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Buccaneers 31, Cowboys 29: Top 10 Whitty Observations

On a crazy, entertaining night in Tampa, the Cowboys pushed the Super Bowl champs to the final play

10. DAK-TASTIC - After last season's gruesome, season-ending ankle injury, two surgeries, the strained shoulder in training camp and an 11-month layoff between taking live snaps, Cowboys' quarterback Dak Prescott was, for the most part, sensational. He took a bad sack that might have cost Dallas a field goal in the first half and threw an interception that was a drop/deflection by CeeDee Lamb. But Prescott was calm in the pocket and on target, with three perfect scoring throws to Lamb and Amari Cooper (twice). If there were any fears about Dak's health, they were erased early in the third quarter when the Cowboys called a read-option and the quarterback kept for a short gain. He finished an almost unfathomable 42 of 58 for 403 yards and the three scores. The Cowboys' record for pass attempts in a game is 62, by Tony Romo in 2012.

9. DEJA BOO - The Cowboys produced an (almost) impressive opening drive, but for the 20th consecutive game they failed to score a touchdown on their first possession. Taking over at their own 2-yard line after a spiffy 65-yard Buccaneers' punt, Dallas drove to midfield before the drive stalled behind three incompletions (including a blatant drop) to Lamb and a false start on the entire offensive line. The Cowboys didn't score on their opening drive in all 16 games in 2020 and the final three of 2019. The last time they found the end zone early: Ezekiel Elliott's 2-yard run that capped a 17-play, 75-yard drive for a 7-0 lead on the Chicago Bears way back on Dec. 5, 2019.

8. COOOOOP - Prescott's target - over and over and over again - was Cooper, who finished with 139 yards and the two touchdowns on 13 catches, the most ever by a Cowboys' receiver in a Week 1 game.

7. KELLEN CREATIVE - In Dallas' first six offensive plays, Elliott lined up at running back, receiver and even fullback. There was also a screen to Dalton Schultz, a forward flip/fake reverse pitch to backup running back Tony Pollard and fake quick pass to Lamb that turned into a 22-yard touchdown. The Cowboys were refreshingly un-vanilla and, for the most part, ran plays outside the hashmarks and away from Tampa's monsters in the middle. Props to offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. The Cowboys called 34 passes and only five runs in the first half. Putting up 440 yards and 29 points against a defense that kept Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs without a touchdown in the Super Bowl is impressive.

6. BROWN > BROWN - Okay, we get it. Bucs' speedy receiver Antonio Brown is better than Cowboys' cornerback Anthony Brown. At times the matchup was an embarrassing mismatch, with Antonio going where he wanted when he wanted on Anthony, including an easy 47-yard touchdown just before halftime. Antonio finished with five catches for 121 yards.

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On a funky Foxboro afternoon full of surprising stats, dramatic plays and head-spinning lead changes, the Cowboys survive in overtime. Our Top 10 observations on a scintillating game deserving of about 100 ...

5. MOJO MOMENT? - Head coach Mike McCarthy introduced "Mojo Moments" during training camp: spontaneous, change-of-momentum plays that could instantly alter games. It took him less than a half to almost provide one for the opponent. After watching kicker Greg Zuerlein (coming off offseason back surgery) horribly duck-hook a 31-yard field goal wide of the net and then doink an extra point off the left upright, McCarthy inexplicably trotted him out to try a 60-yard field goal before halftime. The miss - duh - gave Tom Brady the ball at the 50. Fortunately, the defense forced a Hail Mary. Yes, the Cowboys might have a kicker problem. But they also, again, have a quirky head coach that makes mind-boggling in-game decisions.

4. GOAT GOT 'EM AGAIN - Cowboys are now 0-6 against Brady. In those games the future Hall of Famer is 142 of 235 with 14 touchdowns. Key to the game: In 50 dropbacks, the Cowboys failed to sack Brady.

3. ALMOST HEROES - Zuerlein recovered to make a 48-yard field goal nobody thought he would nail ... Safety Damontae Kazee jarred the ball lose from Bucs' receiver Chris Godwin near the goal line for Dallas' fourth takeaway ... After getting called for holding penalty the play before, Tyron Smith buried Jason Pierre-Paul on Prescott's completion to Lamb that set up Zuerlein's would-be game winner ... The Cowboys were at times great, but just not good enough.

2. OH, OPI - In last year's opener on NBC, the Cowboys lost when receiver Michael Gallup was called for a controversial offensive pass interference penalty in the final 30 seconds that negated what would have been a chip-shot field goal. Thursday night they lost when Godwin wasn't called for offensive pass interference on what looked clearly like a shove of cornerback Jourdan Lewis. The non-call allowed a 24-yard reception to Dallas' 18 that ultimately set up Ryan Succop's game-winning field goal.

1. MORAL VICTORY - Losing on a last-second field goal is always a gut punch, but the Cowboys played better, harder Thursday night than in any game last season. Remember, the last time we saw this team was in January when Andy Dalton and his bloody glove couldn't score a touchdown in a game against the Giants that was so bad NBC flexed out of it. The Cowboys out-gained the Bucs, held the ball longer and - if not for two Zuerlein missed short kicks that left four points on the field - would be 1-0. Instead they are 0-1, but are now staring at eight consecutive games against teams with losing records in 2020. If the Cowboys play as well as they did against Tampa, they will be leading the NFC East comfortably by the time they play the Chiefs the Sunday before Thanksgiving. The NFL's first game of the season might turn out to be its best.