Dak Prescott outperforms Tom Brady as Dallas Cowboys knock out Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Dak Prescott outperformed seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady as the Dallas Cowboys knocked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of the playoffs.

Despite Brady, 45, having his first losing season in his 23-year career, the Bucs made the playoffs.

But their luck ran out as Prescott threw four touchdown passes and ran for another as Dallas earned its first away playoff win since 1993.

Dallas cruised to a 31-14 victory after leading 18-0 at halftime.

The five-time Super Bowl champions, who last won the Vince Lombardi Trophy in 1996, had lost their previous eight road playoff games dating back to a win at the San Francisco 49ers in 1996.

The 49ers defeated the Cowboys in the wildcard round last season, and the old rivals from the 1990s will meet again in next week’s divisional round at Levi’s Stadium.

Despite having a worse regular-season record than Dallas (12-5), Tampa Bay (8-9) won the NFC South division and secured home-field advantage for the final game in week one of the playoffs.

Dallas had to go to Raymond James Stadium, where Brady won a record seventh Super Bowl in his first season with the Buccaneers two years ago.

This was Brady’s 48th play-off game, more than 23 of the NFL’s 32 franchises have had in their entire history, but there was never any indication that he would add to that total.

On the game’s first four possessions, neither team got a first down, but Prescott eventually found his rhythm, with tight end Dalton Schultz catching a high throw for a 22-yard touchdown.

The Buccaneers gained 70 yards on their next drive before Brady made an uncharacteristic error, attempting to throw the ball away under pressure only to be intercepted in the end zone.

The Cowboys responded with a 15-play drive that covered 80 yards, with Prescott capping it by faking a hand-off and running into the end zone untouched.

On Dallas’ next possession, Prescott made 20-yard passes to Schultz and CeeDee Lamb before finding Schultz for an 11-yard score to round off a 91-yard drive.

Victory looked assured when Prescott, who tied for a league-high 15 interceptions despite missing five games of the regular season, picked out Michael Gallup at the back of the end zone on the Cowboys’ first possession after half-time.

Julio Jones then managed to hang on to a 30-yard pass from Brady to get the Bucs on the board, but Prescott made an 18-yard touchdown pass to Lamb in the fourth quarter to finish with 305 yards, completing 25 of his 33 pass attempts.

Brady salvaged some pride with a late touchdown pass to Cameron Brate and actually finished with 351 yards, making 35 of a whopping 66 passes.

The three-time NFL MVP had already retired after Tampa Bay was eliminated from the playoffs last season, but he returned just 40 days later to play for the Bucs again.

Brady then agreed to a 10-year, $375 million contract with Fox Sports to become the network’s lead NFL analyst – whenever the future Hall of Famer decides to hang up his helmet for good.

The Buccaneers are expected to welcome Brady back for his 24th NFL season, but a number of teams are interested in signing him in free agency.

He could stay in Florida, as the Miami Dolphins have long been interested in him. Between 2019 and 2021, when he was with the New England Patriots, owner Stephen Ross was fined $1.5 million for ‘illegal contact’ with Brady.

Tua Tagovailoa’s NFL future is in doubt after the quarterback, 24, missed the Dolphins’ play-off loss to the Buffalo Bills while recovering from his second concussion of the season.

Following his divorce from Gisele Bundchen last year, Brady is also building an eco-friendly mansion in Miami.

He has also been linked with the Las Vegas Raiders, whose head coach is former Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, while there has been talk of a potential return to the Patriots as coach Bill Belichick, with whom Brady won six Super Bowls, has committed to another season.

One thing is for sure, though. Brady will take his time over making his decision after admitting he made a mistake by deciding his future a matter of days after last season’s play-off exit.

“I am going to get home and get a good night’s sleep,” he said after Monday’s game. “There has been a lot of focus on this game and it will be one day at a time.”

Brady added: “I love this organisation. It is a great place to be and thank you to everyone for welcoming me. I’m very grateful for the respect and hopefully I gave the same thing back to you guys.”