Coming into the regular season, the two biggest position concerns for the Dallas Cowboys were their wide receivers and the offensive line. If this opening game is any indication, they have plenty to worry about … and now they have to add quarterback to that list as well as Dak Prescott is expected to miss a few weeks with a hand injury.
In falling to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 19-3, in front of a sold-out crowd of 93,797 fans, the Cowboys were unable to muster up much in the way of any offensive threat. The offensive line performed decently under the circumstances, but consistency and penalties were an issue.
For their part, the receiving corps largely struggled to create space and so Dak Prescott, who was by no means sharp himself, only completed 14 of 29 pass attempts for 134 yards and a passer rating of 47.2. New No. 1 wideout CeeDee Lamb was targeted 11 times but only hauled in two passes for 29 yards.
Even worse, Prescott then had to leave the game with five minutes remaining with an injury to his throwing hand, word on the X-ray results to come. But Dak did say after the game he expects to have surgery on his thumb and the Cowboys are sounding like he will miss a few games.
The one bright spot on offense might have been Ezekiel Elliott, as he averaged 5.2 yards per carry. However, after much talk about the team relying on the running game, Elliott was only handed the ball 10 times, finishing with 52 rushing yards on the night. Meanwhile, although there was talk of getting Tony Pollard more involved, he managed just eight yards on six carries, a 1.3 average, with two catches for 14 more yards.
Of course, coming into this season, the Cowboys knew that they would have to rely on their defense, and led by Micah Parsons, last season's Defensive Rookie Player of the Year, the unit at least kept this game from getting completely out of hand. Still, future Hall of Famer Tom Brady did what Tom Brady does, passing for 212 yards and a touchdown for an 87.3 rating.
Running back Leonard Fournette perhaps did more damage, though, as he rushed for 127 yards on 21 carries. He and the Buccaneers defense, which held Dallas to 244 total yards of offense, proved to be too much in this one. By comparison, Tampa Bay racked up 347 total yards of offense.
The two sides traded field goals on their opening drives of the game with Brett Maher splitting the uprights from 51 yards out. Tampa Bay's Ryan Succop then answered with a 44-yard field goal of his own.
Unfortunately, the Cowboys suffered a blow during their first possession when left guard Connor McGovern departed the game with an ankle injury. For an offensive line that's already thin due to the loss of Tyron Smith, seeing another starter sidelined was something they certainly could not afford.
Succop made it two-for-two on the Buccaneers' first two series as this time around he was good from 38 yards, giving the visitors an early lead.
The Buccaneers marched into Cowboys territory again on their third possession, but after Parsons sacked Tom Brady on third-and-8, Dallas caught a break when Succop pulled his kick wide left. The Cowboys, though, couldn't take advantage of the miscue.
Quite the opposite in fact as on third-and-10 from his own 26-yard line, Prescott was then picked off by Tampa Bay safety Antoine Winfield, the Buccaneers set up at the Dallas 23-yard line. Thankfully, the defense held with Parsons picking up his second sack of the night to force another field goal try. This time Succop was good from 29 yards.
Another Tampa Bay drive, another field goal opportunity. The Dallas defense was thankfully keeping the Buccaneers out of the end zone, but the visitors went into the break with a 12-3 advantage after Succop booted a 47-yard field goal with 14 seconds left in the second quarter.
Perhaps the Cowboys should have felt lucky to only be down by nine. At the break, the Buccaneers had outgained the Cowboys 294 yards to just 94, of which only 53 had come through the air.
After knocking on the goal-line door so many times, the Buccaneers finally walked on through. Starting at their own 10-yard line with just over eight minutes left in the quarter, the Buccaneers started off with three straight Fournette runs for a combined 37 yards. Then it was Brady's turn as he completed 4 of 5 passes for 39 yards, the last of which was a 5-yard toss to Mike Evans on the left side of the end zone for the game's only touchdown.
With that, the Buccaneers already seemed to have an insurmountable 19-3 lead heading into the final quarter.
Desperate to add to their point total, the Cowboys went for it on fourth-and-2 at the Buccaneers' 41-yard line, but Prescott's pass to rookie Dennis Houston was tipped, falling incomplete. Just three snaps into Tampa Bay's next possession, though, safety Donovan Wilson hauled in a Brady offering, his interception giving Dallas the ball at its own 48-yard line.
Still unable to do anything on offense, the Cowboys night tumbled further downhill when Prescott had to leave the game late in the fourth quarter after having his throwing hand hit on consecutive plays. He was headed to the locker room soon after Cooper Rush came into the game.
Obviously, the clock couldn't strike zeroes fast enough. Once it did, the Cowboys headed into Week 2 of this young 2022 season with even more questions to be answered.