GOAT Herders: Cowboys put finishing touch on Brady’s historic career
Tom Brady has announced his retirement from football. Again. Exactly one year- to the day- after he announced his retirement from football the first time.
In 2022, that Feb. 1 declaration lasted just 40 days before he changed his mind. This time, it’s “for good,” he said in a quick video statement he posted to social media on Wednesday. “You only get one super-emotional retirement essay, and I used mine up last year.”
And while the 45-year-old goes out owning an entire trophy room’s worth of NFL records- Super Bowl rings, division titles, playoff starts, passing yards, touchdown throws, game-winning drives among them- he also goes out on a losing note.
The Cowboys’ 31-14 win on Jan. 16 over the Buccaneers in the wild-card round of the postseason will, assuming this retirement holds up, go down as Brady’s final NFL game appearance. Dallas snuck the victory in just under the wire; they had never beaten Brady before in seven previous meetings.
Cowboys fans thought they had missed their chance at taking down the GOAT when he retired the first time. His comeback ended up giving Dallas two more shots at him, and they finally made good with the last one.
Here’s a look back at the series history between Brady and the Cowboys.
1. Week 11, 2003 season: Patriots 12, Cowboys 0
Sep 7, 2003; Orchard Park, NY, USA: FILE PHOTO; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (11) in action against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Network
Tom Terrific didn’t necessarily live up to his nickname in his first time facing Dallas. But the truth is, he didn’t need to.
This one was billed as a Battle of the Bills: Belichick vs. Parcells, in his first year at the helm in Dallas. The Patriots came in on a five-game winning streak and extended it to six on the shoulders of their defense, who intercepted Cowboys quarterback Quincy Carter three times.
Brady finished just 15-of-34 for 212 yards and no touchdowns. But he did connect with Deion Branch for 46 and David Givens for 57 on the day’s two biggest plays, avoiding a Cowboys blitz both times.
“After we hit those two plays, we didn’t see those blitzes the
rest of the day,” Brady said.
The Patriots improved their record to 8-2 with the victory in Foxborough and went on win the final six regular-season matchups. They were the AFC East champs and eventually won Super Bowl XXXVIII.
Dallas ended the year 10-6, second place in the division. They lost in the postseason’s wild card round to the Panthers, who ultimately went on to face Brady in the Super Bowl.
2. Week 6, 2007 season: Patriots 48, Cowboys 27
Oct 14, 2007; Irving, TX, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) passes against the Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
This mid-October meeting was a clash of 5-0 squads and the first of just two career meetings between Brady and Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. Brady had a blistering day at Texas Stadium, putting up 388 passing yards and a then-franchise record five touchdowns through the air. (He would throw six the very next week in Miami.)
Dallas actually led the game in the second half before Brady led a 77-yard touchdown drive to reclaim the lead for good. The Patriots’ 48 points was their highest output in nearly a quarter-century.
In their first season under head coach Wade Phillips, the Cowboys were off to their best start since 1983. They were coming off a short week after rallying to a Monday night win in Buffalo, improbably scoring nine points in the final 20 seconds. But Romo didn’t crack 200 yards against the Patriots’ stingy defense.
Brady ended the day as the league’s leader in touchdown passes and on pace to break Peyton Manning’s record of 49 in a season.
“That’s not what this team is about,” Brady said. “Individual records are based on opportunities. What I get excited about is team records.”
Brady did go on to break that record, in a season that rewrote a lot of NFL history. After starting the year with the Spygate scandal, the Patriots went 16-0 during the regular season and won their fifth straight divisional crown. Brady’s offense set new single-season marks for most points, most touchdowns, and biggest point differential.
Dallas won the NFC East but lost in the divisional round of the playoffs to the Giants.
Brady won his first league MVP award and was named AP Male Athlete of the Year, but the Patriots were upset in Super Bowl XLII by New York.
