TAMPA BAY, Fl. – On a night where Dak Prescott and Tom Brady combined for nearly 800 passing yards, it was the kicker position that would ultimately decide in Tampa Bay’s 31-29 season opener win.
It had been 11 months since Prescott had taken a snap in a football game and in his return, he nearly dethroned the reigning Super Bowl champions. Both offenses ended their opening possessions with punt before Tampa Bay got the first score of the night on their second drive. A five-yard pass from Brady to Chris Godwin gave the Buccaneers an early 7-0 lead with the ensuing extra point. Dallas was quick to respond with three of their first four plays resulting in first downs. A seven-yard pass from Prescott to Blake Jarwin helped set up a 22-yard touchdown pass to CeeDee Lamb.
Again, both offenses mirrored each other with their next possessions ending in punts. Brady’s offense returned to the field with 12:41 remaining until half set up at midfield. Six plays later, the first of two Brady-Gronkowski connections earned the Buccaneers a 14-7 lead.
Dallas began driving from their 25. A few passes from Prescott landed the Cowboys inside the redzone. Unfortunately, their efforts were nullified when Greg Zuerlein missed a 31-yard field goal attempt. Fortunately for Dallas, they had a chance at redemption when Ronald Jones fumbled on Tampa Bay’s first play of the following drive. Dallas returned the favor with a five-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper. Another botched kick from Zuerlein left Dallas trailing 14-13.
The defense continued to capitalize on the Buccaneers mistakes. Again, on their first play, a tipped pass off the fingers of Leonard Fournette fell into the arms of Trevon Diggs. Set up on the TB 20, Dallas was held to a field goal but still jumped out in front, 16-14.
Brady found the endzone a final time during the first half when he dropped a bomb to Antonio Brown for a 47-yard touchdown. Tampa Bay held a 21-16 lead at half. The Cowboys had an opportunity to reduce their deficit, but a second missed field goal from Zuerlein on a 60-yard try prevented that.
The Cowboys began the second half with ball and put together another scoring drive that ended in a 21-yard field goal. Dallas forced the Buccaneers into their third punt of the game and looked prime to take their first lead of the night. However, as Prescott attempted to find Lamb across the middle of the field the ball slipped through his hands into the pocket of Tampa Bay corner Carlton Davis.
The Buccaneers didn’t fail to capitalize on Dallas’ first turnover as Brady hit Gronkowski on an 11-yard pass up the season for their second connection of the night.
Prescott remained assertive. Two of his first three passes on their ensuing drive resulted in first downs. A few plays later, Prescott connected with Cooper on 21-yard corner pocket touchdown with 38 seconds left in the third quarter. A pair of punts and a Tampa Bay fumble halfway through the first quarter allowed Dallas to momentarily take a 29-28 lead on the heels of Zuerlein’s 48-yard field goal.
However, it left Brady with a 1:29 to drive his team within field goal range. And with seven seconds left in the fourth quarter Buccaneers kicker Ryan Succop made a 36-yard field goal to seal the game.
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