Although last week’s loss raised some concerns, the Dallas Cowboys (12-2) returned to their winning ways by knocking off a quality opponent, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-6). Dallas is now in solid position the lock up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and now people calling for Tony Romo to start have been silenced for at least another week. Here are four takeaways from Dallas’ much-needed win over the Buccaneers:
- Dak Prescott got back on track against Tampa Bay
Prescott showed he has ice in his veins by redeeming himself on national television against a stingy defense. Prescott completed 32 of his 36 passes, posting the second-highest completion percentage in NFL history, for 279 yards. Most importantly, he protected the football and didn’t throw any backbreaking interceptions, which didn’t give the Buccaneers any extra chances to score.
To add on to his near-perfect day, Prescott scampered into the end zone on a two-yard run to cap off a 10-play, 64 yard drive. Prescott didn’t let last week’s hiccup phase him, and he delivered despite hearing whispers of Romo potentially replacing him, showing Prescott has poise beyond his years, which is very important to be successful in the postseason.
- Ezekiel Elliott tore up the Buccaneers’ defense
Elliott continues to prove he is worthy of being in the discussion for MVP despite being a rookie. Against Tampa Bay, Elliott racked up 159 yards and a score on 23 carries.
His world-class speed was put on display late in the fourth quarter where he carved up Tampa Bay’s defense on a 42-yard run with 5:50 left to go in regulation, which ultimately helped Dallas increase their lead by six. The Cowboys’ run game also helped them hang on to the ball for 36 minutes, which helped wear the Buccaneers’ defense down while keeping their offense off the field.
- The Cowboys’ offensive line is elite
The problem with offensive linemen is they usually don’t get noticed unless they make a mistake. There isn’t many statistics you can judge an offensive line off of either. However, when Elliott took off on his 42-yard run, the hole his offensive line made for him set him up to make a big gain.
A run game can’t be potent unless the men up front do their jobs. The Cowboys’ also delivered excellent blocking in the red zone, as Dallas’ two scores were both for a gain of two yards. If your quarterback is going to walk into the end zone untouched, the blocking has to be on point.
- Dallas’ defense was able to give their offense extra possessions, which made a huge impact in the outcome
For a five-game span, Dallas’ secondary was considered to be a weak link to the team. As a matter of fact, their pass rush was considered to a liability as well. However, the Cowboys’ defense carried the momentum from last week’s performance with them, and forced four total turnovers.
Orlando Scandrick, Byron Jones, and Jeff Heath were able to cash in interceptions off Jameis Winston and Maliek Collins and Terrell McClain were able to tack on two forced fumbles. Sean Lee led the team in tackles, registering 10.
Although the Buccaneers started to engineer a comeback in the second half, the Cowboys’ defense held on, playing bend-but-don’t-break football. Just for good measure, the Cowboys were also able to sack Winston four times, and two of those takedowns were courtesy of David Irving.