If you’re going to begin the NFL season with more opening game viewers than any year since 2015, why not deliver a Superbowl-esque matchup. This is precisely what the reining champions Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Dallas Cowboys did this past Thursday. Let us take a look back on a fantastic season opener that had NFL fans on the edge of their seats, from start to finish.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers achieved something that even last year’s Super Bowl lineup couldn’t achieve – they won their opening game of the season.
The National Football League is an expert in delivering drama, but Friday’s 31-29 victory for the Bucs was a showdown at Raymond James Stadium that won’t be forgotten.
Tampa seemed to pick up exactly where they left off from the winning Super Bowl LV in the same stadium just seven months back. Mr Brady defied age-logic, as the 44-year-old threw for 379 yards and four touchdowns – with Rob Gronkowski hoisting two of them, the second Gronk touchdown became his and Brady’s 100th tag-team touchdown.
Brady was flawless and led the pack for Tampa with one final scoring drive to finalize a stunning performance.
With that said, the Bucs probably weren’t expecting Dak Prescott’s return game for Dallas after a one-year layoff becoming such a tight contest. Twelve months away from the sport, Prescott threw for 403 yards and three touchdowns. And the Cowboys defense wasn’t shy either, forcing four turnovers. With this impressive performance, Dallas can indeed perform better than last season’s 6-10 record.
In a contest that consistently swapped leads, Greg Zuerlein launched a 48-yard field goal to give Dallas the lead with just 89 seconds remaining, but that was 89 seconds too long to stop Tom Brady, as the seven-time Super Bowl winner led his team into field goal range.
With a mere 1.40 remaining on the clock, the Cowboys looked as if they’d pulled the upset victory, but it only took a handful of seconds for Ryan Succop to kick the game-winning field goal.
NFL and NCAAF lines have been taking massive action in footballs return to our televisions, but I doubt that any handicapper could’ve predicted this past Thursday’s scoreline and statistics.
Notable Statistics: Buccaneers vs Cowboys, Week 1, 2021/22 Season Opener:
- Tom Brady, QB, Tampa: 32-of-50 for 379 yards, 4 TDs, 2 INTs
- Antonio Brown, WR, Tampa: 5 catches for 121 yards, 1 TD
- Rob Gronkowski, TE, Tampa: 8 catches for 90 yards, 2 TDs
- Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa: 9 catches for 90 yards, 2 TDs
- Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas: 42-of-58 for 403 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT
- Amari Cooper, WR, Dallas: 13 catches for 139 yards, 2 TDs
- CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas: 7 catches for 104 yards, 1 TD
Brady Did, What Brady Does
Despite a multitude of impressive performances on the night, it’s hard to ignore Tom Brady.
After a season that raised questions in his ability outside of the New England Patriots, Brady put the critics to bed to win the Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And now, he’s kicked off the new season by decimating the Dallas Cowboy’s secondary from the beginning of Thursday’s game.
Handing Gronkowski two touchdowns was nothing new; he then delivered the ball right up the pipe to Chris Godwin’s touchdown pass and wasn’t stopping there; a deep ball to Antonio Brown became the fourth.
The equalizing scores for most of the game were down to turnovers that were no fault of Brady’s, which included a Hail Mary interception and a screen pass that fell into Trevon Diggs’ hands. Dallas gained ten points from the Leonard Fournette mishap and Ronald Jones fumble, which kept them within striking distance.
The pressure was on for Brady heading into the fourth quarter, but this man is anxiety-free on the field. However, a two-point lead wasn’t nerve-racking for Bucs fans.
Brady did more than enough to secure what really should’ve been an easy win in the fourth. He placed a perfect deep ball into the red zone that Godwin slammed to end one drive. Then another drive to work, the clock ended when Godwin fumbled inside the 5-yard line.
Naturally, Brady wasn’t afraid of no receiver; he delivered the most critical pass of the game, which provided the field goal on the final drive. Godwin got away lightly, but this game was another example of why Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback in football history.
The spotlight was stolen from Zak Prescott, who returned from a nasty ankle injury with an impressive performance of his own.
“I didn’t question my health,” Prescott said during his post-game interview. “I know the work I put in the offseason. I expected to leave it out on the field to help this team and give us a fighting chance. I feel like I am a better player than when I left the field. That was the expectation, and I will get better and better. I’m fully healthy and the player I expected to be.”
“I told everybody we will see them again,” Prescott replied when asked what he told Brady when they crossed paths after the game. “That is the confidence I have in this group. This is a playoff team that is going to make a big push this year. We need to get better and make a step from tonight. We have a good team. I am excited about this season.”