LANDOVER, MD — As far as how the 2022 regular season unfolded, it went to the wire and the Dallas Cowboys gave a valiant effort toward potentially improving their playoff seeding heading into their Week 18 matchup against the Washington Commanders but, in the end, they end the week where they started it in the bracket.
The Cowboys will enter the tournament as owners of the No. 5 seed in the NFC, set to face off against the winners of the NFC South: Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The game is set for Monday, Jan. 16 at 8:25 p.m. EDT — capping off NFL Super Wild Card Weekend.
The outcome of Week 18 had more than one possible scenario for the Cowboys, the team having applied pressure to the Philadelphia Eagles by virtue of defeating them on Christmas Eve before then downing the Tennessee Titans.
That put Dallas on a two-game win streak and initiated a two-game losing streak by Philadelphia that prevented them from clinching the NFC East or the top seat in the NFC.
To steal away the top seat in the division, the Cowboys needed a victory against the Commanders and a loss by the Eagles. To take the top seed in the conference, the Cowboys needed a victory, a loss by the Eagles against the New York Giants and a loss by the San Francisco 49ers against the Arizona Cardinals.
In the end, it was not to be, particularly with the 49ers and Eagles both cruising to victory.
With their seeding now solidified, the Cowboys now begin preparations this week to visit Brady at Raymond James Stadium on Super Wild Card Weekend in a rematch of the regular season opener, when the Buccaneers handed the Cowboys a 19-3 loss at AT&T Stadium.
It’ll be an opportunity for Dallas to perform an exorcism against Brady, seeing as he’s 7-0 against the Cowboys.
Brady has long had Dallas under his thumb, giving Dak Prescott and the Cowboys defense more than enough motivation to finally end his reign over them. It’ll start with taking a long hard look at how disjointed they were in Washington to try and guarantee it doesn’t happen in Tampa.
There are no more mulligans to be had.
Buccaneers Will Host Cowboys to Start Playoffs
Tampa Bay’s playoff game in the opening round will be a rematch with the Dallas Cowboys, a team they beat 19-3 to start the season…The game will be played at Raymond James Stadium on January 16 at 8:15 pm on Monday Night Football
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers started their 2022 division-winning season in Dallas. The Dallas Cowboys will start their 2022 playoffs in Tampa.
The Buccaneers clinched the NFC South in Week 17 with a 30-24 win over the Carolina Panthers, locking them into the fourth seed in the conference postseason field. The Philadelphia Eagles then clinched the NFC East, and the lone opening-week bye in the conference, with a victory over the New Orleans Saints. That in turn locked the Cowboys into the fifth seed as the top Wild Card team. The Cowboys finished the season with a 12-5 record after a loss to the Washington Commanders in Week 18.
The game will take place on Monday Night Football at Raymond James Stadium on Jan. 16 at 8:15pm ET on ESPN/ABC. While the Eagles enjoy their bye, the three other NFC division winners will play home games against the three Wild Card teams. The fourth seed hosts the fifth seed, the third seed hosts the sixth seed and the second seed hosts the seventh seed.
The game in Tampa will be a rematch from Week One, when the Buccaneers beat the Cowboys, 19-3, at AT&T Stadium in a nationally-televised Sunday Night Football matchup. Leonard Fournette ran for 127 yards to power the Bucs’ offense, which got its lone touchdown of the game on Tom Brady’s five-yard pass to Mike Evans in the third quarter. Devin White led the defense with two sacks and Antoine Winfield Jr. picked off Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who suffered a thumb injury that caused him to miss five games.
This is also a much-delayed postseason rematch, as the second and third playoff runs in Buccaneers history both started and ended in Dallas. After earning a Wild Card berth in 1981, Tampa Bay went to Dallas in the opening round and was handed a 38-0 loss. History repeated itself in 1982, when the NFL held a “Super Bowl Tournament” following a season that was shortened to nine games by a players’ strike. The top eight teams in each conference qualified for the postseason and as the seventh seed the Bucs traveled again to Dallas to take on the second-seeded Cowboys. This one was more competitive and the Buccaneers briefly held a 10-6 lead in the second quarter after a 60-yard fumble return touchdown by Hugh Green, but the Cowboys stormed back to win, 30-17.
The Buccaneers have won their last two games against the Cowboys, also opening the 2021 season with a prime-time win in the NFL’s annual Kickoff Game. Tom Brady threw four touchdown passes, two to Rob Gronkowski, and the Bucs prevailed, 31-29, on Ryan Succop’s 36-yard field goal with two seconds left. Tampa Bay and Dallas combined for 882 yards of offense in a game that featured four lead changes.
