By FRED GOODALL
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Dak Prescott outplayed Tom Brady, throwing for four touchdowns and running for another to lead the Dallas Cowboys to a 31-14 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an NFC wild-card playoff game on Monday night.
Prescott completed 25 of 33 passes for 305 yards and played turnover-free ball for the first time in eight games as the Cowboys (13-5) dominated the listless Bucs (8-10) in what may turn out to be Brady’s last game in a Tampa Bay uniform.
Dallas beat Brady for the first time in the seven-time Super Bowl champion’s career and won in the postseason on the road for the first time in 30 years to earn a trip to San Francisco to face the 49ers in the NFC divisional round next Sunday.
The Cowboys had dropped eight straight playoff games on the road since winning the NFC championship game in San Francisco on Jan. 17, 1993.
Brady, who signed with Tampa Bay in 2020 and led the Bucs to a Super Bowl title two years ago, will be a free agent this winter. He retired briefly last February before changing his mind and returning for a 23rd season at age 45.
About the only thing that went wrong for the Cowboys on Monday night was kicker Brett Maher missing his first four extra points, becoming the first player in NFL history to miss that many in a game. Maher finally converted on his fifth attempt after coach Mike McCarthy decided against sending him out to try a field goal from roughly the same distance as a PAT.
Tampa Bay receiver Russell Gage was strapped to a backboard and carted off the field after an injury late in the fourth quarter. Gage slipped and fell to the turf while running a route and took a blow to the neck area as he went down. He was unable to get to his feet and silence fell over the stadium as players took a knee and medical personnel tended to him.
Brady, who had been 7-0 against the Cowboys, completed 35 of 66 passes for 351 yards, including second-half touchdowns of 30 yards to Julio Jones and 8 yards to Cameron Brate. He was sacked twice and also threw a costly interception — a second-quarter, end-zone pick from the Dallas 5 that prevented the Bucs from potentially taking the lead when they were only trailing 6-0.
Prescott tossed the first of his two TD passes to Dalton Schultz to get the Cowboys going, then turned Brady’s first red-zone interception since 2019 into points by finishing a 15-play, 80-yard drive by circling left end for a 1-yard TD run on fourth down.
The Dallas quarterback expanded the lead to 18-0 with an 11-yard TD throw to Schultz, then threw 2 yards to Michael Gallup for a 24-point lead early in the third quarter. It could have been 28-0 if not for Maher missing all four extra points.
Prescott’s last TD pass, an 18-yarder to CeeDee Lamb, put the Cowboys up 31-6 with 10:13 remaining.
Little came easy this season for the Bucs, just the fourth team in NFL history to make the playoffs with a losing record in a non-strike year.
While Brady broke his own league record for completions in a season and ranked third in passing yards behind Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert, Tampa Bay finished 25th in scoring at 18.4 points per game and never won more than two in a row while holding off Carolina, New Orleans and Atlanta to repeat as NFC South champions.
Dallas rebounded from a 19-3 loss to Tampa Bay in Week 1, weathering Prescott being sidelined five weeks with a fractured right thumb suffered in that game to resemble a Super Bowl contender much of the season.
Prescott, however, entered the playoffs on a career-worst, seven-game interception streak and had a pick returned for a touchdown in three of the last four games, including an ugly 26-6 loss to Washington in the regular-season finale.
Cowboys: TE Peyton Hendershot (thigh) left the game in the first quarter. … T Jason Peters (hip) limped off in the second quarter and did not return.
Buccaneers: C Ryan Jensen was activated from injured reserve to the active roster after missing the entire regular season with a knee injury suffered on the second day of training camp. He was immediately inserted into the starting lineup.
Cowboys: At San Francisco next Sunday in the divisional round.
Buccaneers: The wait begins to learn if Brady will retire, return for a fourth season with Tampa Bay or sign with another club in free agency.
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