Tom Brady Out-Duels Dak Prescott and the Cowboys in Opener

TAMPA, Fla. — The N.F.L. loves its quarterback duels, and Tom Brady and Dak Prescott attacked and riposted over and over on Thursday night time. In the season opener, Brady, who led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Super Bowl title final season, and Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys, who signed an eye-popping contract extension in the low season, traded touchdowns in a compelling if generally sloppy sport that was selected the remaining drive.

The Buccaneers held on for a 31-29 victory as Brady and Prescott mixed for 782 passing yards and seven touchdowns. Brady landed the final punch, main the Buccaneers 57 yards downfield in lower than 90 seconds so Ryan Succop might kick the profitable discipline aim with two seconds left.

“There was no doubt we were going to go win that game” as a result of Brady was at the helm, Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians stated.

But the remaining rating and particular statistics had been nearly irrelevant to the pass-happy affair that swooned on massive performs and miscues. The sport was a reminder of the leisure worth of the N.F.L. and was welcomed by soccer followers who haven’t seen a sport since the 2020 season that was distorted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re certainly at more risk this year than we put ourselves in last year,” Brady told reporters this week. “I mean, just look at all the things that we’re doing differently from last year at this time. So I would definitely say the risk is up for everybody.”

The 65,000 fans sitting cheek-to-jowl at the game were happy to be back. They posed for photos near a Super Bowl LV metal sculpture in front of the stadium and downed beers by the replica pirate ship near the north end zone. But some said the pandemic still loomed large.

“It feels good to be vaccinated” and to be able to move more freely, said Winford Artis, a Buccaneers season-ticket holder who went to just two games last year. “But in the back of your head, you think of things because this is the new normal. But it feels better.”

Brady and Prescott looked strong in their return from injuries. Brady, who repaired an injured knee in the off-season, looked comfortable in the pocket. He completed 32 of 50 passes for 379 yards and four scores.

Two of those touchdown passes were thrown to tight end Rob Gronkowski, Brady’s teammate for nine seasons in New England before the pair moved to Florida in 2020. They became only the second quarterback-receiver pair in league history to combine for 100 touchdowns, and their familiarity with each other was on display all evening.

Midway through the third quarter, the Buccaneers took over the ball at the Dallas 35-yard line after cornerback Carlton Davis intercepted Prescott. Brady found Gronkowski with a 20-yard strike on first down. Three plays later, Brady seemed to anticipate a Cowboys blitz, dropping back several steps to buy time, as Gronkowski bounced off Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence and slipped untouched into the middle of the field. As if running a pick-and-roll play in basketball, Brady got the ball to Gronkowski on the fly and, a few strides later, the tight end was in the end zone.

“It’s unbelievable, the chemistry they’ve had for a long time,” Arians said.

Prescott, who missed most of last season with a significant leg injury, completed 42 of 58 passes for 403 yards and three touchdowns and one interception. Under pressure often, Prescott also ran four times but took only one sack from the vaunted Tampa Bay pass rush. Dallas largely abandoned the run, rushing for 60 total yards, 13 of which came from Prescott.

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