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Facing Tom Brady, Buccaneers and decades of playoff futility, the Cowboys have multiple dragons to slay

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FRISCO, Texas. DeMarcus Lawrence paused.

Two seconds passed, four seconds, then six seconds.

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A moment of uncertainty followed: Will the Dallas Cowboys defense end their track record of throwing bulletin board material at the risk of tempting seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady?

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“We know how good Brady is,” Lawrence said instead. “Not worrying about anything he can do. … Just take care of us and do our job.”

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There was a clear pattern in the Cowboys’ locker room this week ahead of their playoff visit against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Recognize the dragon. Strive to kill him. Don’t overestimate it.

In seven fights against Brady, the Cowboys never won.

Twenty-eight teams have beaten Brady. He was hired by two others. Only the Cowboys (0-7) and Vikings (0-6) never won because of him.

And most of the Cowboys’ roster this season, opening each of the past two seasons against the Buccaneers, is well aware of how the 45-year-old great can finish the game, neutralize the opponent’s weaknesses and lure out mistakes.

So despite the Cowboys’ record four-game lead, which no doubt contributes to their 2.5-point favorite, on BetMGMThe Cowboys face either a challenge or an opportunity as they arrive in Tampa for a game on Monday at 8:15 pm ET. They will finally exorcise the demon – or, for the eighth time in franchise history, fail.

“Brady plays an important role,” Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones told Dallas radio station 105.3 The Fan. “We’re playing Tampa Bay, team [but] I know it’s there and I respect it.

“It challenges us to do something we haven’t done before, and it’s better than Tom Brady.”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady has lost 7-0 to the Cowboys in his career.  Can Dallas finally end Monday's losing playoff run?  (Photo by Cooper Neal/Getty Images)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady has lost 7-0 to the Cowboys in his career. Can Dallas finally put an end to Monday’s losing run into the playoffs? (Photo by Cooper Neal/Getty Images)

The truth about this match

The following three prerequisites can coexist: The Cowboys are basically looking to get past the wildcard round, win a playoff game for the first time since the 2018 season, and win a playoff road game since then (writer checks records to go back to date before she was born) 1992 season.

The Cowboys will face a Buccaneers team of 48 active players, all of whom could undermine Dallas’ chances.

And if the Cowboys manage to pull off such an elusive win against one of the best NFL players of all time, that win will pay off even more. Perhaps that momentum will help the Cowboys reach the Finals.

Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy emphasized that his roster has “zero responsibility” for the franchise’s first five losses, adding that the 2021 and 2022 matches could serve as extremely useful training material.

But he also knows that Brady’s playoff reputation precedes him. So why not sit down a little?

“You have to take advantage of these opportunities,” McCarthy said. “Obviously he is one of the most decorated players of our generation and probably in the history of the National Football League, so that speaks volumes about what he has achieved.

“I know, as competitors, we are all excited about the opportunity to compete with Tom.”

The Cowboys may need to beat their regular season formula to win.

The Cowboys’ Keys to Brady’s Destruction

What exactly do the Cowboys need to show the Buccaneers to get past the wildcard round and eliminate a quarterback with 35 playoff wins?

On defense, players must develop their mental game to anticipate and react quickly. Attacking the inside of the pocket to throw the quarterback out of sync with the receiver is likely to be more effective than trying to run from behind the end.

Why? Brady’s average release time of 2.45 seconds is the fastest in the NFL. If it is not immediately plucked, the ball may disappear.

“He operates almost at the speed of light,” said Cowboys defenseman Osa Odigizuwa, who will be accused of violating Brady’s pocket. “So you have to be able to line up, get a call, and make sure your mind is running fast, doing the job at a high level.”

The Cowboys’ defense has been under threat this season despite their recent decline in performance. But Dallas’s two main strengths — his quick passing and clearance — don’t play well against the Buccaneers’ resume.

The Cowboys hit 9.82% of their pass attempts, second only to the Philadelphia Eagles. Brady, meanwhile, was sacked with a league-low 2.91% tryout rate, despite his often-injured offensive linemen constantly taking the field.

No team has more rushes than the Cowboys 33. But no quarterback who started every game had less fumble than Brady’s five (Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes tied). and only two quarterbacks who attempted at least 120 passes this season have fewer interceptions. more often than Brady’s 1.2% rate.

“It usually takes a quarterback a while to progress,” said Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. “Instantly knowing where to go, that kind of speed mentally and physically… decisiveness in where he goes with the ball [is challenging]”.

Brady’s two favorite targets won: receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans each passed the 1,000-yard mark. The Cowboys are expecting their minor player to be tested after two of their top three cornerbacks were injured at the end of the season. Pro Bowl cornerback Trevon Diggs is expected to take over at right-back. But on the left and in the slot, the Cowboys options range from rookie Daron Bland to fresh-signed veteran Xavier Rhodes, options that Brady may have tempted due to inexperience at the game or because of the Cowboys’ strategy.

Beware of Brady’s chances if he chooses this path.

“If you make a mistake with a guy like that,” Diggs said, “he will definitely capitalize on it.”

Cowboys No. 1 goal’

By all accounts, the Cowboys are bringing a more talented lineup to the Monday night contest. They bring a more consistent (though not quite) product than Tampa this season. The Bucks languish in the playoffs thanks to a series of comebacks in the fourth quarter and overtime.

Cowboys might get frustrated with this formula. They know that no game against Brady is ever over. McCarthy praises his two-minute discipline and proper ball placement around the field, while Dallas defenseman Jaron Kears explained how Brady consistently “did a great job of timing” in clutch situations.

A loss to Dallas would jeopardize the successful aura of the Cowboys’ second consecutive 12-win season, further highlighting theories that the Cowboys under Jerry Jones can’t build postseason momentum. McCarthy and quarterback Duck Prescott could also expect close attention. Too often in the last quarter century, Dallas has made the playoffs only to falter at the most important moments.

The defensive task is difficult, Quinn reminds players that the volume of the Buccaneers playbook is high, and the games they are likely to see under the same schemes can confuse their diagnoses. Being cautious about cheating and quickly diagnosing a quarterback who is likely to react even faster is a balance that defensemen will need to perfect.

Oh, and while they’re at it, remember that this game is more important than just beating Brady.

Either this?

“Brady is just a quarterback,” Kiers said. “How badly do I want to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? I want to defeat them very much bad. I want to defeat them very much bad. I want to win.

“That’s goal #1: I don’t care how it happens, I just want to win the wildcard game.”

Follow Jori Epstein of Sportzshala Sports on Twitter. @JoriEpstein


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