Dallas brings one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses to Tampa for the postseason showdown. The Cowboys scored 28.8 points per game through the first 17 weeks of 2022, which ranked second in the NFL, and they also ranked third in third down conversions (47.4%) and second in red zone touchdown efficiency (70.9%). The Cowboys won four of the five games Cooper Rush started while Prescott was recovering from his injury, but the team averaged 35.1 points per game since Prescott’s return, through Week 17.
The Cowboys also had the NFL’s seventh-ranked scoring defense through Week 17 and a Defensive Player of the Year candidate in do-it-all linebacker Micah Parsons. Parsons, who had both of the Cowboys’ sacks of Tom Brady in Week One, was tied for fifth in the NFL with 13.0 sacks through 17 weeks and had forced three fumbles and recovered three more. Playmaking cornerback Trevon Diggs had notched three interceptions and 14 pass breakups heading into Week 18.
No Fine Line Between Winning And Losing Badly
LANDOVER, Md. – The bloodline for this Cowboys team coming here on Sunday afternoon with a 12-4 record, a wild-card playoff berth in the back pocket and having averaged 36.3 points a game since Dak Prescott had returned in the past nine games was this:
That had been the driving force for clinging to a last-ditch opportunity to still win the NFC East if they had won and the Eagles had lost.
But what unfolded before a guaranteed shocked 62,814 folks at a chilly FedEx Field and a national TV audience, with Washington limping to the finish, playing a third-string quarterback for the first time in the NFL and without 10 starters, was startling.
Maybe, oh, heck, let Dak Prescott give you the adjective himself.
Why, Washington 26, Cowboys an embarrassing 6.
As bad an offensive performance the Cowboys have put on tape since, well, put it this way: The fewest points they have scored this season since their 19-3 loss in the opener and the second fewest in the past 68 games.
Worse than the points were the yards. A scroungy 182, something certainly the Cowboys have totaled in a quarter let alone all four, for sure the fewest they have gained over the past 34 games and half their per-game average.
And this against the now 8-8-1 Commanders with nothing to play for besides pride and their six decades of distaste for the Cowboys.
“Not very good at all,” Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy blatantly said. “We played poorly,” before stating the obvious, “You want to play your best ball in January.”
Well, it’s Jan. 8, and this was the absolute worst on offense, the scariest part knowing they now are the fifth seed in the NFC playoffs and heading to Tampa Bay to take on the Buccaneers and Tom Brady in the first round. And here seemed to be the reason for this four-quarter power outage:
The patch-work offensive line.
You know that had to be a concern after surviving the Tennessee game when starting center Tyler Biadasz went out with a high ankle sprain. Yeah, all this “next man up” mumbo jumbo sound gallant.
But look here: Sunday against the Commanders, the Cowboys only had one guy – one guy – playing where he had played all season long. That would be Pro Bowler Zack Martin at right guard. After that, it’s been musical chairs.
Start with losing one of their best, if not the best run-blocking lineman, Terence Steele, against Houston five games ago. In comes veteran Tyron Smith, playing a side of the ball – right – he has not played since his rookie year and after missing the first 12 games of the season.
Then, while they survived the Tennessee game a week ago Thursday when Biadasz went down, that began the line dance. Left guard Connor McGovern to center. Left tackle Tyler Smith to guard. And 40-year-old backup Jason Peters to left tackle.
While as the song goes, two out of three ain’t bad, but four out of five ain’t good.
“No one is coming to our rescue,” Martin said, knowing while they are hopeful Biadasz returns in time for the first-round playoff game, there certainly is a possibility they are what they are. “But I have a lot of confidence in our guys.”
And while running the ball has been somewhat problematic over the past four games, averaging no more than 3.8 yards per carry in any of those games, this one was worse, 64 yards on 24 attempts. That’s 2.4 a carry. That’s a mere average standing broad jump. And the longest carry was nine yards, that coming on a Prescott scramble when his pocket broke down.
That one-two punch of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard could only account for 35 yards, and 19 of those 64 yards came compliments of rookie Malik Davis in garbage time after McCarthy pulled the plug late in the fourth quarter down 20.
“They were shooting their linebackers,” Peters said, and they should have been expecting Washington defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, the former Cowboys linebacker, would play aggressive ball since, after all, what did the Commanders have to lose?
“They were lined up close to the line of scrimmage.”
And when you can’t run the ball, the only option is to throw it. And here was another problem. Prescott’s pocket was not clean. Not from the start. And while he was only sacked one time, thanks to his own ability to get out of harm’s way, or actually hit just four times, he seemed far too many times to be throwing with a cluster around him, causing bad throws, invariably too high and too hard, ill-timed throws and having seven passes defensed
Why, this is not a line related to Dak for nearly ever: 14 of 37 for 128 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a QB rating of 45.8, his lowest of the season and more than half his 95.8 season rating. Unreal, that’s a 37.8 completion percentage for a guy completing 69 percent of his passes this year and an average gain per attempt of an anemic 3.5 yards, less than half his season average of 7.7 yards.
