They’d had enough. The 2022 Dallas Cowboys may have lost to Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in Week 1, but they were sick and tired of hearing the narratives. After a lackluster showing in Week 18 when they still had a longshot to win the division, the calls got loud. Dallas hadn’t played well down the stretch of the season and the final few weeks of the season set them up to face their demons.
Not only were they going to have to go on the road for their first playoff game after finishing with 12 wins. But the Cowboys had to go on grass where they were 1-4, and they had to do it against the greatest QB of all time who they had never beaten. Well, they beat the living daylights out of his squad. Dak Prescott had the playoff game of his life and the Cowboys emerged victorious.
The game was over when . . .
. . .
the Cowboys stretched their lead to 24 after halftime. Dallas scored before the half, stretching the lead to 18-0, knowing Tampa Bay started the second half with the ball. Well, Dan Quinn’s defense put together another impressive three-and-out stop and the offense went back to work.
A fourth-consecutive touchdown drive ended with Prescott finding Michael Gallup in the back of the end zone for a score. Brett Maher missed the extra point (more on that) but the 24-0 lead meant Tampa had to have reach the end zone at least six times just to tie it up, and that wasn’t going to happen.
Game Ball 1: Dak Prescott
Prescott entered the game with a ton of noise barking at him, after throwing 15 interceptions in just 11 starts. Those who know that several weren’t his fault and he was playing at an elite level on non-interception plays pleaded with people to actually consider the whole picture, but they refused.
They know now.
Prescott lead Dallas on five scoring drives; throwing a career-playoff-high four touchdowns and running another in himself. After missing his first three passes of the contest, Prescott hit a franchise-record 11-straight to get his night cranking.
Game Ball 2: Micah Parsons
There was a time in the game when the Dallas offense was not firing on all cylinders. They started with back-to-back three-and-outs. But the reason there was no deficit to overcome was that Parsons started the game like he was shot out of a cannon. He made a tackle-for-loss on the defense’s first play and then drew a holding penalty on the third.
It was the first holding call against a Dallas opponent since Week 10.
Left tackle Donovan Smith had no answers for Parsons’ array of attacks and it crippled the Tampa offense and had Brady seeing ghosts quickly. Parsons also was able to deflect two different screen passes, showing just how insane an athlete he is.
Game Ball No. 3: TE Dalton Schultz
A lot of folks complained throughout the season about Dallas giving the frnachise tag to Dalton Schultz. That money could’ve been used to keep WR Amari Cooper. They won’t be saying that this week. Schultz was spectacular, catching two of Prescott’s touchdown passes.
Those weren’t even his best plays, it was on a heat check, beautiful rain drop along the left sideline that Schultz had to double catch after Prescott got it in there.
Key Stat: 4
That’s the inexplicable number of extra points missed by kicker Brett Maher.
Added to the lone XP attempt from Week 18 against Washington, that made five-straight misses for the Cowboys kicker.
How improbable was Maher’s night? 1 in 31,000 improbable.
Kickers are making 92.5% of XPs
Based of that average, the chance of missing four straight XPs is 1 in 31,605
— Justin Herzig (@JustinHerzig) January 17, 2023
Fortunately the Cowboys scored another touchdown and gave him a chance to at least rebuild some confidence before being cut this week. Maher nailed it, as he normally had all year.
The Cowboys hadn’t won on the road in the playoffs since 1993. Welp. that’s over.
The Cowboys were 0-7 against Tom Brady. That’s over too.
Johnathan Hankins had a sack. No, that really happened. The guy that finally got to Brady was the 340-pound run stuffer.
Leighton Vander Esch has missed the last three games and his worth was never made more obvious. He came through with a team-leading nine tackles and also made a couple plays in coverage as well. He’s going to be a key if Dallas can keep this same energy.