Despite a fast start to the third quarter and strong defensive play in the red zone, the Bucs couldn’t overcome turnovers or capitalize on takeaways en route to a 26-20 loss in Dallas Sunday night.
Jameis Winston threw three interceptions (two meaningful) and fumbled once early, while Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was able to chip away at the defense and eventually break a few big runs, totaling 159 and a touchdown. Quarterback Dak Prescott, for his part, completed 32-36 passes for 279 yards and no interceptions and was especially efficient throwing to Jason Witten and Dez Bryant.
The Bucs competed hard, coach Dirk Koetter said after the game, and there were positives to take from the Sunday night contest (red zone defense, third-quarter offense and response), but the Cowboys prevailed and Tampa Bay is left rooting for other teams to help keep its playoff hopes alive.
As for players who shined or were involved specifically in a momentum-shifting play, here’s the list of Most Impressive Bucs, according to PewterReport.com
LB KWON ALEXANDER With 21 tackles in Dallas, Alexander not only set a career-high but also recorded the most in a single game since Luke Kuechly in 2013. The second-year linebacker also forced a fumble in the fourth quarter with the Bucs trailing 23-20, knocking the ball loose from tight end Jason Witten (a rare accomplishment in itself) to set the offense up at that Cowboys’ 45-yard line. The play could’ve been a major turning point halfway through the fourth, but Tampa Bay couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity and would punt three plays later. Still, Alexander, who had 11 tackles in the first half including six solo stops, did his part and more on Sunday night.
TE CAMERON BRATE If the nation didn’t know who Brate was before Sunday, surely it does now. The former undrafted Harvard grad caught five passes for 73 yards, of which 49 came on one drive in the third quarter as the Bucs claimed momentum. After catching passes of 17 on first down and 22 on third down, Brate capped off the drive by going over the middle once more for the score. The Bucs took their first lead, 20-17, with just under five minutes left in the third quarter, but it would be their last points of the night.
WR ADAM HUMPHRIES Humphries only had two receptions for 49 yards, but on a night of inconsistent offense for the Bucs, his 42-yard touchdown stands out as the play of the day. After getting out to somewhat of a cold start, Jameis Winston came out firing in the second half and took a shot deep while rolling out on play-action. Cowboys’ cornerback Brandon Carr nearly intercepted Winston’s pass but instead tipped it up to Humphries, who showed great concentration to make the catch and give the Bucs new life.
DE WILL GHOLSTON Before going down with a gruesome dislocated elbow injury in the fourth quarter, Gholston had been getting decent pressure on Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. Though he only had one sack – on second-and-11 on the opening drive to push Dallas out of FG range and save three points – the fourth-year pro was relentless against the NFL’s best offensive line. Whether it’s Tyron Smith or Doug Free, lining up against Cowboys’ offensive tackles is tough sledding. Gholston, who finished with four tackles, was able to get some push throughout the night.
LB LAVONTE DAVID David was in the right place at the right time to fall on Alexander’s forced fumble in the fourth quarter, which gave the Bucs offense the ball at the Cowboys’ 45-yard line. The outside linebacker, who finished with nine tackles, recorded a critical sack on first down during Dallas’ final drive of the first half. The six-yard loss, moving them from the Bucs 30 to 36, halted the Cowboys momentum and put the Bucs defense in position to keep them out of field goal range. 17-6 heading into the tunnel is a much different game than 20-6.
S KEITH TANDY Chris Conte returned from a serious chest injury, but Tandy, who sealed the last two wins with interceptions in the fourth quarter, was given the start Sunday night. He put his physicality on display, finishing with a second-most 14 tackles against the Cowboys’ power running game.
Honorable Mention: DE Robert Ayers (pressure on Prescott before half), Punt Coverage (Bryan Anger, Josh Robinson and Ryan Smith flipped the field a couple times, including fourth quarter pin inside the 5-yard line), K Roberto Aguayo (2-for-2 on FGs and PATs)
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
PewterReport.com prides itself on being the most complete, comprehensive news source covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and delivering inside scoop on the team found nowhere else.