tonight when the Dallas Cowboys traveled to Tampa Bay to beat the Buccaneers. And for the first The Cowboys crushed the Bucs 31-14 in a game that was never really competitive.

Quarterback Dak Prescott was electric, throwing four touchdown passes and rushing for another, and Buccaneers QB Tom Brady was never really on the same page as his receivers. For the first time, the Cowboys have defeated a Brady-led team in the playoffs.

First Half

Both offenses struggled mightily on their opening drives. Each team punted twice. Four possessions. Four punts. zero first downs.

Dallas was the first to strike. Prescott hit Michael Gallup for 15 yards. Two plays later, a roughing the passer penalty (on Akeem Hicks) gained them 15 more.

Running back Tony Pollard gained 18 yards on a rush, and Prescott threw to tight end Dalton Schultz for a 22-yard touchdown.

TAMPA, FLORIDA – JANUARY 16: Dalton Schultz #86 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first quarter of the game in the NFC Wild Card playoff game at Raymond James Stadium on January 16, 2023 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

But kicker Brett Maher missed the extra point.

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Brady got the Bucs offense cooking on their next drive, throwing first downs to Chris Godwin, Mike Evans and Rashaad White. Tampa Bay reached first and goal at the five yard line. But Brady’s end-zone pass was intercepted by Javon Kearse.

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Dallas cashed in quickly. Once they got passed midfield, Prescott threw a pass short right to Jake Ferguson and the rookie tight end took off, going 34 yards for first and goal.

That set up a series of running plays. Pollard ran for five yards but an offensive holding penalty forced Dallas to replay the down. This time Pollard went 8 yards to the 6 yard line. Prescott rushed five yards on 2nd and goal. Ezekiel Elliott got stopped for no gain on 3rd and goal. Instead of kicking a field goal the Cowboys decided to go for it on 4th down, and Prescott scored, turning a nifty fake into a 1-yard rush TD.

Later, Prescott threw to Schultz for their second touchdown of the night.

But Maher missed another extra point kick and Prescott was livid.

Cowboys led 18-0 at the half.

2nd Half

The Cowboys dazzled with big plays: Schultz made another big grab, CeeDee Lamb caught a pass for 26 yards and Pollard fought through tackles to gain 18 yards, setting up first and goal. Then Prescott threw into the back of the end zone to Michael Gallup.

Remarkably, Gallup managed to stay just inside the lines of the end zone, tiptoeing a tightrope to make the touchdown grab. Brett Maher missed yet another extra point.

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Trials in Tampa

Now down 24-0, it was desperation time for the Bucs. Brady threw the Chris Godwin but he was tackled and the ball came out as he hit the ground. Initially, the play was ruled a fumble. Refs later reversed the ruling, saying Godwin was down by contact. (Ryan Jensen got flagged for 15 yards on the play.)

Tampa Bay held on to the ball. But their offense was stagnant. Brady was nearly picked again by Kearse and then threw incomplete to Mike Evans.

Brady eventually found the end zone. Just as time ran out on the third quarter, Brady scored with a TD throw to wide receiver Julio Jones. (However, Tampa Bay’s attempt at a two-point conversion was unsuccessful.)

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But the Cowboys struck right back with another scoring drive. Prescott threw to a wide-open CeeDee Lamb for Dallas’ fifth touchdown of the night. (This time, Maher finally drilled the extra-point kick.)

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Brady later connected with tight end Cameron Brate for a second touchdown. And the Bucs recovered an onside kick. But that boost quickly gave way to concern when Russell Gage suffered a scary neck injury and had to be carted off the field.

TAMPA, FLORIDA – JANUARY 16: Russell Gage #17 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is carted off the field after suffering an injury against the Dallas Cowboys during the fourth quarter in the NFC Wild Card playoff game at Raymond James Stadium on January 16, 2023 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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