3. Week 6, 2011 season: Patriots 20, Cowboys 16
FOXBORO, MA – OCTOBER 16: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots scrambles against the Dallas Cowboys at Gillette Stadium on October 16, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Patriots won 20-16. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
A mediocre Cowboys team nearly got the better of Brady and the 4-1 Patriots in New England.
Dallas had a 16-13 lead over the Patriots with 2:31 remaining. As many other teams would be reminded over and over for years to come, that’s entirely too much time to leave Brady.
He went 8-of-9 on that drive, racking up 78 yards on an 80-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass to tight end Aaron Hernandez with :22 showing on the clock.
“You can’t not get the ball in the end zone,” Brady said of the moment.
The Cowboys defense actually held the Patriots passer largely in check that day; he was just 19-of-32 for 211 yards and had thrown two interceptions before that game-winning drive. In the end, though, it was the 32nd successful comeback of Brady’s career and his 31st straight regular-season home win.
The win tied Brady and Belichick with Miami’s Dan Marino and Don Shula for the most regular-season wins by a quarterback-coach combo.
The Cowboys finished 8-8 in Jason Garrett’s first full season as head coach.
New England would go 13-3 on the year and win the AFC East for the third consecutive campaign; they would lose in the Super Bowl, Brady’s fifth appearance in the title game, to the Giants.
Brady was named to his seventh Pro Bowl for the season.
4. Week 5, 2015 season: Patriots 30, Cowboys 6
Oct 11, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) talks with Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett after the game at AT&T Stadium. The Patriots beat the Cowboys 30-6. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
With Romo and wide receiver Dez Bryant sidelined with injuries, the Cowboys proved to be easy pickings for the Patriots as they came to Arlington off an early-season bye.
The Patriots QB started the season mired in controversy over the Deflategate scandal. A four-game suspension had been handed down prior to the season, but a judge’s ruling vacated the sentence, allowing Brady to play. The Week 5 game versus Dallas would have been the final game of that suspension. (He would serve his suspension the next season.)
Brady went 20-of-27 for 275 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions; Dallas quarterback Brandon Weeden was unable to do much all day, totaling just 187 passing yards and a pick. Brady also found the end zone as a rusher, his first in nearly three years.
Brady and the defending Super Bowl champs notched their fourth straight win to start 2015, eventually getting to 10-0 before finally losing a game. They finished 12-4 and in first place in their division, but fell in the AFC championship to Peyton Manning and Denver.
The Cowboys ended 2015 with a 4-12 record.
5. Week 12, 2019 season: Patriots 13, Cowboys 9
FOXBOROUGH, MA – NOVEMBER 24: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys shakes hands with Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots following the game at Gillette Stadium on November 24, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)
The Patriots were once again defending Super Bowl champions as they hosted Dallas and the No.1-ranked Cowboys offense in a late November showdown. But the New England weather proved to be a formidable opponent for both squads, as steady rains, heavy winds, and cold temperatures made for a miserable afternoon in Foxborough.
Brady and the Patriots managed to weather the literal storm; Brady ended the contest just 17-of-37 for 190 yards and a single touchdown. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott didn’t fare much better; he went 19-of-33 for 212 yards.
The Cowboys had a chance to steal the game late in sloppy conditions, but a fourth-down catch by wideout Amari Cooper was overturned by replay, snuffing out the comeback bid. It was the first time all season that Dallas had been held out of the end zone.
For the Patriots, the win secured their 17th straight season with double-digit victories, setting a new league record. They finished 12-4 and as champs of the AFC East, but lost in the first round of the playoffs to Tennessee.
It would be Brady’s final time facing the Cowboys as a member of the Patriots.
6. Week 1, 2021 season: Buccaneers 31, Cowboys 29
Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence (90) pressures Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) during the second half of an NFL football game Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
The 2021 season opener saw Brady in familiar role- as a defending Super Bowl champ- even if he was wearing a strange uniform. To start his second year in Tampa Bay, Brady and the Buccaneers hosted Dallas in a highly-anticipated matchup to kick off the regular season.
