After defeating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by a score of 31-14 at Raymond James Stadium to round up Super Wild Card Weekend, the Dallas Cowboys advanced to the Divisional Round. Here we’ll discuss the studs and duds from the Cowboys’ big NFL Wild Card Round win versus the Bucs.
At first, it seemed like the Cowboys were going to repeat the poor performance they had in Week 18 against the Washington Commanders. They quickly punted the ball away on their first possession and had another failed drive soon after. Quarterback Dak Prescott struggled early on to complete any passes during this time.
However, the team’s offense suddenly improved. Prescott led them to 11 consecutive completions, setting a new franchise playoff record. He also orchestrated two 80-yard touchdown drives. One ended in a touchdown pass to Dalton Schultz. The other had Prescott run it in himself on a clever play call by coach Mike McCarthy. During this streak, Prescott threw for 135 yards and a touchdown and also scored the aforementioned rushing TD.
Looking ahead, the Cowboys will now prepare to face the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round at Levi’s Stadium next Sunday.
For now, let us look at the studs and duds from the Cowboys’ NFL Wild Card Round win over the Bucs.
QB Dak Prescott
For every person who likes Dak Prescott, there seems to be someone who’s not sold on him. While this is not uncommon for a Cowboys QB, it is surprising to see how critically some people have judged his abilities. Sure, is not as athletic or as imposing as other quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, or Trevor Lawrence. However, he excels in his ability to process information quickly and read the situation on the field.
In this high-stakes playoff game, Prescott displayed exactly that. His first half was particularly outstanding. He had his way no matter what the Bucs tried to throw at him. This led to an impressive final drive of the half, putting the Cowboys ahead 18-0. He later threw another touchdown pass to Schultz of 11 yards, and two more to Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb for 2- and 18-yards respectively in the third and fourth quarters.
Prescott finished the game with 305 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. He also rushed seven times for 24 yards and one touchdown. Keep in mind that he struggled with interceptions in the latter half of the season. However, Prescott began the game on Monday night with a clear focus on redeeming himself.
This strong performance temporarily absolves him of his recent struggles, but he faces a difficult challenge in the divisional round against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday.
DAK MAKING THIS HIS PLAYOFF MOMENT.
📺: #DALvsTB on ESPN/ABC
📱: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/HABicMhZeY pic.twitter.com/bblLN8L2JI
— NFL (@NFL) January 17, 2023
LB Micah Parsons
At some point during the game, the Dallas offense was not performing well. They began with two consecutive drives that ended with no points. However, Micah Parsons started the game very strongly. He made a tackle that resulted in a loss of yards on the defense’s first play and then caused a holding penalty on the third play. This was the first holding penalty against a Dallas opponent since Week 10.
Tampa Bay left tackle Donovan Smith was just unable to handle Parsons’ various moves. This severely hindered the Tampa offense and made quarterback Tom Brady feel uneasy throughout the game. Parsons plainly dominated on defense.
TE Dalton Schultz
Many people criticized the Cowboys for using the franchise tag on Dalton Schultz instead of using that money to retain wide receiver Amari Cooper. However, those criticisms were effectively silenced this week as Schultz had an outstanding performance. In fact, he caught two of Prescott’s touchdown passes. Even more impressive were Schultz’s other catches. This included a difficult completion along the left sideline that required him to catch the ball twice.
RB Tony Pollard
At the end of the regular season, the Cowboys had issues with their running game. However, on Monday night, Tony Pollard had a strong performance. He rushed 15 times for 77 yards, while Ezekiel Elliott had 27 yards on 13 carries.
Pollard, however, stood out big time by breaking four tackles for an 18-yard gain in the second half. Cowboys fans were just glad to see the team execute the run game effectively. Even Prescott by rushing for 24 yards and a touchdown.
K Brett Maher
Kicker Brett Maher seems to be going through a very difficult period right now. Despite having a strong season, Maher has recently struggled with his kicking. Keep in mind that he made 29-of-32 field goals this season and 50-of-53 extra points heading into the playoffs. However, he missed one kick against the Commanders in Week 18 and then four consecutive kicks against the Buccaneers here. That’s the most in any regular or postseason game since at least 1950.
It’s unfortunate to see a young player going through this on national television. That said, the Cowboys can’t afford to wait for Maher to work through his struggles. If he cannot step up, Dallas might be all too happy to replace him in the succeeding rounds.