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Cowboys vs. Buccaneers score: Dak Prescott hurt as Tampa Bay rolls over dysfunctional Dallas offense

For the second straight season, the Buccaneers have spoiled the Cowboys’ opener in prime time. Despite losing a pair of key starters to injury, Tampa Bay had its way with Dallas on the first 2022 edition of “Sunday Night Football,” feasting on Dak Prescott’s discomfort with new blockers and pass catchers to claim a 19-3 victory. Tom Brady spread the ball around to help seal the Week 1 decision, leaning on a busy Leonard Fournette to ensure the rout of America’s Team, which later lost Prescott to a hand issue that’ll require surgery and keep him out for multiple weeks.

Here are some instant takeaways from Sunday night’s Bucs win:

Why the Buccaneers won

It wasn’t because they stayed healthy, that’s for sure. Even with starting left tackle Donovan Smith and No. 1 receiver Chris Godwin exiting early due to injury, Brady and the Bucs were very efficient with the ball in their hands, offsetting initial red-zone woes by spreading the ball to their big men – both Mike Evans and newcomer Julio Jones created space downfield – and feeding Fournette, who owned the backfield with nearly 130 yards on 21 carries. Todd Bowles’ defense, meanwhile, had its way all night even without aggressive blitzing. Shaq Barrett and Devin White disrupted the pocket multiple times, and Antoine Winfield Jr. easily swiped an errant Prescott pass. By the end, all the Bucs had to do was keep everything in front of them, all but letting the Cowboys stumble over themselves.

Why the Cowboys lost

Their offense, debuting its shuffled receiving corps and banged-up line, was as out of sync as it’s ever been under Mike McCarthy and Kellen Moore. Without steady protection or trusted targets, Prescott walked in Aaron Rodgers’ Week 1 shoes, forcing or mistiming or misfiring throws while desperate to spark the pass game, ultimately exiting during the waning minutes with an injury that’ll sideline him for multiple weeks. Star wideout CeeDee Lamb had just two catches entering the final quarter, while reserves like Noah Brown and Dennis Houston struggled to replace absent regulars like Michael Gallup. It was ugly all around. Defensively, Micah Parsons had his typical dominant flashes, and Donovan Wilson snagged an absent-minded throw from Brady down the stretch, but not even Trevon Diggs could slow the Bucs’ top wideouts when it mattered most.

Turning point

Until Brady found Evans for a 5-yard touchdown on a fade pass, with just over three minutes left in the third, neither team had reached the end zone. That score, however, with Evans easily separating from Diggs while initially reeling the ball in with one hand, put Tampa Bay ahead 19-3 and effectively sealed the game on a night Dallas was ill-suited to respond.

Play of the game

Who knew the 33-year-old Jones would be responsible for the Bucs’ most explosive passing play of the night? But give the longtime Falcons star credit for showcasing not only remaining deep speed but impressive hands on his second-quarter bomb, which set up a 12-3 Bucs lead:

What’s next

The Buccaneers (1-0) will hit the road in Week 2 for an NFC South clash with the Saints (1-0), who came back to edge the Falcons on Sunday. The Cowboys (0-1), meanwhile, will return home as the lone NFC East team without a victory and host the Bengals (0-1), who are coming off an overtime loss to the Steelers. And they will face a desperate Bengals team without Prescott behind center.

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