The Cowboys went into Raymond James Stadium feeling very good about their team’s health, with several marquee players back in the lineup.
After silencing the cannons in a dominant 31-14 win over the Buccaneers to advance to the next round, they left Tampa with a few new questions about who’s going to be available in next weekend’s divisional matchup.
Three notable Cowboys players either left the game early or were obviously dinged during the Monday night win. Two of them gave encouraging updates on their own health following the team’s first road playoff victory in 30 years.
Safety Jayron Kearse was a significant contributor to the clampdown on Bucs quarterback Tom Brady, recording three tackles, defending three passes, and intercepting an end zone strike to kill a Tampa Bay scoring drive. And in a defense that promised to show some new looks after a few weeks of late-season tinkering, Kearse found himself lining up at several different positions on the field.
But he was forced to exit the contest in the third quarter after suffering an apparent left knee injury. Kearse needed considerable assistance from team trainers just to get to the sideline, and he did not return to action.
On the first series with him off the field, Tampa Bay went 95 yards on 10 plays and scored their first touchdown on the night.
Despite what looked to be a severe injury, though, he hinted that he’ll be fine to face the 49ers on Sunday.
“It’s feeling all right,” Kearse told reporters at his locker following the win. “I’ll be good. It’s feeling all right. It’ll be all right.”
Newly-named All-Pro Micah Parsons also gave fans a scare.
After the final play of the first half, the linebacker/edge rusher was slow to get up with what appeared to be a leg injury, eventually limping toward the tunnel and stopping en route to massage the area around his right knee.
Replays seemed to show Parsons’s shin taking a hit, although some reports classified it as an ankle issue. Either way, Parsons played on, missing only three defensive snaps on the night and turning in a massive stat line.
He, too, gave a positive update to reporters afterward.
“I’m feeling good,” Parsons said. “I feel I finished the game well. Continued to get my pressure, continued to keep going, understanding the circumstances I was faced with. I’m excited for next week, excited for the matchup.”
Offensive lineman Jason Peters, however, may be less of a sure thing.
The veteran got the wild-card start at left tackle, but hobbled off the field in the second quarter. His absence, judged to be a hip injury, caused a shuffle along the line as rookie Tyler Smith slid over from the left guard position and Connor McGovern was forced to abandon the backfield blocking role he had been filling to take over at guard.
At halftime, Peters was ruled out for the rest of the game.
By Tuesday morning, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was trying to stay optimistic about the 40-year-old’s status.
“I certainly am concerned. I don’t know any more than we knew when we left there last night. We’ve got a little hope that it might not be serious,” he told 105.3 The Fan in referring to Peters. “But it’s important to realize that he’s not sitting here in his rookie year.”
Jones commented on the offensive line that started the game for Dallas, noting that Peters, Zack Martin, Tyron Smith, and Tyler Smith made for a formidable front… for the four series they were together.
“You can make the case that you’ve got four Hall of Famers there by the time it shakes out, at various stages of their career. That’s pretty solid to be there at this time of the year.”
Tuesday could be an important day, though, in determining whether that foursome will be there when the Cowboys take the field in San Francisco on Sunday.