The opening game to kick off the 2021 NFL season was a thriller that came down to the wire between the Dallas Cowboys and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tom Brady and the Bucs walked away with the victory. However, the Cowboys shouldn't feel completely let down. They played a great game against the defending Super Bowl champions.
Even so, there was some solid play from the Cowboys on Thursday night. Dallas was able to create turnovers, which put the Bucs in a tough spot multiple times. Furthermore, Dak Prescott looked comfortable in the pocket as he kept his team in the game all night. The receiving core looked steller as well, as the Cowboys' main three pass options made big plays for the offense. Even the defense created multiple turnovers, giving Dallas a chance.
Although that's true, the Cowboys ultimately lost the game to the Buccaneers. The run game was completely inefficient. Additionally, Dallas should've had more points. Lastly, the defense didn't do too bad, but they gave Tom Brady one more drive before the end of the night. With that said, here are three things the Cowboys did wrong vs the Buccaneers.
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3. Ezekiel Elliot was nowhere to be found
Ezekiel Elliott completely disappeared on Thursday night. He did have a tough matchup, as the Bucs have the best rush defense in the league. However, Zeke seemed incapable of getting around defenders and couldn't break tackles. He finished the night with 11 carries for just 33 yards. 13 of those yards came from one run. Had Ezekiel Elliott been more efficient, the Cowboys could have managed the clock more efficiently, giving Dallas a better chance to win the game.
We'll see if he bounces back, but Dallas must trust their star running back as well. They take on the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 2, which is a more favorable matchup for Ezekiel Elliott. There's a chance he bounces back from this rough performance, which is something the Cowboys need this year.
2. Cowboys left points on the table
The final score of the game was 31-29, with the Buccaneers clinching the victory. There were a few times the Cowboys could have scored, however, Greg Zuerlein missed some big field goal attempts. “Greg the Leg” missed a layup shot from roughly 30 yards out that would've been good for three points. Immediately after that, he missed an extra point attempt. Counting the 60-yard attempt against him isn't fair, as that's a difficult kick to make (Zuerlein's career-long is 61 yards).
So, that's four points left on the table, and that missed 60-yarder gave the Buccaneers excellent field position. The Cowboys could've had 33 points and at least put the Buccaneers in a situation to score a touchdown on the final drive rather than a field goal. Instead, the Cowboys will be asking “what if” regarding their Week 1 matchup.
1. The defense gave Tom Brady too much time in the final drive
Dallas did a fantastic job in their final drive of the fourth quarter. Dak Prescott looked sharp, the receivers made multiple big plays, and the result was a field goal to take the lead. However, they left about a minute and a half on the clock for Tom Brady to work with. That's just too much time for the GOAT of football. Especially with the offensive talent stacked around him.
The Buccaneers drove the field, got into scoring range, and hit the game-winning field goal with minimal time on the clock. It was a perfect drive that completely spoiled Dak Prescott's hard work. This is a reoccurring issue for the Cowboys, as the offense routinely takes a late fourth-quarter lead, for the defense to lose it in the final stretch. We'll see if Dallas can bounce back in a tough matchup against the Chargers.