Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were sent crashing out of the NFL playoffs on Monday as a rampant Dallas Cowboys advanced with a comprehensive 31-14 victory.
Seven-time Super Bowl champion Brady — whose future remains shrouded in uncertainty — cut a miserable figure as his 23rd season came to an abrupt end.
The 45-year-old quarterback, who announced his retirement from the sport last year only to reverse the decision 40 days later, was never able to generate momentum for a lackluster Buccaneers offense.
Instead, it was the Cowboys, led by quarterback Dak Prescott, who dominated throughout to set up a divisional-round playoff clash with the San Francisco 49ers in California next Sunday.
Brady’s solid reputation
Brady had never lost against the Cowboys in seven previous meetings, but the chances of that record being extended on Monday always looked slim.
The only negative for the Cowboys was the form of kicker Brett Maher, who claimed an unwanted piece of NFL history by missing four straight extra point attempts.
The 33-year-old is the first player in NFL history to miss four extra points in a single game.
Maher made 50 of 53 extra points during the regular season, but his form collapsed bizarrely at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium.
Fortunately for the Cowboys, Maher’s problems in front of the posts were moot, as Prescott and the Dallas offense set about dismantling the Buccaneers’ defense.
Prescott threw four touchdowns and finished with 305 passing yards from 25 of 33 completions.
The 29-year-old connected with tight end Dalton Schultz for a 22-yard completion for the opening touchdown in the first quarter to cap a seven-play 80-yard drive.
Prescott then cleverly scampered over for the second Dallas touchdown, faking a hand-off before sprinting into the endzone unopposed in the second quarter.
Prescott found Schultz for the tight end’s second touchdown of the night to make it 18-0 at half-time.
Michael Gallup collected a two-yard pass from Prescott for Dallas’s fourth touchdown to make it 24-0 in the third quarter, and despite Maher’s problems with the boot, there was to be no way back for Brady and the Buccaneers.
Brady showed a flicker of his old self late in the third quarter with a superbly flighted 30-yard pass to find Julio Jones for a touchdown that made it 24-6.
But Dallas responded emphatically at the start of the fourth quarter with their fifth touchdown of the night.
Dallas coach Mike McCarthy spurned the chance to give Maher a field goal attempt on a 4th&4 and instead Prescott tossed a touchdown pass to a wide-open CeeDee Lamb.
Maher finally drilled an extra point to make it 31-6.
Play was interrupted late in the fourth quarter after an apparent neck injury to Bucs receiver Russell Gage, before Brady connected with Cameron Brate for a second touchdown. A successful two-point conversion made it 31-14.
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