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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)

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About the Author: Zach Shapiro

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: zshapiro12@gmail.com
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Horse
4 years ago

This looks fair to me.

Michael
4 years ago

Kwon and Lavonte were flat out bad in this game. They had no strength vs the run and allowed 15 of 16 passes to be completed when they were targeted. Sometimes it seems as if the writer of this article just looks at the stats. Sure, they had a nice FF and FR as a duo but over the course of the game, they were just blocked so easily, shot through the wrong hole, missed tackles and did not cover well. Thats why Prescott over and over again targeted them.Nearly half of his attempts were in the direction of Alexander… Read more »

Naplesfan
Reply to  Michael
4 years ago

You’re wrong. The biggest reason for the high completion rate of Prescott, besides his oft-demonstrated accuracy as a passer, was the fact that the pass rush was ineffective. We rarely blitzed, which is the defensive playcaller’s purview. Can’t blame the high completion rate on linebackers who are not expected to be great pass defenders but rather to be great tacklers in the mid-field or blitzers when it’s called. Our defensive line was unable to put pressure on the quarterback and when that happens the pressure instead is put on opposing linebackers, safeties, and cornerbacks. They did their job reasonably well… Read more »

cgmaster27
Reply to  Naplesfan
4 years ago

Actually we blitzed 11 times against Dallas and only got home once. As for the holding players to an impossible standard of performance, maybe you should heed your own advice when it comes to our QB?

Naplesfan
Reply to  cgmaster27
4 years ago

I hold no such standards for Winston. Our argument in the other thread was between my agreement with Scott that Winston looked like the rookie in the game rather than the true rookie Prescott, as opposed to the counter-argument that Winston shares no blame for his performance. I made clear in various comment threads that the principle reason we lost the game was the drop in defensive performance, and that all the emphasis on Winston, both pre-game and post game, was out of proportion to his effect on our record. I made it clear that Winston and the entire offense… Read more »

Naplesfan
Reply to  cgmaster27
4 years ago

11 blitzes out of 70 some defensive plays is “rarely blitzing”.

Michael
Reply to  Naplesfan
4 years ago

But not all 70 plays were passes. LOL

Michael
Reply to  Naplesfan
4 years ago

Obv Prescott targeted the LBs because the DBs did a good job. Yes, the pass rush was bad but still the LBs for TB played bad too.

Naplesfan
4 years ago

Great list of achievers.

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