Buccaneers @ Cowboys
Final Score: Buccaneers 19, Dallas 3
Writer: Michael James
Five-time super bowl MVP Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take his personally undefeated record against Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, TX.
The name of the game in the first half was stalled drives ending in field goals. Both teams made good strides down the field, hitting brick walls as they approached the red zone which resulted in solid points for Ryan Succop.
Tampa came out ready to show the world that the rumors of Julio Jones‘ NFL demise were greatly exaggerated. Being featured with jet sweeps and quick release passes culminating with a 48-yard bomb resulted in 86 total yards before the half.
Dallas started with some hard runs with Ezekiel Elliott featuring a new visor sending this author back to memories of LT. However, as the game wore on it was apparent the Cowboys were prioritizing getting CeeDee Lamb the football, resulting in ill-advised throws into double and even triple coverage ending the half with only 1 reception on 7 targets.
The second half saw a lot of downfield running from Leonard Fournette which opened up the field for Tom Brady to work his precise throwing to Mike Evans resulting in the game’s only touchdown. From there, most of the fourth quarter play calling was to run out the clock.
Dak never got in rhythm with his receivers and left in the fourth quarter after taking multiple hard high-five hits from Shaquil Barrett to get his hand x-rayed. Between the throws behind the receiver or the dropped passes from the ones that were on target, Dallas would never get on track and Brady would extend his undefeated streak against the Cowboys.
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) September 12, 2022
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady: 18/27, 212 Yards, TD, INT | 2 Carries, -1 Yards
Facing quick pressure from Micah Parsons, and losing his starting LT during the game to an injury, Tom Brady needed to rely on more quick releases and the running game to move the ball. There were not a lot of plays that gave him time in the pocket to rack up the passing yards. Two drives in the first half came to a screeching halt, both from Micah Parsons sacks resulting in the kicker coming out. Those sacks and an interception led to the Bucs pounding the ball for the majority of the second half. He had one drive where he and Mike Evans were in sync, but other than that it was ground and pound for the game. No mistakes I saw made me think this is old age showing. The 11-day vacation did not show, as Brady was in command from start to finish.
Brady to Evans. We missed this connection. 🎯 #GoBucs
— NFL (@NFL) September 12, 2022
Leonard Fournette: 21 Carries, 127 Yards | 2 Targets, 2 Receptions, 10 Yards
Rachaad White: 6 Carries, 14 Yards | 2 Targets, 2 Receptions, 7 Yards
Breshad Perriman: 1 Carry, -7 Yards | 3 Targets
Jaelon Darden: 1 Carry, 2 Yards
People who drafted Leonard Fournette were eager to know how he would look coming off his season-ending injury last season and he had his number called to seal the game. Quoted after the game as “need to improve our running game”, it certainly had a great launch point from this Week 1 game. Run it out and down the left and it would appear the Cowboys never had an answer.
Pre-season darling Rachaad White had his number called a handful of times, but until the 4th quarter run out, took a backseat to Fournette. He looked quick and agile, but very indecisive. If he is the ‘lightning’, then the game plan called for the absolute bulldozing ‘thunder’ of Fournette.
Bonus – the Brady to Jones bomb towards the end of the first half was partially in part because Fournette landed a devastating block against Parsons on the pass rush.
The Julio catch was great, but Fournette in pass pro vs Parsons 👀 pic.twitter.com/H6UIgmiGih
— Billy M (@BillyM_91) September 12, 2022
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Mike Evans: 7 Targets, 5 Receptions, 71 Yards, TD
Julio Jones: 5 Targets, 3 Receptions, 69 Yards | 2 Carries, 17 Yards
Chris Godwin: 3 Targets, 3 Receptions, 35 Yards
Russell Gage: 2 Targets, 2 Receptions, 13 Yards
Cameron Brate: 3 Targets, 1 Reception, 7 Yards
Julio Jones was the star of the first half, seeing multiple jet sweeps and the receiving end of a 48-yard arc of perfection from Brady. His presence gave way to Mike Evans in the second half, who was critical on the drive ending in the game’s only touch down with an absolutely gorgeous one-handed snag. Chris Godwin was questionable coming in and saw the majority of his yards come off a short catch and run up the left sideline for 24 yards. At this point, the game-time decision seemed to be not more than a precaution as he had that burst of speed. However, later in the first half, he caught a questionable pass rolling out of bounds and got up hobbling. He was pulled from the game and the team decided not to risk it and listed him as out for the remainder of the game. Unlike the running game being dominated by one person by the Bucs, the passing game was spread out with eight people getting multiple targets from Brady. Cameron Brate was not really present in the passing game, as he was more used to clear the way for Fournette most of the game.
