Tom Brady had a lot of great games. Sunday night was not one of them.
But Brady was also involved in a lot of wins — 278 of them, including the playoffs for his age-45 season — and did enough to get the Tampa Bay Buccaneers winning again.
The Buccaneers played an ugly, winnable game against the Dallas Cowboys. There have been, and likely will be, many games in which Brady leads the team to a victory. On Sunday night the running game and defense led the way in a 19-3 victory. All wins count the same.
The biggest news came after the game when Cowboys owner Jerry Jones announced that Dak Prescott needed surgery on his (right) hand and would miss several weeks. Prescott was injured in the fourth quarter after being hit on the hand.
The Buccaneers also lost left tackle Donovan Smith (arm) and receiver Chris Godwin (hamstring) to injuries. That was in addition to preseason losses on the offensive line and the departure of Rob Gronkowski. It’s not exactly like the Bucs’ locker is bare — they still have big names like Mike Evans, Julio Jones, Leonard Fournette and right tackle Tristan Wirfs — but it’s still been a challenge. The Buccaneers managed just one touchdown Sunday night.
It was good for Brady that the Bucks didn’t need a ton of offense to win. Because Tampa didn’t produce much of it.
Bucks, Cowboys struggle to move the ball
Last season, the Cowboys and Buccaneers played a thriller in Week 1. Tampa Bay scored a field goal in the final seconds for a 31-29 victory. It was a fantastic way to start the season.
Nothing about Sunday night was fantastic.
Both teams struggled to block and move the ball. There were no touchdowns in the first half. Of the five field goals before halftime, the Bucks had four of them. At least Tampa Bay hit some plays. Dallas offense nothing happened.
The Cowboys’ already thin line lost another starter when guard Connor McGovern injured his ankle in the first half. All of the Cowboys’ losses along the line combined to affect their ability to move the ball. The Buccaneers defense played very well, with the pass leading the way. An interception by safety Antoine Winfield Jr. it was another turning point in the game.
With 3:23 left in the third quarter, Evans caught back-to-back passes from Brady, including a one-handed grab on a fade route against Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs for a touchdown. That gave the Buccaneers a 19-3 lead that looked insurmountable for the Cowboys given how their offense looked.
The only thing that would have helped was a Brady mistake, and he did that early in the fourth quarter.
The Bucs rely on the running game
The Cowboys were scrambling on offense, but had an interception near midfield. Safety Donovan Wilson blitzed to Brady’s right side, then slid to the other side of the line at the snap. It’s hard to fool Brady, but the Cowboys nailed him with this game. Wilson grabbed the short interception and Dallas was in business. The offense then went three and out and was punted, missing a great opportunity to get back into the game. The Buccaneers didn’t score again, but the Cowboys had plenty of trouble against Tampa Bay’s defense, and then the Cowboys’ night took a turn for the worse when Prescott left with a right hand injury in the fourth quarter.
Brady wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t great. He threw for 212 yards. What kept Tampa Bay going on offense was a nice night from Leonard Fournette, who had his most snaps as a member of the Bucs with 127. He limped off in the fourth quarter and rookie Rachaad White closed out the game on the run.
Brady had a strange offseason, sitting out 40 days and then sitting out 11 games during training camp. The Buccaneers suffered some injuries before the season and again Sunday, leading to skepticism about whether Tampa Bay could be a contender again. The Bucs didn’t pass that test Sunday, but at least they’re 1-0 as they understand things.