On top of all that, the Cowboys longest play of the game was 15 yards, CeeDee Lamb’s first half-ending touchdown grab.
“We just couldn’t get going consistently,” said McGovern, who suffered badly from the flu on Friday and Saturday, claiming to have lost nine pounds but played through the symptoms. “I just think we’ve got to get back to our normal selves.”
And in a darn hurry.
Eatman: Regular Season Ends Worse Than It Began
LANDOVER, Md. – The term “full circle” is typically used in a good way – when something ends in the same place as it started.
In this case, the fact that both the Cowboys and Dak Prescott have seen their regular season come full circle is certainly not a good thing.
Actually, according to Prescott, this game was “crappy,” but only after he used another word that rhymes with gritty. I only used that because it was pretty much the opposite way to describe the way the Cowboys played.
They didn’t have grit. They didn’t have fire. They didn’t look like a football team that had a couple of boxes in the locker room that said “Cowboys. NFC East Champs.” I can assure you they were there, but I can also assure you they won’t be opened because the Cowboys didn’t do anything on Sunday to make that happen.
And sure, it wouldn’t have mattered because the Eagles took care of business and beat the Giants, who didn’t play many of their starters. Honestly, I didn’t watch that game at all, but I would imagine the Giants could’ve beaten the Cowboys on this day. I mean, Georgia and TCU would’ve probably given them a run too.
But what makes this one so strange is that this regular season ends exactly like it started … awful.
After they lost to Tampa Bay in Week 1, I never thought the Cowboys could play a game worse than that. And I really never imagined Dak Prescott could play worse either.
Well, insert this Week 18 game at Washington to rival both scenarios. The Cowboys were flat-out bad in just about every way, other than defense, and even that was just average.
That’s what reminded me of the Week 1 loss because the defense actually played good football in that game, but it wasn’t close to enough because of how bad everything else was.
And that’s what happened here Sunday, starting from the jump. Seriously, the punter drops the ball and gets tackled? I can’t recall that happening in a while. And if it did, I bet the punt returner didn’t let the next punt hit him the face and fumbled that one away.
When KaVontae Turpin and Bryan Anger are dropping punts and snaps, you know it’s not your day.
But it goes way deeper than that. The offensive line couldn’t block anyone and that obviously led to no running game at all. With no running game, and the O-line getting pushed around up front, Dak was running for his life a lot of times. But in no way are we giving Dak a pass here. Heck, he had 37 “passes” in the game and only could complete 14 to his own team. He wasn’t sharp at all, with his throws or decisions.
To be honest, I fell for the mantra this week. I seriously thought they would try to go out and win this game. They said they’d be focused and ready to play, but they definitely weren’t. And I’ve said this plenty of times in the past, and this is probably another example of it, but games are won and lost on Wednesday and Thursday.
Every team and every player tries to win on Sunday and gives 100 percent – most of the time. But it’s the middle of the week where you can lose. And it looked like the Cowboys lost it early in the week, probably listening way too much to what Washington was doing and who they were starting at quarterback and what players were injured and all that.
Even head coach Mike McCarthy said after the game that his players are “human” when asked if they probably didn’t have the right mindset based off the overall importance of this game, knowing the Eagles would likely beat a Giants team not playing to win.
Whatever went down or didn’t go down, it bled over into Sunday, where the Cowboys rivaled their Week 1 performance against the Bucs – and not in a good way.
Like I said in this space last week, this once again comes down to perspective.
Are you one who points out that the Cowboys started the regular season in an awful way against the Buccaneers and now get to start the postseason the same way?
Are you one who can’t get over the fact that the Cowboys have never defeated Tom Brady? Or do you flip the script and say how ironic it would be to never beat him in the regular season but then knock him out in the playoffs, in what could possibly be his last game?
There are a lot of ways to slice this one up, but here’s what I’m going to do, here’s my outlook on this game:
Just go back to last season when the Cowboys ended the regular season with a 51-26 win over an Eagles team that wasn’t playing for much. Dak threw five touchdowns and the Cowboys cruised into the playoffs with a 12-5 record.
How did that help them in the playoffs the next week? Umm, not at all. They were as flat as the drive from Kansas to Nebraska and got bounced by the 49ers the next week.
A really good win in Week 18 meant absolutely nothing for the playoffs.
