Last night, the Dallas Cowboys beat Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to secure their first road playoff win in 30 years.
With the final score of 31-14, the game was never really that close, in large part due to quarterback Dak Prescott, who threw for four touchdowns and rushed for one.
RJ Ochoa is editor-in-chief of Blogging The Boys, a media outlet that covers the Dallas Cowboys and he joined the Standard to talk about the game. Listen to the story above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.
Texas Standard: Well, the Cowboys got their first road playoff win last night since 1992. But heading into this game, the Buccaneers actually had a losing record on the season. Was this an impressive Cowboys performance or were they just playing a weak team?
RJ Ochoa: I think it depends on your level of anxiety, to be honest. You know, on the surface and on paper, if you just kind of look at this as variables and players and things like that, the Cowboys were favorites. I mean, they were literally favorites. And it’s rare to be a favorite team on the road in an NFL playoff game, but the narrative of it all is obviously very powerful. Tom Brady is the greatest player of all time. The Cowboys were wearing their jinxed blue jerseys. They were playing on a grass field, which they had notoriously not had a lot of success in. And obviously, you know, they have had a lot of trouble just in the playoffs in general, whether it be home or away. And so it’s cathartic and it’s sweet, but it’s fleeting because there’s obviously another playoff game this coming weekend.
Well, I want to talk about Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. He threw for 300 yards and four touchdowns, which is a great performance in terms of stats. But I’m wondering if you could tell us how he’s played this season and how he looked last night.
It’s definitely been the most unique season of Dak’s career. He, after the season opener, which was against this exact team, injured his thumb and missed five games. And typically that has doomed Cowboys seasons – whenever the starting quarterback is set to miss time for one reason or another, everything’s just kind of spiraled out of control. And that’s what’s made the season as a whole very different and inherently his value to them.
But upon returning, Dak kind of picked up right where he left off, but strange to say, he left off in a very poor place when last season ended – and so kind of refined his rhythm, the Dak that everybody has kind of known and loved for seven years now. And so he’s very clearly “in his bag” as the kids like to say. He’s operating at one of the highest levels that we’ve ever seen him throughout his career.
We also got to talk about Brett Maher, the kicker for the Cowboys who set a record last night by missing four extra point attempts. Is this something people are worried about as the Cowboys go deeper into the playoffs?
Yeah, absolutely. Again, when you’re a fan of a team that has found a way to break your heart for the smallest and most incidental reasons, this certainly seems like it could be the first thread to kind of yank that heading into this weekend. And it’s really unfortunate for Brett Maher. This was a really visible game. I anticipate it’s going to be one of the most viewed playoff games of all time.
And Brett Maher, this is actually his second stint with the Cowboys. The first ended in catastrophic fashion in 2019. And he came back, much to the chagrin of myself and many other Cowboys fans, and put together an amazing season. And so it really just is heartbreaking that on this massive stage he had this really poor meltdown. I think the team’s going to support him, but it is a kind of rocky slope right now.
Up next in the divisional round the Cowboys are playing their longtime conference rivals, the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. Can you give us a little background here and tell us what to expect?
Yeah, in many ways, this is kind of the tale of American history. You’ve got to head west and kind of look for prosperity and hope in the future. And it was the ’92 NFC Championship game that was their last road playoff victory before last night. So a lot of kind of full circle this year. And it is the team, independent of all the longstanding history, that bounced them from the playoffs a year ago – and not only bounced them but frankly embarrassed them and exposed them and honestly forced them to kind of reevaluate themselves and help them kind of forge their new identity. They are going to be the tallest task that this Cowboys regime has ever faced.
Well, that said, is it too early to start talking about the Cowboys as Super Bowl contenders?
I think if you make it to this point, you know anybody’s a Super Bowl contender, right? You know, there are eight teams left and you’re two games away from appearing in it. And so the Cowboys have one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. They have one of the best receivers in the NFL in CeeDee Lamb. They’ve got one of the best run games in the NFL. They have one of the best defenses and they have a head coach who leans into aggression and who is kind of willing to to press that issue. And so they have all of the pieces and the components. But again, you know, that has been the case many, many, many times before. This is their hurdle. This is the mark.
You know, last night was important, but they have not gotten past this specific round of the playoffs since 1995. And so if you’re going to do it, you’re going to have to exorcise a lot of demons in the process. They had never beaten Tom Brady, and so they did that. You know, they haven’t gotten to this point or to the next point. At least in the playoffs. So why not do that? I mean, they are definitely a “why not us?” sort of team. It has been a very unconventional season of Dallas Cowboys success, at least as far as seasons that we’ve seen in the 21st century.