The offense played poorly, but the defense managed to bail them out by putting on a clinic and limiting the Buccaneers to only 189 yards
Even with that kind of effort from the defense, the Cowboys still almost managed to lose thanks to a trio of turnovers and an astounding 13 penalties, which cost Dallas 105 yards.
Still, despite the issues there were a number of players who managed to stand out thanks to strong efforts. But at the same time, there were quite a few whose performances just leave you scratching your head.
So, let's take a look at the players whose stock is up, and those whose stock is down after Week 3.
A week ago, Mike Jenkins made his season debut against the Seattle Seahawks and played sparingly at corner and safety. This week, he saw significantly increased reps, and they all came at his natural position at corner.
He played well, too. Jenkins helped limit Pro Bowler Vincent Jackson to only one reception, and it didn't even come until the final drive.
Jenkins was also credited with a pass breakup—which he made on an athletic play by swatting the ball away from Jackson, as pictured above—and a tackle. Jenkins said, via ESPN's Calvin Watkins:
I felt like pretty good, got my feet wet and got comfortable, but there were some situations where I had to tighten myself up. At halftime I just tried to get live. We got safeties going down (and I) got to play. I pretty much had a talk with myself, (secondary coach) Jerome (Henderson) being in my ear helping me out, I was good.
As Jenkins mentioned, with Barry Church out for the season Jenkins will be forced to take an increased role in the secondary, as it's likely Brandon Carr spends time at safety like he did against Tampa Bay.
And if Jenkins plays like he did against the Buccaneers, it will be a huge help for the Cowboys in enduring Church's injury.
Heading into the season, the offensive line was a question mark, now it's a full-blown concern.
The line played terrible against Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers front seven seemed to blow through the line at will and, as a result, Romo was sacked four times.
But that doesn't even begin to describe how bad they were. Romo was consistently under fire in the pocket; it got to a point that he was dancing around more than Michael Jackson in his heyday. Plus, outside of DeMarco Murray's 11-yard touchdown run, the line got absolutely no push in the run game as Dallas only pulled in 38 yards on the ground.
And it didn't even end there. The O-line was guilty of nine penalties, six false starts and three holding calls, which cost Dallas 60 yards of field position and often stunted drives.
The Cowboys got the win, but if the offensive line doesn't improve, Tony Romo might not be able to stay healthy for much longer.
Yes...the offensive line was just addressed, but Doug Free was so bad that he deserves his own slide.
Free was the most penalized Cowboy on Sunday with three false starts and a holding call against him. That's bad, but forgivable (see Flozell Adams) if he managed to block well; however, Free had an open-door policy on Sunday and they rushed through to meet Tony Romo.
Free got little to no push in for Murray on the ground and was beat inside and out on the right side in passing situations.
Free received a big contract extension two years ago when Dallas signed him to be the left tackle of the future. That didn't last long with the emergence of Tyron Smith, but after a down year the organization thought a switch back to the right side would do wonders for Free.
They were wrong.
He has been terrible this season. And Romo has felt the effects.
Free has to get it together soon or Dallas might as well stick a blocking dummy out there instead; at least it would be cheaper.
Dez Bryant had a solid game as a wideout—six catches for 64 yards—but his real impact came on special teams.
Late in the fourth quarter, Bryant received a punt near the 50 and then manged to weave, juke and truck his way through the Tampa coverage unit for a 44-yard return, which ultimately sealed the game for the Cowboys.
It was the kind of big play Dallas fans have been waiting to see out of the ultra talented, yet inconsistent Bryant.
If Bryant can use the return to spark his confidence moving forward, it would be huge for a pedestrian offensive unit.
It just has not been a good season so far for Jason Witten.
During the preseason he partially ruptured his spleen, which kept him inactive for almost a month. Then in the Cowboys' loss to the Seahawks, Witten dropped multiple balls that were drive killers.
But it only got worse for the perennial Pro Bowler on Sunday.
Witten had three drops, including a ball that would have likely gone for a touchdown, and a pair of false start penalties.
With his early-season struggles, it would be easy to blame it on his recovery from injury, but Witten is making no excuses (via dallasnews.com).
"I take full responsibility for (the dropped passes), and rest assured that I’m going to get it fixed,” Witten said. “I wish there was a way I could say I wasn’t feeling good or I’m pressing or anything like that. It’s not that. That would be the easy way to really get out of it. Bottom line is you got to get it fixed, it’s unacceptable.”
It's hard for DeMarcus Ware to really ever send his stock up; he's already at a pretty high level, but he was a force in Sunday's game.
Despite almost a constant double-team, Ware managed a pair of sacks and two forced fumbles, on top of the constant pressure he put in Josh Freeman's face.
Ware now has four sacks through three games and is tied for third in the league in the category.
Through the first two games, Dan Bailey hasn't seen a lot of work; he kicked one field goal in the opener against the Giants, but had nothing to do in the Seattle game.
But when his number was called against Tampa, Bailey was perfect.
He went 3-of-3 on field goals and sealed the game with his chip shot late. His longest attempt was only 32 yards, but he showed confidence and came through on every one of his attempts, each of which was meaningful in such a close contest.
It was the most work Bailey has seen all season, and it's comforting for the team that they have a kicker they can rely on.