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Tom Brady Leads Game-Winning Drive as Bucs Outlast Cowboys in Epic Season Opener

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 10, 2021

AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers did something even last year's team couldn't do on the way to the Super Bowl title.

They won the season opener.

Tampa Bay kicked off the 2021 campaign in dramatic fashion with a 31-29 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Thursday's NFC showdown at Raymond James Stadium. Tom Brady was brilliant and led the way for the Buccaneers by directing one final scoring drive to cap off an incredible performance.

The drive ended with Ryan Succop's 36-yard field goal with two seconds remaining.

An impressive showing from Dak Prescott in his first game back from injury was not enough for the Cowboys, who are looking to bounce back from last season's 6-10 effort.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Brady and the Bucs get the W on opening night 🔥 <a href="https://twitter.com/brgridiron?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@brgridiron</a> <a href="https://t.co/Y6D8UyejY7">pic.twitter.com/Y6D8UyejY7</a>


Notable Player Stats

  • Tom Brady, QB, TB: 32-of-50 for 379 yards, 4 TDs, 2 INTs
  • Antonio Brown, WR, TB: 5 catches for 121 yards, 1 TD
  • Chris Godwin, WR, TB: 9 catches for 105 yards, 1 TD
  • Rob Gronkowski, TE, TB: 8 catches for 90 yards, 2 TDs
  • Dak Prescott, QB, DAL: 42-of-58 for 403 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT
  • Amari Cooper, WR, DAL: 13 catches for 139 yards, 2 TDs
  • CeeDee Lamb, WR, DAL: 7 catches for 104 yards, 1 TD

Ageless Tom Brady Dazzles Again

Father Time may not be undefeated after all.

All Brady did was win the Super Bowl last season after there were some lingering questions following his departure from the New England Patriots. And now he is 44 years old and kicking off the new NFL season by surgically carving up the Dallas secondary from the opening quarter of Thursday's game.

He hit Rob Gronkowski for two touchdowns just like he has done throughout his career with the first one coming as he rolled to his right. He threaded the needle up the middle on a Chris Godwin touchdown pass and then lofted a deep ball to Antonio Brown for another one.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Tom Brady showed no signs of slowing down in the Bucs season opener <a href="https://twitter.com/brgridiron?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@brgridiron</a><br><br>▪️ 32-50<br>▪️ 379 YDS<br>▪️ 4 TD<br>▪️ 2 INT<br>▪️ Game-winning drive<br><br>The legend continues <a href="https://t.co/yDe9ahfgjc">pic.twitter.com/yDe9ahfgjc</a>

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Tom Brady throws the touchdown to Chris Godwin.<br><br>Bucs looking good early on 👀<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NFLBrasil?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFLBrasil</a><a href="https://t.co/G2zQ5GL56y">pic.twitter.com/G2zQ5GL56y</a>

LeBron James @KingJames

That drive!! Brady sharp sharp!!

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Things that will never get old:<br><br>Brady TD passes to Gronk 🔥 <a href="https://twitter.com/brgridiron?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@brgridiron</a><br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NFL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFL</a>)<a href="https://t.co/DUOkiGeRFW">pic.twitter.com/DUOkiGeRFW</a>

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Brady finds Antonio Brown for the TD<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NFL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFL</a>)<a href="https://t.co/o1JvP1jOSK">pic.twitter.com/o1JvP1jOSK</a>

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Brady to Gronk… AGAIN 🔥<a href="https://twitter.com/brgridiron?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@brgridiron</a><br><br>Their 100th touchdown connection <br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NFLBrasil?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFLBrasil</a>)<a href="https://t.co/9kZ4byZRPV">pic.twitter.com/9kZ4byZRPV</a>

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

THE BUCS FUMBLE IT AT THE GOAL LINE<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NFLBrasil?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFLBrasil</a>)<a href="https://t.co/EIwk9vYb5h">pic.twitter.com/EIwk9vYb5h</a>

The only equalizers for much of the contest were turnovers that were not his fault, including a Hail Mary interception to end the first half and a screen pass that hit Leonard Fournette in the hands and ended up as a Trevon Diggs interception. Dallas scored 10 points off the Fournette mistake and a Ronald Jones II fumble to remain within striking distance.

