The Dallas Cowboys (12-2) defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-6), 26-20, during a Week 15 matchup on Sunday Night Football. Here are five things you should know about this game.
A rejuvenated Prescott
In Dallas’ Week 14 loss to the New York Giants, quarterback Dak Prescott did not have a good game. He missed throws and looked uncomfortable in the pocket.
However, that was not the case this week. The rookie signal-caller spread the ball around to get other players involved. He made quick decisions with the football and used his legs to pick up yards.
Since the Cowboys’ rushing attack was clicking on all cylinders, Prescott was able to use play-action passes to complement it.
Late in the second quarter, the rookie signal-caller orchestrated a 10-play, 64-yard drive and capped it off with a 2-yard rushing touchdown. He walked unto the end zone untouched.
A week ago, after losing to the Giants, there was plenty of speculation about when the Cowboys might call on Tony Romo to take the reins. There won’t be much of that this week.
Prescott completed 32 out of his 36 attempts for 279 yards and a rushing touchdown. He may not have the arm that Jameis Winston or Romo does, but he just doesn’t make mistakes with the football.
Elliot, the catalyst
Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliot continues to wreak havoc on opposing defenses. Whether he is running up the middle or bouncing runs to the outside, he is a hard man to tackle. Elliot ran for 48 yards and a touchdown in the first half.
Early in the second quarter, Dallas defensive tackle Terrell McClain sacked Winston, the ball came out, and McClain recovered the ball at Tampa Bay’s 14-yard line. A couple of plays later, Elliot scored the touchdown to give Dallas a 10-3 lead.
The best part of his touchdown came after, when he celebrated by jumping into the Salvation Army’s red kettle outside the end zone. He got flagged for a celebration penalty (lame), but helped give the organization a nice little publicity boost during its holiday collection drive.
Indeed, you must give Dallas’ offensive line a lot of credit. It did a great job of carving out space for the rookie running back. Elliot broke off a 42-yard run late in the second half.
Elliot finished the game with 159 rushing yards and one touchdown. He also broke the franchise record for touchdowns by a rookie after scoring his 13th.
Winston’s second–half performance
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston got off to a slow start in this game. He missed a lot of throws and couldn’t lead Tampa Bay to the end zone. On the other hand, the young signal-caller played well in the second half.
On Tampa Bay’s first offensive possession in the second half, Winston threw a 42-yard touchdown to receiver Adam Humphries to cut Dallas lead to 17-13. Winston faked the handoff, rolled to his left, and threw the deep pass to Humphries. Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr deflected the pass, but the ball landed in the veteran receiver’s hands.
Winston was not done, though. On Tampa Bay’s next possession, he capped off a 10-play, 81-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end Cameron Brate.
Unfortunately, Winston could not lead his team to victory, but he finished the game with 247 passing yards to go along with two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Tampa Bay struggled on defense
Over the past few games, the Buccaneers defense has been one of the stingiest units in the NFL, allowing an average of 12 points since Week 10. They did not surrender big plays and played with physicality. However, Dallas moved the ball with ease against Tampa Bay.
The Buccaneers couldn’t stop Elliot, and they allowed Prescott to make plays with his arm and legs. Indeed, the Cowboys have one of the best offenses in the league, but Tampa Bay could have done a better job of limiting big plays.
Tampa Bay gave up 449 yards of total offense.
Witten moves up on the all-time receptions list
Cowboys tight end Jason Witten caught 10 passes for 51 yards in this game, but he also moved up on the NFL’s all-time receptions list, passing a former teammate.
Witten has been a model of consistency for Dallas. He is one of the best tight ends in NFL history and will end up in the Hall of Fame when he retires.
What’s next for both teams
Dallas will host a Week 16 matchup against the Detroit Lions. The Cowboys must continue to run the ball effectively and complement it with play-action passes. Dallas is playing well on defense, so it must continue to make plays on defense.
Tampa Bay will head to the Big Easy for a Week 16 showdown against a divisional foe in the New Orleans Saints. Winston has to do a better job of protecting the football.