Fans in the stands. America’s team, fresh off Hard Knocks. The G.O.A.T., fresh off his seventh Super Bowl. Nearly 800 yards passing. Two lead changes in the final two minutes. Redemption for the two players that nearly cost their team the game. Ed Sheeran chilling with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell? This game had everything.
There could not have been a better season opener than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-29 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday.
It’s clear that Tom Brady still has whatever makes him Tom Brady, but Dak Prescott reminded the casual NFL fan with 403 yards passing, and a fourth quarter go-ahead drive, that his $40-million per year contract coming off a serious ankle injury was deserved.
After watching the snooze-fest fifth season of Hard Knocks on HBO, which featured Dak Prescott being held out of preseason practices and games with issues in his throwing arm, it was definitely a surprise to see him drop back to pass over 60 times, with 58 total attempts. Ezekiel Elliot only had 11 rushing attempts on the day, and a big reason for such a pass-heavy game plan was Tampa Bay’s stout run defense led by Jason Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh, and an extremely strong-looking Vita Vea.
Rob Gronkowski grabbing two touchdowns in a game in the season opener, after doing the SAME THING in the Super Bowl against the Chiefs feels surreal. How many people questioned his decision to return when he was five games deep into the 2020 season with only 12 catches and no touchdowns? Since then? He’s gotten into the end zone 11 times in his last 16 games!
Nobody was happier to see Dak Prescott return than Amari Cooper. He had 13 catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns in tonight’s game on 16 targets. He saw his targets and receptions fall dramatically after Dak’s injury last year, going from an average of 13 targets and 9 catches in the first four games of 2020, to nearly 7 targets and 5.5 receptions per game with Andy Dalton under center.
There’s nothing better than a redemption story, and this game presented two of them. Dallas Cowboys kicker Greg Zuerlein missed an extra point and a 31-yard field goal earlier in the game (he also missed a 60-yard attempt, but who could have expected him to make that?), so everyone on the Dallas sideline was certainly holding their collective breath when he lined up for a 48-yard attempt to give the Cowboys a late lead- but Greg the Leg nailed his kick, which came on a drive that was facilitated by a major mistake by the Buccaneers.
Tampa Bay was close to putting the game away mid-way through the fourth quarter (and covering for anyone who took the Bucs -8.5) when Damontae Kazee found a way to get his helmet on the ball and cause WR Chris Godwin to fumble inside the 5-yard line. On Tampa Bay’s final drive, it was Chris Godwin who made the catch put Tampa Bay in range for a game-winning attempt by Ryan Succop.
Was that catch a missed offensive pass interference? Well, what would an NFL game be without a little controversy. I’ll let you watch the clip below and decide for yourself.
While Dallas didn’t open with a win, they still have to be encouraged about Dak Prescott’s health and progress, as well as their run defense. Tampa Bay showed that they’re still the top dog in the NFC, but if they want to stay on top, they’re going to have to find a way to fortify their secondary so that they aren’t beat by route technicians like Amari Cooper or speed demons like CeeDee Lamb.
Hopefully we’ll get a Cowboys/Buccaneers rematch sometime in the postseason, and if we do, according to George Wrighster, if Dak Prescott comes out on top, it might be the last we see of Tom Brady in pads:
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