5 Cowboys vs. Buccaneers Takeaways: Dak Has His Playoff Moment, and Tom Brady Should Walk Away Before it Gets Uglier

    The Cowboys vs. Buccaneers Wild Card matchup was dominated by Dak Prescott. But not all is well in Dallas, and they'll need to figure it out before San Francisco.

    The Dallas Cowboys came away with a dominating win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their Wild Card matchup on Monday Night Football. After a horrible Week 18 performance against the Commanders and a bad game against Tampa Bay to start the season, this win should give Dallas the confidence they’ll need against San Francisco in the Divisional Round.

    5 Takeaways From Cowboys vs. Buccaneers

    It’s tough to come away from the Cowboys’ dominating 31-14 victory against Tampa Bay without immediately thinking of Prescott’s performance. On the other hand, it looked as if Tom Brady might have to think about when he’s going to head to his network job.

    Dak Prescott Finally Had His Moment

    Prescott is one of the most polarizing quarterbacks in the NFL. And while that certainly comes with the territory of being the Cowboys QB, it’s particularly puzzling to see how negatively some portray his game. Prescott is not the athletic marvel we’re used to seeing at the position today. He has not the arm or athleticism of Mahomes, Allen, Herbert, or Lawrence.

    But he’s part of the last stand of pocket quarterbacks who win based on the information they can process in their head before and after the snap of the ball. And with everything on the line in a playoff environment, Prescott left it all on the field for the Dallas Cowboys.

    His first half was reminiscent of a shooter who keeps throwing up shots that fall straight through the net, no matter how the defense plays him. And that culminated in an incredible final drive of the half to put Dallas up 18-0 going into the locker room.

    Prescott is a great player, but he needed a few of these high-level playoff performances if he was ever going to earn the respect of the common NFL fan. He won’t get it yet, but if he plays well against San Francisco, that narrative could change.

    Tom Brady Must Have a Long Conversation With Himself

    Father time has finally caught up to Brady. Despite breaking the league record for attempts and completions, he was clearly a much different player this season. He consistently missed passes at 44 that he wasn’t missing at 43. And despite still showing flashes of the brilliance that made him the greatest ever, the flashes are fleeting.

    He had the chance to go out on top, but he wasn’t done playing yet, and neither was his body. Now, he has a choice to make. Brady is entitled to play as long as he desires.

    But that comes with the inevitability of an even steeper decline in his play. Or, he can hang up the cleats, put on a suit, and head to the booth whenever he’s tired of playing the family man.

    Cowboys Have a Kicker Problem

    Brett Maher has the yips. After having an incredibly strong season, it appears the Cowboys kicker is, for lack of a better term, broken. Maher made 29 of 32 field goals this season. He made 50 of 53 extra points heading into the postseason.

    But then he missed one against the Commanders in Week 18. Then he missed four straight against the Buccaneers — the most in any regular or postseason game since at least 1950. It’s terrible to see a young man going through that on national television, but the Cowboys don’t have the luxury of letting him work itself out.

    The Cowboys have flirted with Lirim Hajrullahu all season, so it’s likely they bring in the 31-year-old for the Divisional Round.

    Buccaneers Failed By Coaching… Again

    It’s hard to truly express just how poorly the Buccaneers played against Dallas. Yes, they’ve been a bad team most of the season, and the coaching staff hasn’t helped. But against the Cowboys in the Wild Card Round, the Tampa Bay coaching staff failed their players.

    The offensive game plan is what it is at this point. Tampa Bay uses the quick game and screen game as their run game because they don’t run the ball well. But the Buccaneers ran the ball very well against Dallas in Week 1, and they even had some success before the playoff game got out of hand.

    The Buccaneers’ defense didn’t do enough to change the picture for Prescott. The Cowboys’ offensive line settled in after the first drive, and once the Buccaneers’ pass rush slowed down, there was nothing they could do to keep from getting diced through the air.

    Sometimes in a game, one decision feels like it changes the course. For the Buccaneers, one decision may have accelerated the course. Todd Bowles punted on a fourth-and-three from their own 47-yard line.

    He’s been consistent in those decisions to be conservative throughout the season, even when it’s the wrong choice. The Tampa Bay offense needed a spark, and Bowles took the matches away.

    Cowboys Will Need Another Flawless Performance to Beat San Francisco

    The Cowboys were outstanding against Tampa Bay for almost 60 full minutes. However, it will take as much of an all-around effort to beat the San Francisco 49ers.

    The 49ers are simply in a different league right now. They absolutely decimated the Seattle Seahawks in a game that Brock Purdy didn’t play well in. The 49ers’ weapons make up for it all offensively, and their defense is as well-coached and dangerous as defenses come.

    But the Cowboys will be out for revenge from a season ago and on a mission to make their first NFC Championship game since Coolio released Gangsta’s Paradise.

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