TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys began the 2021 season in thrilling fashion. Tom Brady's game-winning drive resulting in a Ryan Succop field goal set the tone for a divisional title and one of the greatest regular seasons in franchise history.
So, maybe it is a good omen for the Bucs to begin the year against Dallas once again. They are certainly familiar with the opponent and understand what to expect.
“They’re similar to last year," head coach Todd Bowles said. "They’re very big up front, they’re quick on the defensive side of the ball. They’ve got ball-hawks in the secondary, they pressure you quite a bit. They can run the ball with the two running backs, and they can throw the ball as well. Their quarterback is extremely bright, very smart, he knows where to go with the football – just a well – coached team."
Even though the jerseys are the same, the personnel looks different. The Buccaneers' interior offensive line has changed dramatically. Meanwhile, with the departure of Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup's injury, Dak Prescott has one receiver with an NFL touchdown (CeeDee Lamb).
Despite the offensive line concerns for Tampa Bay, they still have two All-Pro caliber tackles in Tristan Wirfs and Donovan Smith.
"In our offensive line, you protect the quarterback no matter who it is. When you’ve got the GOAT back there, you have got to do a little better," Smith said. "So, we’re going to go out there…and do what we’re supposed to do. It’s just one of those things that we get paid to do. We’re out there to protect and have fun.”
Tom Brady is hoping to have one of his favorite targets, Chris Godwin, on the field Sunday night. The first injury report was encouraging with the wide receiver listed as a full participant in practice. Usually, this is great news, but it is a bit interesting to see him wearing a non-contact jersey with the contest four days away.
"Like I said, until [the doctors] say something, he’s practicing getting better and he’s confident every day, so we’ll see where that goes," Bowles said.
Realistically, Godwin and rookie cornerback Zyon McCollum should be the two players who might not suit up in this matchup.
As for Brady, the GOAT loves playing Dallas. He is 6-0 all-time against America's Team throwing for nearly 290 yards per contest. Even with his unconventional offseason, Brady should be in the running for league MVP once again.
Brady has 43 touchdown passes in 19 career Kickoff Weekend games, the most Week 1 touchdown passes in NFL history. He also has 5,311 passing yards on Kickoff Weekend, trailing only Drew Brees (5,566 passing yards) for the most all-time. Brady is expected to become the first quarterback ever to make 20 career starts on Kickoff Weekend, surpassing Brees (19).
Reigning defensive rookie of the year Micah Parsons has tons of respect for Brady and is excited for another opportunity to square off against the greatest to ever do it.
This will be a game decided by protecting the football. Including the postseason, Dallas and Tampa Bay were the top two teams at forcing takeaways. Also, these were the two most prolific offenses from one season ago.
Kickoff is at 8:20 p.m. Sunday Night at AT&T Stadium.
Remember to watch The Blitz on 10 Tampa Bay at 8:30 a.m. earlier that day with myself, David Schiele and James Yarcho of the Locked on Bucs podcast.