Prescott would be making his return to the field after a gruesome ankle injury the previous October. He silenced all doubters, throwing 58 times and topping 400 yards with three touchdown passes. But Brady prevailed once again, going 32-of-50 for 379 yards and four scoring throws in a thrilling battle that came down to a field goal in the final seconds before the first full NFL stadium in over a year and a half.
For Brady, it was his 100th game with over 300 passing yards. He and tight end Rob Gronkowski became the second quarterback/receiver duo to hit 100 touchdown connections together. Brady’s 300th regular-season start ended with his 49th game-winning drive, despite throwing two interceptions over the course of the night.
Big things were expected of both teams in 2021; Prescott told Brady as the game ended, “We’ll see y’all again,” already looking ahead to a playoff rematch. But the Cowboys failed to make it past their wild-card game versus San Francisco in the postseason.
Tampa Bay was beaten by the Rams a week later in the divisional round, and word leaked six days after that Brady would announce his retirement. He made it official on Feb. 1… and then changed his mind 40 days later, declaring he would return to Tampa Bay for the 2022 season.
7. Week 1, 2022 season: Buccaneers 19, Cowboys 3
ARLINGTON, TEXAS – SEPTEMBER 11: Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers talks with head coach Mike McCarthy of the Dallas Cowboys after the Buccaneers defeat the Cowboys 19-3 at AT&T Stadium on September 11, 2022 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Brady became the oldest quarterback to start an NFL game as the Cowboys and Bucs kicked off their regular seasons against once another for the second straight year. But it was the 45-year-old unretired Brady who looked primed to roll, and the Cowboys who seemed like they weren’t aware an actual game would be played that evening.
Brady logged just 18 completions and one touchdown throw on the night, but that was more than enough to top a pitiful offensive effort from Dallas. Prescott had one of his worst performances as a pro, and that was before he was forced out of the game in the fourth quarter when a hit to his throwing hand fractured his right thumb.
But instead of folding up their tents, the Cowboys rallied around backup Cooper Rush in Week 2 and won their next four outings. That 4-1 start would allow them to stay near the top of the NFC East for the rest of the season, ultimately putting them in a position to earn a playoff berth as a wild card.
For Brady and the Buccaneers, the opening-night romp was the beginning of a rollercoaster campaign. Plagued by injuries and erratic play, Tampa Bay would win just two more of their first eight games and finish with an 8-9 record. Despite posting the first sub-.500 mark of Brady’s career as a starter, the Bucs still managed to claim the NFC South.
8. Wild-card round, 2022 postseason: Cowboys 31, Buccaneers 14
TAMPA, FLORIDA – JANUARY 16: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys and Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers embrace on the field after their game in the NFC Wild Card playoff game at Raymond James Stadium on January 16, 2023 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
Leading into the first round of the playoffs, much was made of Brady’s 7-0 lifetime mark against Dallas, but the Cowboys started exorcising that particular demon early in the shadow of Raymond James Stadium’s pirate ship.
The defense forced three-and-outs on Tampa Bay’s first two possessions and then picked off Brady in the end zone on their third drive. The Cowboys were up 24-0 before the Bucs finally got on the board with a Brady touchdown pass to Julio Jones just as the third quarter ended.
There would be no fourth-quarter comeback for TB12, though it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Brady attempted a whopping 66 passes in the game, his highest total ever in his 23 seasons and the second-most in any NFL postseason contest.
But for all of those throws, Brady ended the night with a completion percentage of just 53%; the Cowboys sacked him twice, recorded six QB hits, and got their hands on 12 of his passes.
With the 31-14 win, Dallas moved on to the divisional round, ended Tampa Bay’s postseason, finally got the Cowboys off the schneid against Brady, and apparently- if this latest retirement announcement sticks- sent the greatest to ever play the position out with an L.