The Last NFL Wild Card Game Goes Bust For The Bucs

Two things are certain following the last NFC Wild Card game Monday night between the Dallas Cowboys and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Dallas kicker Brett Maher needs to go back to kicking school and Bucs QB Tom Brady is not the player he used to be.

Tom Brady
Tom Brady
Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady reacts on the field. The team lost their chance at advancing in the NFL postseason through a weak performance against the Dallas Cowboys. (Image: Getty Images)

Monday night was Dak Prescott’s night, from start to finish. There have been questions about whether the Cowboys QB would be able to bounce back from injuries, and he silenced everyone with his performance.

Prescott went from possibly the worst performance of his career in his previous game to the best as he led the Boys to a 31-14 blowout. In front of Tampa Bay’s fanbase at Raymond James Stadium, Dallas made easy work of Brady and the Bucs in the team’s first playoff win on the road in three decades.

Control The Flow

The game got off to a slow start before Dallas moved out in front with a TD halfway into the first quarter. From there, they controlled the pace of the game.

Not even four missed extra points from Maher – an NFL record – were enough to change the flow of the game. If his goal were to tip the total one way or the other, he succeeded.

Missing one extra point is one thing; missing four is insane. At about $1 million a year in salary for Maher, there’s little excuse for repeatedly missing chip shots.

The Cowboys commanded the Bucs at every turn. They moved out to an 18-0 lead by the end of the first half and continued to stifle Tampa’s offense in the second half. Brady tried to rally the Bucs in the fourth quarter, but the damage was already done.

One of the low points of the game occurred in that quarter. Bucs wide receiver Russell Gage was moving into position for a potential throw by Brady when he slipped on the grass. An incoming tackle may have altered the course of his career.

Cowboys safety Donovan Wilson accidentally clotheslined Gage from behind, causing his head and neck to jerk. Medical personnel rushed onto the field and carried him off on a stretcher before whisking him away to a hospital. The initial diagnosis was a concussion, but testing will continue Tuesday.

Some people tried to compare the incident to the one Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin received two weeks ago. However, they don’t even come close. Hamlin was lifeless on the field before medical personnel resuscitated him. While Gage’s injury was scary, comparing it to a life-ending injury seems out of place.

Prescott Rises To The Top

Prescott is now the first Cowboys player at any position to have scored five touchdowns in a postseason game. They were possible through four completions and a ground TD that left Tampa’s defense looking like a freshman high school squad.

The six-year Cowboys veteran suffered a broken hand in the team’s loss against Tampa at the beginning of the season. He had to miss five games after undergoing surgery but couldn’t find his rhythm when he returned.

15 interceptions in 12 games put his future in doubt. He shut down the commentary last night, but still has a long way to go. Next up, the Boys will take on the San Francisco 49ers, who eliminated them from the playoffs last year.

What’s Next For Brady

Meanwhile, questions linger for Brady, who never lost to the Cowboys in his 23-year NFL career. The seven-time Super Bowl champion, who tried to retire before the start of the current season, won’t say whether or not he’ll return next year.

Brady entered the game as an underdog for the first time in his playoff career. If he exits now, he’ll leave on a sour note, although he can’t take all the blame for the loss.

He only mustered two TDs, and put up an interception that was oddly uncharacteristic of his normal caliber. However, repeatedly, he didn’t get the support he needed from the offense and never gained traction. He may have doomed his image when he decided to make another run for the 2022-23 season.

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