Let’s only hope this game here means exactly the same as the Cowboys get ready for yet another shot at knocking off Tom Brady and the Bucs.
Jerry Jones: Cowboys must find motivation in ‘nightmare’ finale loss
LANDOVER, Md. — The Dallas Cowboys entered Sunday with hopes of a second straight division title and the chance to move up to one of the top two seeds in the NFC if things went their way.
They left FedEx Field with their worst loss of the year, 26-6 to the Washington Commanders, throwing more questions into the mix regarding what the season can be with a wild-card game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next Monday (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC).
“We get to suck on that all week,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “If that doesn’t make you want to get ready to go in about six, seven days, nothing else will. That was as thorough a butt-kicking as we’ve had this year, and we’re going to find out if that’ll get you ready or not. It should with what these guys are made of.”
The Cowboys’ previous worst loss of the season was a 19-3 defeat in Week 1 against the Buccaneers. The Cowboys will have to do something they have never done in order to advance in the playoffs: beat Tom Brady.
He owns a 7-0 record against Dallas, including wins the past two seasons with Tampa Bay.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that as a team, not just individually, but as a team we can come back and take this nightmare — whatever you want to call it — and turn it into a plus,” Jones said. “I’m thrilled that we’ve got the opportunity and I’m thrilled that we didn’t have to look over there at the Philadelphia game and the San Francisco game and say, ‘Boy, did we mess up.'”
Had the Eagles and 49ers lost, the Cowboys would have clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a win over Washington. But Dallas had a performance against the Commanders that was downright awful.
The special teams contributed two turnovers in the first quarter on Dallas’ side of the field. Even with Washington quarterback Sam Howell making the first start of his career, the Dallas defense was average, allowing 151 yards rushing on 41 attempts and coming up with just one interception.
But the offense was particularly miserable.
Dak Prescott completed a career-worst 37.8% of his passes (14-of-37) and was intercepted for the 15th time in 12 games. Prescott’s 15 interceptions tied Houston’s Davis Mills for the most in the NFL, despite the fact Prescott missed five games following thumb surgery. He also had an interception returned for a touchdown for the third time in the past four games.
“For me, I mean, s—ty,” Prescott said. “Not to use the language, but simple as that.”
Coach Mike McCarthy was a little more forgiving.
“There was a lot more going on around really,” McCarthy said. “This is not about one guy. You can’t look at our offensive performance and blame it all on one guy. Plenty to go around.”
The Cowboys managed just 182 yards and converted 4 of 18 third-down opportunities, both season lows. The second-worst showings came in the loss to the Buccaneers to start the season (244 yards, 3-of-15 on third down).
“No, this one won’t linger,” Prescott said. “Yeah, I mean, it’s easy to go back and look at our body of work and what we’ve done, especially with this not anywhere in those past 16 games. So when you have a performance like this, whatever it was, whatever the reason may be, we’ve got to individually look at it, take accountability, learn from it and then understand when the plane touches down we’re on to Tampa.
“We know who they are. Played them twice these last two years, and it’s going to be a good one.”
Tampa Bay Buccaneers open as slight home underdog in postseason matchup with Dallas Cowboys
The Buccaneers are set to host the Cowboys on Monday night.
The postseason has arrived as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-9) enter the week with a Wild Card matchup against the Dallas Cowboys (12-5) on the table. Despite the Buccaneers having a worse record, they’ll host the Cowboys after winning the NFC South in Week 17 while the latter finished second in the NFC North to Philadelphia.
Funnily enough, these two teams began their seasons against one another and now one of them will advance further in the postseason while the other will go home.
The Buccaneers defeated the Cowboys 19-3 in a dominant defensive effort in Week 1. Dallas kicked a field goal on its opening drive but didn’t score again for the remainder of the game. The contest projects to be much closer this time around.
Shortly after the clock struck midnight on the east coast, opening odds were released for Wild Card games around the league. According to FanDuel Sportsbook, Tampa Bay opens as a three-point underdog to Dallas. The Over/Under is set at 45.5 points.
Dallas sports one of the top offenses in the league, scoring 27.5 points per game. The combination of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard in the backfield will be a duo that the Buccaneers have to limit. Pollard actually led the team with 193 rushes for 1,007 yards and nine touchdowns.
The Buccaneers have struggled to play consistently throughout the season but you can never count out future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady. Less than two weeks ago, Brady threw for 432 yards and three touchdowns in a must-win game for the franchise. Can he bring the same energy into the postseason in the quest for his eighth ring?
Tampa Bay and Dallas will kick off at 8:15 p.m. on Monday, January 16. The game will be televised on ESPN/ABC.
Stick with BucsGameday for more coverage on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers throughout the season.