Faced with Tom Brady, the Buccaneers and decades of playoff futility, the Cowboys aim to slay two dragons.
FRISCO, Texas – DeMarcus Lawrence pause
Two seconds, four seconds, then six seconds passed.
“We know how good Brady is,” Lawrence said. “Don’t worry about all the things he can do. … Worry about us and do our job.”
In seven contests against Brady, the Cowboys have never been outscored.
Twenty-eight teams beat Brady. Two others have been hired. Only the Cowboys (0-7) and Vikings (0-6) have never won by him.
And for the bulk of this season’s Cowboys roster, opening each of the last two seasons against the Buccaneers, the 45-year-old is acutely aware of how he can finish a game, neutralize the opponent’s weaknesses and mistakes.
So while the Cowboys’ four-game record advantage certainly contributes to their 2.5-point favorite status, per BetMGM, the Cowboys face a challenge or an opportunity when they arrive in Tampa for Monday’s 8:15 pm ET game. They will finally exorcise a demon, or, for the eighth time in franchise history, fall short.
“Brady is a factor,” Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said on Dallas radio station 105.3 The Fan. “We’re playing Tampa Bay, team [but] I know it’s there and I respect that.
“He’s challenging us to do something we haven’t done before, and that’s Tom Brady winning.”
The truth about this game
The following three premises can coexist: The Cowboys are primarily looking to get past the wild-card round, win a playoff game for the first time since the 2018 season and win a road playoff game since (the writer checks notes before revising a date. was born) the 1992 season. .
The Cowboys will be playing against a Buccaneers team with 48 active players, all of which could spoil Dallas’ chances.
And if the Cowboys can get a runaway win over one of the best NFL players of all time, this win will bring extra juice. Perhaps such momentum could fuel the Cowboys’ postseason run.
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy insisted his roster has “zero responsibility” for the franchise’s first five losses, adding that the 2021 and 2022 games could serve as a very helpful teaching tape.
But he also knows that Brady’s playoff glory is ahead of him. So why not lean in a bit?
“You have to embrace these opportunities,” McCarthy said. “Obviously, one of the most decorated players of our generation and maybe the history of the National Football League, so that speaks volumes about what he’s accomplished.
“I know as competitors, we are all excited about this opportunity to compete against Tom.”
The Cowboys may have to overcome their regular season formula to defeat them.
Cowboys’ keys to stopping Brady
What do the Cowboys have to show the Buccaneers to get rid of a quarterback who made it through the wild-card round and led them to 35 postseason wins?
Defensively, players must raise their game to anticipate and respond quickly. Attacking the inside of the pocket to disrupt the quarterback’s timing is likely to be more effective than trying to rush through the end.
Why? Brady’s average release time of 2.45 seconds is the fastest in the NFL. If not stopped immediately, the ball may disappear.
“He’s running at the speed of light, almost,” the Cowboys defensive tackle said Osa Odighizuwa, who will be among those charged with breaking Brady’s pocket. “So you have to line up, get the call and make sure you’re moving quickly at a high level.”
The Cowboys’ defense has been a threat this season, although its effectiveness has decreased recently. But Dallas’ two main strengths — its pass rush and receiving — don’t bode well against the Buccaneers’ resume.
The Cowboys created a sack on 9.82% of their opponents’ pass attempts, second only. Philadelphia Eagles. Brady, on the other hand, was sacked on a league-low 2.91 percent of his attempts, despite cycling through often injured offensive linemen.
No team has more touchdowns than the Cowboys’ 33. But no quarterback who has started every game has fewer touchdowns than Brady’s five (tied by Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs), and only two quarterbacks who have attempted at least 120 passes this season have thrown fewer interceptions. often than Brady’s rate of 1.2%.
“Usually, it takes a quarterback a moment to go through a progression,” Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. “Knowing where to go right away, that kind of quickness mentally and physically … the decisiveness of where to go with the ball [is challenging]”.
Brady’s two favorite targets, the receivers, benefited him Chris Godwin and Mike Evans each over 1,000 meters. The Cowboys are hoping for a testing secondary after two of their top three cornerbacks suffered season-ending injuries. Pro Bowl corner Trevon Diggs it is expected to anchor the slot in the right corner. But on the left side and in the slot, the Cowboys’ options range from rookie DaRon Bland to newly signed veteran Xavier Rhodes, options that Brady could be tempted by either his inexperience in the game or the Cowboys’ playbook.
Watch out for Brady’s options if he chooses to go that route.
“If you make mistakes with a guy like that,” Diggs said, “he’s sure to capitalize.”
The Cowboys’ ‘No. 1 goal’
By most accounts, the Cowboys bring a more talented roster to Monday night’s contest. They bring a more consistent product (though not quite) than Tampa has fielded this season. The Bucs are limping into the playoffs through the fourth quarter and overtime.
The Cowboys could pull off an upset from that formula. Knowing that no game is ever over against Brady, McCarthy praises the two-minute drill discipline and ball placement on the perimeter of the field, while the Dallas safety Jayron Kearse In clutch situations, Brady consistently explained how he “does a great job of owning the moment.”
A loss to Dallas would jeopardize the successful aura of the Cowboys’ second straight 12-game winning streak, further underscoring theories that the Cowboys under Jerry Jones can’t build postseason momentum. McCarthy and even quarterback Dak Prescott, examination could be expected. Too many times over the last quarter century Dallas has qualified for the playoffs only to fail in the biggest moments.
The defensive challenge is tough, Quinn reminded the players that the volume of the Buccaneers’ playbook is high and that the plays they’ll see from the same formations can skew diagnoses. Being careful with the trick, quickly diagnosing a quarterback who will likely process it even faster, is a balancing act that defenders will have to perfect.
Oh, and while they’re at it, remember this game is bigger than beating Brady.
Or is it?
“Brady just happens to be a quarterback,” Kears said. “How bad do I want to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? I want to beat them terribly bad. I want to beat them terribly bad. I want to win.
“That’s goal No. 1: I don’t care how it goes, I want to win the wild-card game.”
Follow Yahoo Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein
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