There were a lot of questions about Cowboys in Dallas Going in their opening match of the season against Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We’re starting to get some answers, but it wasn’t exactly what we wanted to see. An attack streak that had already been hit received another blow. Inexperienced wide receivers have not advanced nearly enough. The defense showed promise, but it was a surprisingly poor outing from the starting midfielder. Even worse, the midfielder left the game late with a hand injury. All of this combined to result in a disappointing 19-3 loss on a day when all the other NFC East teams were winning. It’s a long season and all, but this was frustrating.
The first half was a disappointment for the cowboys, but not very satisfying for the pirates. After the Cowboys went out on opening possession of the game and drove them down the field to 32, they stopped and had to settle for a 51-yard field goal from Brett Maher. But it came at a cost, as Conor McGovern left the field with what was described as an ankle injury. Matt Farniuk had to replace him.
But from that moment on, the offense was basically futile for the rest of the first half, and the match. While Tyler Smith held up well in the LT, Dallas was unable to move the ball. Ezekiel Elliott was solid, averaging 5.3 yards per carry, but they couldn’t stay on schedule. This old bugaboo is back in force as the cowboys have drawn four flags, all on attack. That messed things up. Given that Dallas was also dealing with a poor field position, they simply couldn’t bear to hurt themselves like that. They would make it into the first half with only 94 yards of total attacking, and Prescott was inaccurate, often trying to force the ball into tight coverage. This usually includes trying to communicate with CeeDee Lamb. He seemed to not have enough confidence in the inexperienced wide receivers, and only contacted T.E. Dalton Schultz twice. As a result of what QB’s decision was so bad, he ended up being intercepted, and he could easily have gotten a couple more. He completed only 38% of his passes in the first half. If he couldn’t do a better job, there wouldn’t be much hope for the Cowboys.
Tom Brady and his cohorts were more or less able to move between the 20-yard lines as Julio Jones, Chris Goodwin and Mike Evans all had 20-yard receptions. But Dallas’ defense tightened in the red, and despite having 214 yards of attack, Tampa Bay had to make do with five field goal attempts, one of which missed. Brady was generally getting the ball rolling in his fast fashion, but Micah Parsons picked where he left off last season by getting two bags before the break. Leonard Fournette was doing well, adding another dimension to the Cowboys’ anxiety, helping Tampa Bay hold the ball for 18:11 into the first half. However, they only managed to score 12 points. Dallas was only down nine times, and it could have been a lot worse.
Meanwhile, Goodwin came out with what was reported as a hamstring problem as the injury foul played no candidate.
Pirates took kickoff to open the second half. They only had one at the start and in third and long, Trevon Diggs and Malik Hawker combined to deny a long completion. Diggs was energetic and didn’t give up much. The bet that followed became a grueling process as Punt, which was about to be blocked, hit the giant screen over the field. The accelerator ran into the gambler, but since it was just five yards, they had to run on him for the third time. Ironically, the Buccaneers didn’t run once in the first half, and only had to do it three times to complete one at the start of the third quarter.
Elliott moved the strings twice, but their sixth flag in the game, to an unqualified man on the field, broke their rhythm again. This created a sack from Prescott, forcing Brian Unger for another kick.
The pirates started leaning on Fortnite, which was getting big chunks. A 17-yard run made him over 100 yards with just over six minutes remaining in the third quarter. Had they continued pounding it to the ground, they might have simply hit Dallas and forced them to surrender. But the Cowboys went to cover men to try and apply pressure, and that’s rarely a wise move against Tom Brady. A pair of finishers for Mike Evans finally finished off a touchdown drought leaving the Cowboys down 19-3. There was still over 18 minutes left on the clock, but with Dallas unable to withstand an attack, it increasingly looked like the game was spiraling out of control.
While there were concerns about both the offensive line and wide receivers entering the game, it cannot be overlooked that Dak Prescott was poor throughout the match. The team, as the ownership and technical staff have clearly stated, is counting on him to raise this team. He didn’t come close during the first three quarters. Repeated punishments did him no favors. On the road that served as a bridge to switch from the third quarter to the fourth quarter, they had false starts and a reservation—the three on Terrence Steele. That would force the team into Days 4 and 2 early in the fourth quarter, and when it was almost picked up again, the ball sagged and the situation became more and more hopeless.
Little hope came later after only three plays when Donovan Wilson came up with Brady’s objection. However, the Cowboys immediately went to three and were out, including a bad pass assigned to Noah Brown that would have kept the drive alive.
It was one of the worst games of Prescott’s career, finishing 14 of 29 for just 134 yards and an interception. With his failing, Dallas’ offense is pretty much a DOA. In the fourth quarter, he left the match to be replaced by Cooper Rush after Prescott injured his hand. Their defense came with multiple stops to force field goals rather than landings, but when nothing happens to put your own points on the board, it just won’t work. Increasing double-digit penalties again is also a major issue that shows no improvement over the terrible shows that came out last year there. There is a lot of work to be done, and it needs to be done quickly. It’s only one game, but there are only 16 other games. You can’t afford to stack those Ls early. And now, with Prescott’s health looming as the final dark cloud, it’s going to be a very difficult week.