Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy had plenty of good things to say about his team following Thursday night's season opener at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He just didn't have a victory to back him up.
The Cowboys began their season 0-1 for the third time in the last four years following Thursday's 31-29 loss. Their head coach wasn't discouraged, however. Especially not after the performance of quarterback Dak Prescott in his first game since Week 5 of last year.
“I thought our guys fought like hell tonight," McCarthy said. "A lot of good things came out of this contest."
Chief among those positives was Prescott.
The franchise quarterback overcame his 2020 season-ending ankle injury and a preseason shoulder ailment to complete 42-of-58 passes for 403 yards, three touchdowns and one interception that was more the fault of wideout CeeDee Lamb letting a pass fly through his hands than a mistake by Prescott.
The worst of the night was kicker Greg Zuerlein, who went 3-of-5 on field goal attempts with misses from 60 yards, 31 yards and failed to convert a point-after touchdown attempt.
Even if the 60-yarder might not have given the veteran kicker the best opportunity to net his team some points, leaving the other four points off the board was a complete game-changer—especially in a two-point loss.
“You get in a game like that, you need all the points you can get," McCarthy said of the misses.
While Zuerlein did come up clutch with a go-ahead field goal from 48 yards with 1:24 remaining in regulation, it left Tom Brady and the Bucs more than enough time to set up for a game-winning field goal from Ryan Succop with two seconds left on the clock.
The Cowboys hanging with the defending Super Bowl champions on the road isn't necessarily a reason for Dallas fans to celebrate, but it's at least cause for optimism. Wideout Amari Cooper summed up that sentiment quite well after the loss.
“We have a high-powered offense," Cooper said. "But a high-powered offense doesn’t guarantee wins. We have a lot to clean up.”