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Buccaneers dominated by Cowboys; what’s subsequent for Tom Brady?


TAMPA, Fla. — Is this how Tom Brady’s time in Tampa Bay involves an finish?

The Buccaneers have been dominated Monday evening, dropping 31-14 to the Cowboys in what finally ends up the second-most lopsided playoff loss in Brady’s 23-year profession, and his first-ever loss in eight video games in opposition to Dallas.

Dak Prescott threw for 4 touchdowns and ran for a fifth, and the Cowboys secured the primary red-zone interception in Brady’s three seasons with the Bucs. The Cowboys, relishing their first playoff win in 4 years, advance to play Sunday at San Francisco within the divisional spherical. Prescott’s passer ranking of 143.3 is the third-best ever in a playoff sport with 30-plus move makes an attempt.

The Bucs had struggled to an 8-9 report, the worst of any crew Brady has began for, however that they had the comfort of a division title and a house sport in opposition to a Cowboys crew they beat 19-3 in Week 1. That may need been the Bucs’ finest sport this season, however Monday evening was certainly one of their worst, on each side of the ball.

Brady, 45, is a free agent this spring and now has three choices: retire (as he did briefly final yr), return to the Bucs and hope for higher success or signal with a brand new crew and begin a 3rd chapter in his NFL profession. He’s stated he’ll take his time earlier than making any choice, having modified route final yr and unretired simply 40 days after deciding to name it quits. He’s endured a tough season on and off the sector, with the crew’s struggles within the standings coming as he went via a divorce together with his spouse, supermodel Gisele Bundchen.

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The persistent offensive struggles this season — averaging 12 fewer factors per sport than a yr in the past — put Byron Leftwich’s future as offensive coordinator up within the air, whether or not Brady returns or not. Head coach Todd Bowles is predicted again for 2023, because the Bucs nonetheless received back-to-back division titles for the primary time in franchise historical past, and the Glazer household has by no means fired a coach after just one season.

Dallas set a really robust tone within the first half, main 18-0 on three lengthy landing drives, overlaying 80, 80 and 91 yards. About the one factor going incorrect for the Cowboys was kicker Brett Maher, who missed all three additional factors, this after going 50-for-53 within the common season. Maher would miss a fourth additional level within the third quarter, so his future with the crew is in jeopardy.

The two groups opened the sport with 4 three-and-out collection, then Dallas discovered its rhythm, with Prescott throwing a 22-yard landing move to tight finish Dalton Schultz. The Bucs answered with a protracted drive, however on second-and-goal from the Dallas 5, Brady threw a move to the again of the top zone that was intercepted by Cowboys security Jayron Kearse — Brady’s first red-zone INT in three full seasons with the Bucs.

The Cowboys answered with one other 80-yard landing drive — going for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1, Dallas known as a bootleg for Prescott, who ran in untouched for a simple rating. They added one other rating simply earlier than halftime, Prescott once more hitting Schultz for an 11-yard rating. Dallas outgained the Bucs 246-120 within the first half.

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Tampa Bay went into the sport with optimism, getting injured gamers again on each side of the ball to make them as wholesome a crew as they have been all season. Center Ryan Jensen, out since July with a knee harm, returned and made his season debut, however his presence could not get up a struggling offense, and he landed a 15-yard penalty for pointless roughness.

Brady had totaled 125 yards on 33 passes earlier than the offense discovered itself late within the third quarter. Brady went 7-for-9 for 92 yards on the drive, hitting Julio Jones for a 30-yard landing because the third quarter ended. Another Dallas landing within the fourth quarter padded the margin to 31-6 earlier than Brady and the Bucs drove down the sector for a late landing drive. This is the second-most lopsided playoff lack of Brady’s profession — his Patriots misplaced to the Ravens by 19, 33-14, in 2009.

Bucs receiver Russell Gage needed to be carted off the sector after taking a success excessive that bent his neck within the last minutes.

Brady is the most important query mark, however who else may be enjoying their last sport in a Bucs uniform? Tampa Bay has 20-plus free brokers, together with linebacker and crew captain Lavonte David, and extra cuts may need to be made on account of salary-cap points.

Greg Auman is FOX Sports’ NFC South reporter, overlaying the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He is in his tenth season overlaying the Bucs and the NFL full-time, having hung out on the Tampa Bay Times and The Athletic. You can comply with him on Twitter at @gregauman.

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