FRISCO, Texas – Enough of this Tom Brady is 7-0 against the Dallas Cowboys. Never lost to them.
Let's not just stuff a stat conveniently in a box, then tie a bow to the top, as if the now 45-year-old Brady has some crusade going against the team with a Blue Star on its helmet. Let's unpack the facts.
Do you realize that four of those wins occurred between 2003 and 2015. Not a soul on this Cowboys team that's gone 12-5 in back-to-back seasons and has qualified for the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2006-07 was on that Cowboys 2003 team losing 12-0 to the Brady-led Patriots. Not a soul on this team was on the Cowboys squad in 2007 losing 48-27 to Brady's Patriots.
And only one person on this 2022 team, Tyron Smith, was on the Cowboys' 8-8 team in 2011 losing 20-16 to Brady's Patriots. And think about this: In those three seasons the Patriots won one Super Bowl (2003) and lost the two others.
In 2015, when the Cowboys lost to Brady and the Patriots, 30-6, those eventual 4-12 Cowboys were Tony Romo-less in that game. You know how many of these current Cowboys were on that team? Try three, Smith, Zack Martin and DeMarcus Lawrence.
Now, in 2019, an 8-8 Cowboys team in a cold, driving rainstorm in Foxborough, Mass., Brady and the Patriots thumped the Cowboys by all of 13-9, the eventual 12-4 Patriots' only touchdown scored after recovering a blocked punt at the Cowboys' 12-yard line, Brady throwing a 10-yard TD pass. There were 15 current Cowboys on that team, including the additions of Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Leighton Vander Esch, Brett Maher, Tony Pollard and Luke Gifford, to name a few.
That's how Brady got to 5-0 with the Patriots against the Cowboys.
So really, Brady, with the current Buccaneers, has only faced a majority of these Cowboys heading to Tampa, Fla., for Monday night's Super Wild Card Weekend playoff game in the 2021 and 2022 season openers. And look, 23 of the Cowboys in that 2021 game are no longer with the team losing 31-29 when Brady led the Bucs to a game-winning field goal with two seconds remaining. And in that game, Dak Prescott outplayed Brady, the only problem being driving the Cowboys 68 yards for Greg Zuerlein's 48-yard field goal to take a 29-28 lead with 1:24 left to play, yep, a minute and 24 seconds too soon.
And in this year's season opener, of course the 19-3 Bucs win, the Dallas defense held Brady to just 19 points, but it was the Tampa Bay defense strangling this Cowboys offense to a season-low three points and to their third-fewest total yards, 244, to pick up the win.
Wonder if anyone in Tampa is worried going into this game that the Cowboys hold an all-time postseason 2-0 record against the Bucs, even if those wins took place after the 1981 and 1982 seasons, 38-0 and 30-17. Meaningless, right?
These are but your 1-year-old's Cowboys.
So, leave it to Cowboys safety Jayron Kearse, 0-3 when playing Brady, having lost to him and New England, 24-10 while with the Vikings, to put this game into perspective when asked, "How badly do you want to beat Brady?"
"How bad do I want to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?" Kearse said rhetorically and correctively. "Real bad. Real bad."
Well said. Like, what's 2003 got to do with it?
- Let's See: This would be huge. Four guys who didn't play any or the entire game this past Sunday against Washington, Tyler Biadasz, Leighton Vander Esch, Johnathan Hankins and DaRon Bland, were expected to begin the light workout the Cowboys had on Wednesday and then jump into full practice on Thursday, fingers crossed all are good to go on Monday night. Especially Biadasz. That offensive line movement to compensate for the starting center's loss (high ankle sprain) really sprained the line play against Washington. Now, as you were, Biadasz at center, and he said, "I'm good" Wednesday, and sure looked it rehabbing the other day pushing a weighted sled; Connor McGovern back at left guard after having played center; and Tyler Smith back at left tackle after having played guard. And if Bland can return at cornerback and Mackensie Alexander in the slot, that would lessen the burden at left corner. Then Hankins gets back plugging the middle, and how nice for the team's second leading tackler, Vander Esch, to man the middle. Keep saying this: Injuries do matter.
- Playing On Grass: Yep, should be good grass at Raymond James Stadium, too, even this time of year. It's Florida, right? So it's been pointed out the Cowboys are 1-4 playing on grass fields this year, beating Tennessee, but losing to the Eagles, Packers, Jaguars and Commanders, suggesting grass slows down this speedy Cowboys team. Still wonder why grass fields slow down a fast team but don't slow down a slow team. As Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said the other day, "My point is, they have to play on grass too."
- Lion Roars: Be hard to imagine Cowboys "lionbacker" Micah Parsons not being hacked over his exclusion on the NFLPA All-Pro team at either edge rusher or off-the-ball linebacker, not only with his 13.5 sacks, but also 69 QB pressures, five tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and three recovered fumbles, along with his 54 tackles. And if you watch him, there is no stat for how he influences opposing offenses, and the opponents watching up close and personal who did the voting know it. But that's OK. All he needs is a little additional fire for a playoff game, or as Kearse said of the snub, "It's going to be one of those games for him."
- Take That Ball Away: Of all the great defenses Dallas has had, this is amazing that the Cowboys have led the NFL in back-to-back seasons in takeaways, 33 this year and 34 last year, becoming the first team to lead the NFL in consecutive years since Pittsburgh from 1972-74. Wouldn't hurt to take a few more away Monday night, and remember, they have intercepted Brady three times in the past two games.
- Been There: Only three players having spent their entire careers with the Cowboys have played in more than five postseason games: Tyron Smith, DeMarcus Lawrence and Zack Martin, all three in six each over four playoff seasons. Leading the way would be T.Y. Hilton, appearing in nine games over five postseasons with Indianapolis. How young is this team? This will be only the second postseason game for 13 Cowboys players. Oh, if we're scoreboarding, this Brady guy, uh, he's appeared in 47 postseason games, having won 35 of those, with NFL record-highs of 13,049 passing yards and 86 passing touchdowns.
- Playoff Bites: The Cowboys finished the season with 54 sacks, most since 59 in 2008 and second most since the 57 of 1983 and 1984, just after sacks became an official NFL stat in 1982 … The Cowboys had a three-game winning streak in wild-card playoff games, 2009, 2014 and 2018, before losing to the 49ers last year, and have a five-game losing streak in divisional round games, starting back in 1996 through 2018 … Solidifying his No. 1 receiver status, CeeDee Lamb finished tied for fifth with his 107 receptions, second in franchise history to only Michael Irvin's 111 in 1995, and Lamb's nine receiving touchdowns ranked fifth in the NFL too.
And we go to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones this week for our last word, Jerry waxing poetically when asked if the adversity caused by the 26-6 thud to the Commandeers might inspire his team to play better Monday night in the first round of the playoffs against Tampa Bay.
"I know that success are the prospects of being smart and got all the answers, and success is every bit the undermining flaw that failure is. And to have had some and to think that's what you are is also a fraud. Both are equal frauds."
In other words, I think, none of that matters in a win or go home game like Monday night's will be. It's all about the moment.
Can't get shots like that anywhere else.