By Alex Al-Kazzaz
Coming into this game, the Dallas Cowboys had NOT won a playoff game on the road since January 17th, 1993. In addition, they were going against a quarterback that had NEVER lost to Dallas. Furthermore, the field turf gave them a disadvantage but Dallas was nothing but defiant in their 31-14 win over Tom Brady & Company. Dallas advances and will take on San Francisco in a rematch from last season's wildcard round.
After going nowhere on their first two drives, Dallas was able to score and take the lead. Tampa Bay threatened and intercepting Brady in the end-zone relieved a lot of pressure and turning that turnover into six more points was key. After forcing another punt, Dallas found the end zone again and went into the half leading 18-0.
With the Buccaneers being forced to punt again on the opening drive of the second half, Dallas wasted no time and made the score 24-0. At that point, Dallas kicker Brett Maher missed four extra point attempts, becoming the first kicker to do so since 1932! Soon after, the Bucs finally got on the board, but Dallas immediately responded. Tampa Bay would score one more time but the damage was done. It was game over at that point. Brady attempted a total of 66 passes and finished with 35 completions for 351 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
All it took as a total of five touchdowns for Dak Prescott along with 305 yards through the air. Prescott is the third quarterback in Cowboys franchise history to have four touchdown passes in a playoff game, joining Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach. In addition, Prescott is the sixth quarterback in history register both a passing and rushing touchdown in four career playoff games. Amazingly, Prescott made it through the night without an interception.
Dalton Schultz led the way with seven catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns. Schultz became the first tight end in franchise history with multiple touchdowns in a playoff game. CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup combined for nine catches for 114 combined yards and each scored a touchdown in spectacular fashion.
Ezekiel Elliott was quiet as he finished with only 27 yards on 13 carries. Tony Pollard was able to power through as he finished with 77 yards on 15 carries. Prescott added an additional 24 yards on seven carries. Not being able to rely on the running game made things tough for Dallas, but luckily the passing game seemed to go beyond exceeding expectations.
Leighton Vander Esch had a brilliant night as he finished with five tackles. Micah Parsons managed to get to Brady once. Parsons along with Jonathan Hankins were the only ones who managed to take down Brady. Jayron Kearse provided the defense with its major boost when he intercepted Brady in the end zone.
Interestingly enough, Dallas only committed two penalties the entire game. What's more interesting is that only five penalties were committed in this game. Discipline did Dallas very good, and that's going to be vital against San Francisco.
Dallas does face a bit of a situation regarding the kicking position. Perhaps to say that Dallas was lucky that Maher's four misses were extra point attempts rather than field goals is justifiably solidified. Had those misses been field goal attempts, it's very safe to say that the results would have been dramatically different. In that particular scenario, Dallas more than likely wouldn't have emerged victorious. Maher's going to have to figure out what the deal is because this unfortunate turn of events may have severe consequences against San Francisco.
Dallas vs San Francisco round 2 takes place this Sunday. After what happened a year ago, Dallas wants to return the favor and possibly officially re-ignite a classic 1990's playoff rivalry between the Cowboys and 49ers.
Dallas has not made it to an NFC Championship match since their last Super Bowl triumph, which was back in the 1995 season. San Francisco is a very good and strong team. The odds are not in Dallas' favor, but that ought to motivate them.
Photo Credit: Sporting News