MIKE EVANS IS UNGUARDABLE 😱 @MikeEvans13_
— NFL (@NFL) September 12, 2022
Dak Prescott: 14/29, 134 Yards, 1 Int | 2 Carries, 11 Yards
Cooper Rush: 7/13, 64 Yards
With no Tyron Smith, their LG leaving the game with a sprain, AND starting rookie LT; Dak Prescott had his work cut out for him. Sadly, this was not his day as he was under pressure for half the dropbacks forcing a lot of off-center throws including a one-legged fadeaway pass to Noah Brown that resulted in an interception. There were a lot of bad throws, while some just resulted in drops from even the top receiver Lamb, most were just off the mark throws that were behind the target or too far out of bounds. In positive news, it looked like the ankle that had been bothering him all week in practice was not a factor, especially for the play where he ran the option with KaVontae Turpin opting to keep it and run up the field 12 yards for the first down. However, unfortunately, any stats take a back seat as Dak left the game after injuring his throwing hand smacking it multiple times against Shaquil Barrett’s hand attempting to block the pass. He left the field after the second hand-on-hand collision for the locker room. Cooper Rush entered the game to take over and was quickly acquainted with the Buc’s pass rush resulting in his two sacks and pressured throws missing their mark to Lamb and Dennis Houston.
After the game, Jerry Jones addressed the media stating that Dak has injured a joint in his throwing hand thumb that will require surgery and a recovery process that will take ‘several weeks’ according to Jones. In the meantime, the Cowboys will probably look to Rush against the Bengals next week.
Here’s how Dak Prescott injured his hand pic.twitter.com/UVhn4nMkUk
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) September 12, 2022
Ezekiel Elliott: 10 Carries, 52 Yards | 2 Targets, 1 Receptions, -3 Yards
Tony Pollard: 6 Carries, 8 Yards | 2 Targets, 2 Receptions, 14 Yards
The good news, is Ezekiel Elliott looked punishing, able to cut in sharp for the 5-yard gain, or push the linebackers to pick up a few more yards. The bad news is the Cowboy’s game plan did not seem to involve the running game much as they fell behind slowly, field goal by field goal. His 5.2 yards per carry looked effective, as there were no runs of 10 yards or more to pad that. It is very puzzling why he just was not utilized more. There’s not a lot to write into with only 10 rushing attempts and 2 targets. I believe he will be the key if the Cowboys are to turn it around starting next week, especially if they want to take some pressure off of Cooper Rush moving forward.
The night did not start out well for Tony Pollard, the expected heir apparent to the starting job. A fake sweep double reverse to start the drive that fooled approximately zero Buccaneers was busted up for a massive loss right at the start of the drive. A few plays later he was involved in a direct snap wildcat, which makes me think they acknowledge the capability of a two-headed backfield, but simply opted to abandon it as the game pressed on in the direction that it did. I strongly believe it is causation more than coincidence that the Cowboys managed only 3 points over the entire game that had fewer than 20 rushing attempts team-wide. It will be worth keeping an eye on to see if the coaching staff agrees next week.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
CeeDee Lamb: 11 Targets, 2 Receptions, 29 Yards
Dalton Schultz: 9 Targets, 7 Receptions, 62 Yards
Noah Brown: 9 Targets, 5 Receptions, 68 Yards
Dennis Houston: 5 Targets, 2 Receptions, 16 Yards
Simi Fehoko: 3 Targets, 2 Receptions, 12 Yards
With Michael Gallup ruled out before the game, there was no obvious outside stretching element to the passing game to help out CeeDee Lamb and it showed. Lamb found his first game in the season as the number one target rather difficult, spending almost all of it double covered, and for some parts, triple covered. That did not stop the Cowboys from trying to force it to him 11 times, but the windows to get the ball in proved too tight to succeed. Lamb also did himself no favors by dropping the ball when it did arrive in his hands. Dallas is going to have to work on creating ways to get their new number one open.
Noah Brown was one of the two WRs with more than two catches, with two of them coming from Cooper Rush after the first three from Prescott. The interception thrown by Dallas was intended for Brown but did not appear his fault, as the pass was much closer to two Bucs before it would have been close to Brown. The other person to catch more than two passes was Dalton Schultz who had a relatively quiet first half assisting in blocking for the run game to support the much weakened offensive line. However, in the second half as the game shifted to abandon the run, Dalton was heavily involved catching all five of his second-half targets – three of them for double-digit yards.