While there may be nonetheless a protracted approach to go in this postseason match, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback was merely excellent in main his group to a 31-14 victory over Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in this NFC Wild Card matchup. In doing so, the Cowboys received their first playoff recreation on the street for the reason that 1992 NFC Championship Game, a 30-20 victory on the San Francisco 49ers.
But that was historical historical past because of Prescott and firm. After lacking his first three passes of the night time, and being sacked on his fourth drop-back, the Dallas quarterback was practically unstoppable, finishing 25 of his subsequent 30 makes an attempt for 305 yards. In all, he posted a 75.8 completion share with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions for a 143.3 passer ranking.
Along the best way, he set a franchise playoff report with 11 straight completions and handed Tony Romo for the fourth-most profession postseason passing touchdowns, now totaling 10. He additionally tied Hall of Famers Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman for the membership’s most scoring passes in a playoff recreation.
Dalton Schultz was the first beneficiary of Prescott’s efficiency, changing into the primary tight finish in the Cowboys report books with two receiving touchdowns in a playoff recreation. He earned seven catches for 95 yards, each group highs, as eight totally different gamers hauled in passes.
For all of the offensive fireworks, the Dallas protection was maybe much more dominating. Brady threw for 351 yards, however it took 66 go makes an attempt. He accomplished simply 53 p.c of his passes with two touchdowns and an interception for a 72.2 ranking. The Cowboys additionally restricted the Buccaneers’ floor recreation to solely 52 yards. Micah Parsons and Johnathan Hankins every had a sack whereas Leighton Vander Esch topped the membership with 9 tackles. Both Hankins and Vander Esch have been again in the lineup after lacking the earlier 4 and three video games, respectively.
The solely disadvantage of the night time was the inexplicable issues of kicker Brett Maher. One of the perfect in the enterprise all through the common season, he missed his first 4 extra-point makes an attempt. Thankfully, his early inaccuracy did not have an effect on the result of this one.
Regardless, the Buccaneers have been merely no match for the Cowboys on this night time.
It took a few sequence for the offenses to catch up after each defenses dominated by way of the primary 5 minutes of the quarter. But on their third strive, the Cowboys not solely received the sport’s preliminary first down but additionally opened the scoring.
The seven-play, 80-yard drive noticed Tony Pollard rush 4 occasions for 25 yards with Prescott connecting with Michael Gallup for 15 yards and selecting up a 15-yard roughing the passer name for one more 15. The quarterback then capped off the sequence with a 22-yard strike to Schultz, and whereas Maher pushed his additional level to the appropriate, no good, Dallas had the early lead, 6-0.
On the second play of the second body, the Cowboys averted catastrophe. Brady marched his troops all the best way to the Dallas 5-yard line, however on second-and-goal, his toss into the again, center of the tip zone was snatched by security Jayron Kearse, the Cowboys securing Brady’s first red-zone interception for the reason that 2019 season.
Given the reward, Prescott took cost, main his group the total 80 yards on 15 performs. During the drive, the quarterback accomplished all six of his go makes an attempt for 71 yards, however used his legs to cross the objective line, taking a bootleg across the left finish on fourth-and-1 for the landing. The struggles continued for Maher, although, as he once more pushed his additional level vast proper.
With his newest effort, Prescott recorded each a passing and speeding landing in his fourth consecutive playoff recreation, the one participant in NFL historical past to put up such a streak. He additionally grew to become the sixth quarterback in league annals to show the trick in 4 postseason video games general.
With the protection once more forcing one other Buccaneers punt, the Cowboys had 3:32 to work with earlier than the tip of the half. That was loads of time. Again Prescott was very good as he accomplished 7 of 9 passes for 83 yards and likewise scrambled for 11 yards, diving for a primary down on third-and-6. On the landing throw, he rolled to his left to keep away from strain after which discovered Schultz once more 11 yards away for the factors. In a now disturbing development, Maher this time missed his additional level to the left, however Dallas went into the locker room with an 18-0 benefit on the break.
Left deal with Jason Peters was dominated out after struggling a hip damage late in the second quarter, however with rookie Tyler Smith transferring from left guard again out to deal with and Connor McGovern coming in for Smith, the group’s offensive prepare did not decelerate.
Starting at their very own 14-yard line, the Cowboys solely wanted eight performs to achieve the tip zone for the fourth consecutive possession. Prescott hit Schultz for 26 yards – the tight finish made a formidable juggling catch – which was adopted later by a connection to CeeDee Lamb for 26 extra and an 18-yard Pollard run. The quarterback then discovered Gallup in the tip zone from 2 yards out for the landing. Another miss from Maher, this one off the highest of the appropriate upright, formally made his night time one of many worst in playoff historical past, however Dallas’ commanding lead made his irritating effort a non-factor.
Despite being deep in the outlet, Tampa Bay wasn’t buried simply but. The Buccaneers went on a 10-play, 95-yard drive on the finish of the quarter with Brady’s final two passes of the sequence going for 18 yards to wideout Mike Evans after which a 30-yarder to receiver Julio Jones in the tip zone. The Cowboys might have benefited from a no-call on a potential defensive holding name on the two-point conversion, however regardless, the go try fell incomplete.
Dallas had a solution, although. Again, Prescott sliced and diced the Buccaneers secondary. Along the best way, he hit Noah Brown for 15 yards and Gallup for 12 earlier than he and the offense discovered themselves going through fourth-and-4 on the Tamp Bay 18-yard line. With McCarthy deciding to go for it, Prescott discovered a wide-open Lamb on the left facet for the straightforward landing. And Cowboys Nation took a collective sigh of reduction when Maher cut up the uprights to transform the additional level and push the result in 31-6.
If not buried earlier than, the Buccaneers basically have been now with simply over 10 minutes left in the sport. They did attain the Cowboys’ 2-yard line on their subsequent possession, however Brady’s desperation go beneath strain fell incomplete on fourth-and-goal, Dallas taking up on downs.
Unfortunately, a scary second occurred with lower than three minutes remaining when Tampa Bay receiver Russell Gage needed to be carted off the sphere because of damage, giving a thumbs up as he headed to the tunnel.
When motion returned, Brady then accomplished an 11-play, 52-yard drive with an 8-yard throw to tight finish Cameron Brate and transformed the two-point conversion with a strike to Evans. When the Buccaneers then recovered the onside kick at their very own 49-yard line with 2:04 on the clock, issues received slightly uneasy.
In the tip, nonetheless, it was too little too late.
Thanks to the 17-point victory, the Cowboys will now journey to San Francisco to face the 49ers subsequent Sunday, Jan. 22, at 5:30 pm CT on FOX in the divisional spherical of the playoffs.