Buccaneers-Cowboys: Dallas Teaches Young Bucs Some Tough Lessons, 34-21

JC De La TorreAnalyst IIISeptember 14, 2009

When the Bucs look back at this one against the mighty Dallas Cowboys, they'll focus on four plays. Take away those four plays and the Bucs hold Tony Romo to 121 yds and six points.

Unfortunately for a young team in a battle with possibly one of the NFL's best teams, defensive lapses are going to happen.

It was up to Romo to take advantage of those mistakes and he most certainly did, leading the Cowboys to a 45-27 win over Tampa Bay.

Romo hit Miles Austin on a 42 yard touchdown late in the first half to put the Cowboys up at the half 13-7.

He then connected on throws of 66, 80, and 44 to lead the Cowboys to a 34-21 win over the plucky Buccaneers.

Tampa Bay's offense was no slouch, either. The Buccaneers offense churned up 450 yards, bouyed by their sensational running game which pounded 173 yards on the ground.

Cadillac Williams led the way for Buccaneer rushers, slashing for 97 yards and a touchdown, while Derrick Ward added 69 yards and a score.

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Byron Leftwich was solid, completing 25 passes for 276 yards and a touchdown. The game also saw the return to form of Michael Clayton, who made some tremendous catches en route to a team-leading five catches and 93 yards.

The Buccaneers defense was solid until it wore down in the second half. Marion Barber led Dallas with 76 yards rushing and a game-sealing touchdown.

But this day belonged to Romo. With Tampa Bay leading 7-6, Romo found Miles Austin down the sideline on a busted coverage for a 42-yard score.

Busted coverages seemed to be a the rule of the day for the Tampa Bay defense. We told you before the ballgame that pressure on Romo would be crucial for the Bucs to have a chance to win.

The Bucs didn't get the pressure they needed and the Cowboys took advantage of Tampa Bay's young secondary.

Sabby Piscitelli had a day he would love to forget, going for Romo pump fakes several times during the ballgame and leaving receivers wide open down field, a Cardinal sin for a safety.

Piscitelli bit on a pump fake and allowed Roy Williams to split a seam down the middle of the field. Williams rumbled 66 yards for a touchdown to give the Cowboys a commanding 20-7 lead.

The Bucs battled back, driving 84 yards in 11 plays and capping off the series with a one-yard score by new Buccaneer Derrick Ward. Tampa Bay trailed 20-14 with 13:45 left.

Romo would dash the Bucs hopes again two plays later. A well designed play had Bucs safety Sabby Piscitelli lined up against the Cowboys fastest receiver, Patrick Crayton. While Piscitelli has wheels, he couldn't stay with Crayton. When the young safety bit on a Romo pump fake, it was all over for Tampa Bay.

Romo hit Crayton in stride and the speedy receiver raced 80 yards for a score to open up the lead to 27-14.

The Buccaneers wouldn't give up, driving all the way to the Cowboys 26 yard line. Facing fourth and seven, Leftwich put the ball on the money to the Bucs' top acquisition of the 2009 off-season, Kellen Winslow, Jr. but Winslow dropped the pass.

Romo would victimize the Buccaneers secondary again, hitting Crayton for 44 yard strike, setting up Marion Barber's six-yard touchdown to seal the game for the Cowboys.

Leftwich led the Bucs back down the field one last time, capping an 11 play, 72-yard drive with a touchdown pass to Winslow to shave the lead to 34-21 with 1:28 left.

The Cowboys would recover the ensuing on-side kick and that would be the ballgame.

So for the young Buccaneers, they went toe-to-toe with allegedly one of the best teams in football and were in the ballgame most of the way.

There was a lot to be excited about for the Buccaneers, especially on offense. Tampa Bay faced a tough Dallas defense and moved up and down the field on the vaunted Cowboys. The Bucs simply couldn't finish off enough drives to stay with Dallas.

Lapses in defensive concentration and shoddy play on special teams did them in.

You have to imagine Bucs GM Mark Dominik was on the phone with Matt Bryant to see how his hamstring is doing. Bryant's replacement Mike Nugent had one kick blocked and missed a makeable one, costing the Bucs six points.

In the preseason, the one achilles heel of this new Bucs defense seemed to be the big play downfield.

That continues to be the case as of the first regular season game. Until the Bucs can pressure the quarterback or not go for pump fakes, streaking receivers will continue to be an unwelcome sight.

The good news for Tampa Bay is that the problems experienced aren't due to talent deficiencies but mental errors.

The errors are correctable.

The Bucs can run the football and their offensive line protected Byron Leftwich, allowing no sacks by the team that led the league in that category last season.

If the Dallas Cowboys are truly one of the better teams in the NFL, Buccaneer fans can feel good that their team may not be that far away from contending themselves.


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