TAMPA- In one of the most highly anticipated NFL season openers in quite some time, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers welcomed the heavily loved Dallas Cowboys to Raymond James Stadium last Thursday night. There was so many storylines to this one, even the most hardcore NFL fan might’ve lost count; Tom Brady entered his 22nd season in the National Football League, The Buccaneers quest to win a third world championship had begun, Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott’s first game back since breaking his ankle last season, The list goes on and on and on.
In an exciting fashion, however, Tampa Bay would prove its resiliency as a team and just why they’re the defending league champions. Withstanding a masterful night from Prescott, the Buccaneers needed a last-second Ryan Succop field goal to come away with a thrilling (31-29) win over the Cowboys during Thursday night football. The game itself generated over 26 million viewers, making it the most watched program since the Super Bowl back in February.
When looking at Dallas’ game plan going in, it was simple: throw the ball quickly and take Tampa Bay’s front seven out of the game. The Buccaneers have one of the top run-stopping units in the NFL and the Cowboys decided against testing that unit and instead opted to throw the ball until Tampa Bay’s defense could stop it. Problem was, Tampa Bay wasn’t really able to slow down Prescott. The Dallas starter completed 42-of-58 passes for 403 yards and three touchdowns.
The problem for the Cowboys though was stopping Brady on the other side from torching their secondary. That proved to be equally as ineffective, with Brady completing 32-of-50 passes for 379 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions. Turnovers seemed like they would be ultimately the difference-maker, because the Buccaneers had many of them, four to be exact.
Despite the litany of miscues on the offensive side of the ball, Tampa Bay (1-0) was still able to overcome them and mostly because of their play defensively inside the red zone. Some missed field goals by Greg Zuerlein helped as well. The Dallas kicker missed an extra point and a field goal attempt that would’ve pushed the Cowboys ahead and forced Tampa Bay to attempt a touchdown instead of three points in the final seconds.
Dallas (0-1) took its first lead of the second half with 1:24 left in the game, as Zuerlein hit on what seemed to be the game’s go-ahead kick. But as Brady has done so many times in his legendary career, he took Tampa Bay down within field goal range and Succop’s kick would give the Buccaneers a 31-29 lead with two seconds left. Now the Cowboys will travel out west to face the Los Angeles Rams and the Buccaneers will be at home facing the Atlanta Falcons.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.