ARLINGTON, Texas — It was a night to forget for the Dallas Cowboys, and yet it's an evening they better remember for the remainder of the 2022 season. It was expected that the Dallas defense would do its best to try and bottle up the incomparable Tom Brady and, to their credit, that's exactly what they did - though it became an effort wasted by their offensive compatriots.
Being held to only a field goal on your own field will usually have that effect. And according to All-Pro linebacker Devin White, the Bucs defense played well not only because they executed, but also because they weren't fooled by anything the Cowboys tried to do.
"I think it was just great preparation," said White following the 19-3 victory at AT&T Stadium. "This time going into the game already having film against them against us and knowing how they like to attack us. So I think we were able to put together a better game plan than last year. … Last year we learned they really weren't going to commit to the run game and the runs they did, they were going to try to get outside and not run into the interior.
"But most of the [passing] game was quick-game - a lot of curls, a lot of hitches, a lot of slants. We kind of knew that going in so we were able to attack it."
It worked, to say the very least, as the Cowboys floundered to only three third-down conversions in 15 tries and as well as being accountable for the majority of the team's 10 penalties. It's quite telling that the Cowboys ran two more offensive plays (64) than did the Buccaneers (62) but produced 103 fewer total yards and 16 fewer points.
Dan Quinn cooked up a defensive scheme that held Brady to only one touchdown in 60 minutes of football and even that took a Herculean effort by perennial Pro Bowl receiver Mike Evans to accomplish, the seven-time Super Bowl-winning QB also finishing with an interception and just 212 yards passing; but Dak Prescott bested Brady in the worst way by throwing for an INT of his own to go along with no TDs and only 134 passing yards with a passer rating of 47.2.
The execution of Quinn's scheme was in no way perfect - allowing 127 rushing yards by Leonard Fournette on 21 carries - but it forced Brady and Co. into multiple field goals and by the time Micah Parsons landed his second sack and Trevon Diggs delivered his second pass break up (all four things happening in rapid succession to help overcome Prescott's interception in the second quarter), it was clear the offense would have to do something … anything … to help out.
Instead, they got worse as the game wore on.
And now, with Prescott likely to miss several weeks with a thumb injury suffered in late in the fourth quarter, the onus is on the defense that much more going forward - as unfathomable as that might be when considering how they were already expected to shoulder the load this season while the offense attempted to figure itself out but, for his part, Parsons understands the assignment.
"[The spotlight] is bigger," the First-Team All-Pro said. "We held them to a bunch of field goals and one offensive touchdown for how explosive their offense is, which is good, but it's got to be more than that. We have to take it to another level, we've got to hone in on this film and look at these mistakes we made and get ready for this tough matchup next week."
Things won't get any easier in Week 2 when Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals, who are displeased with their overtime loss in Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, mosey into town - a high-powered offense looking to regain the potency that led it to the Super Bowl last season.
The bad news is the Cowboys offense will be without Prescott for a potential bounce back, but the good news is Parsons is now that much more hungry to end what's now a two-game losing streak in his last two games played, stretching back to the loss at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers on Super Wild Card Weekend in January.
There's a solid chance the defense will have to add some touchdowns to their arsenal sooner than later to put Dallas in the win column in September, and when asked if the Cowboys as a whole are low on confidence after the disappointing opener, Parsons answered, and he didn't stutter or bite his tongue in his reply.
"Not at all," he said. "As long as I'm on this team, I'm going to forever stay hungry - regardless."