That put Brady under the spotlight as the game moved to the fourth quarter with Tampa Bay protecting a narrow two-point lead.

The seven-time Super Bowl champion did more than enough to clinch what should have been a straightforward win in the fourth. He unleashed a perfectly placed deep ball into the red zone that Godwin dropped to end one drive. Then another drive that worked the clock ended when Godwin fumbled the ball inside the 5-yard line.

Rather than shy away from the receiver, Brady hit him for the most important pass of the game to set up the field goal on the final drive. Godwin may have gotten away with an offensive pass interference, but it was yet another example of Brady's brilliance as he calmly put the Buccaneers in position to win after dominating throughout the game.


Dak Prescott Provides Silver Lining for Cowboys

The Cowboys are loaded with playmakers, including Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb, but the biggest storyline entering Thursday's game was the status of Prescott.

After all, the two-time Pro Bowler played just five games in 2020 because of a season-ending ankle injury and dealt with shoulder concerns during training camp. While the ball didn't have its usual zip at times, especially in the early going, he still looked like his typical self and quite comfortable moving around both inside and outside the pocket.

His first touchdown pass went to Lamb after Tampa Bay bit on a fake bubble screen, and his second one went to Cooper after he didn't panic on a bad snap and patiently picked the ball up and found No. 19 in the corner of the end zone.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Dak in his first game back since ankle injury:<br> <br>▪️ 42-58<br>▪️ 403 YDS<br>▪️ 3 TD<br>▪️ 1 INT<br><br>Comeback complete ✅ <a href="https://twitter.com/brgridiron?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@brgridiron</a> <a href="https://t.co/QaQCSdbWHs">pic.twitter.com/QaQCSdbWHs</a>

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Dak is officially back 👏<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NFLBrasil?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFLBrasil</a>) <a href="https://t.co/vD3OtFPUwY">pic.twitter.com/vD3OtFPUwY</a>

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Dak Prescott connects with CeeDee Lamb for their first TD of the season 😤<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NFL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFL</a>)<a href="https://t.co/ws6bWihaqZ">pic.twitter.com/ws6bWihaqZ</a>

B/R Gridiron @brgridiron

Dak drops the snap then throws the TD to Amari Cooper.<br><br>Surgical. <br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NFL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFL</a>)<a href="https://t.co/CSddckq2Eb">pic.twitter.com/CSddckq2Eb</a>

B/R Gridiron @brgridiron

Dak answers right back with another TD pass to Amari. <br><br>We got a game.<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NFL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFL</a>)<a href="https://t.co/V2dXRHktbD">pic.twitter.com/V2dXRHktbD</a>

The Prescott-Cooper connection continued in the second half as No. 4 uncorked a 21-yard touchdown to cap off a drive that saw him face consistent pressure and bring the Cowboys to within one score heading to the fourth quarter.

While Elliott's lack of carries were somewhat curious with just four at halftime, it may have also been a testament to Prescott's comfort level in his first game back from injury. The missed opportunities were also more of a concern than the number of runs, as Greg Zuerlein missed two field goals and an extra point and one drive stalled at the 2-yard line.

Prescott did make one ill-advised throw that was intercepted by Carlton Davis to set up a Tampa Bay touchdown, but he was largely flawless beyond that in the second half.

He stood in the face of constant pressure on the Cowboys' final drive while trailing by two points and converted a monster third down to Lamb. He hit Lamb with another deep ball that was overturned by a holding call, but that didn't stop him from marching down the field to set up Zuerlein's go-ahead field goal with fewer than two minutes remaining.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Brady was waiting on the other sideline. But Prescott at least looks ready to dominate again this season.


What's Next?

The Cowboys will visit the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 2, while the Buccaneers will host the Atlanta Falcons.

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