The 2021 NFL Season kicked off in Tampa, Fl, as the Champions welcomed the Dallas Cowboys to Raymond James Stadium.
Kickoff has always held a special place in the hearts of many; for some, it is the chance to correct wrongs from the previous year; others are just happy that football is back. One universal thing is that outside of the two teams, playing neutrals are often let down by the action on the field.
This would not be the case as the Buccaneers hosted Dallas, with a combined 60 points scored, a game decided in the final moments, turnovers and takeaways, and plenty of big plays on offense, defense, and even special teams. This was the ultimate curtain-raiser and an excellent advert for the return of fans. Football is back!
But should the coaches, players, and fans of the Buccaneers have the same celebratory feeling?
The job was done, the W collected, 31 points were scored. So what’s the problem?
The problem is that, without the mental errors and sloppy play on both offensive and defensive units, this game falls into the pile of blowouts that neutrals switch off from. Nobody can deny the quality that the Cowboys possess on both sides of the football, but let’s not kid ourselves to say that “America’s Team” is anywhere close to the Buccaneers.
For sure, Brady wasn’t sacked by Dallas, threw for 4 scores, and capped off a great performance with yet another game-winning drive. Carlton Davis III reminded Dallas why they spent the night picking on Jamel Dean. There were plenty of positives to take from the opening night game. But sadly far too many negatives.
With a patchwork offensive line, Dallas was able to keep Dak Prescott upright all but one drop back, allowing him to go 42 of 58 and 402 yards. The Bucs would also turn the ball over 4 times, through 2 picks and 2 fumbles. Mental lapses were rife as over 100 yards were accumulated on 11 penalties. Often these penalties extended Dallas drives or took the momentum from the Tampa Bay offense. Without these miscues and errors, this game isn’t even close.
Tampa Bay is certainly in the presence of excellence, and the culture around the team has undisputedly changed. In the years before Tom Brady, a sloppy error-strewn game like the one played in front of a first capacity crowd since 2019 would have ended in a frustrating defeat.
Thankfully the players have learned to win ugly and grind out W’s, like so many championship teams, but the errors have to stop before Atlanta comes looking for an upset.