Brady-led Bucs primed to host Cowboys in NFC wildcard game

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Tom Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers down a winding path to the playoffs.

Dak Prescott helped the Dallas Cowboys weather significant challenges on their way to the postseason.

The star quarterbacks meet Monday night in an NFC wild-card game, and they are hoping the regular-season adversity will pave the way to a Super Bowl run.

What You Need To Know

  • Tampa Bay (8-9) hosting Dallas (12-5) Monday night at 8 p.m. in NFC Wildcard game 
  • Dallas, a slight favorite in this game,  hasn’t won a postseason game on the road since the 1992 playoffs
  • The Cowboys have never beaten Brady, who is 7-0 against them

“Everyone works hard to get to this point. There’s no more second chances,” said the 45-year-old Brady, who has the Bucs (8-9) in the hunt for a second title in three years despite finishing the regular season with a losing record for the first time in more than two decades as a NFL starter.

“It’s going to be hard, but we’re battle tested,” the seven-time Super Bowl champion added. “We’ve had some tough games. Some we came back from. Some we haven’t. But … close won’t be good enough going forward for anybody.”

Perhaps no team enters the playoffs under more of a microscope than Dallas (12-5), which lost Prescott for five games after he broke his right thumb during a season-opening loss to Tampa Bay, but remained in contention for the best record in the NFC until last weekend.

A listless double-digit loss to Washington in the regular-season finale raised questions about how Prescott and the Cowboys will react to beginning the postseason on the road against the Bucs.

Dallas hasn’t won a postseason game on the road since the 1992 playoffs. And the Cowboys have never beaten Brady, who is 7-0 against them, including wins with Tampa Bay in the past two season openers.

BUCS BASH: The morning storms didn’t stop Bucs fans from showing up at Ray Jay this morning for playoff swag bags. The Bucs host the Cowboys Monday night in an NFC Wild Card matchup.

— Spectrum Bay News 9 (@BN9)

“Obviously, a lot has changed for both teams since September. I think it’s just a matter of going through the season and gathering information that feels pertinent to your game plan. That has been our approach,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said.

“But you know, it’s playoff football. The only thing we’re guaranteed is four quarters to go win and move on to the next round,” McCarthy added. “Regardless of what they did to win their division, all of that, it’s two teams lining up with the opportunity to move forward.”

No one has accomplished more in the playoffs than Brady, who is looking to add to numerous postseason records, including most games played (47), wins (35), Super Bowl titles (seven) and appearances (10), passing yards (13,049) and touchdowns passes (86).

Despite breaking his own NFL mark for completions in a season (490) and throwing for the third-most yards in the league (4,694), the Bucs have been inconsistent on offense and haven’t won more than two games in a row at any point.

There’s comfort, though, in knowing a five-time Super Bowl MVP is on your side.

“He understands how these games have to be played. The last of my worries, really, is Tom,” offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said.

“When you get in these moments, it’s (about) making sure we’re good around him, making sure we’re all on the same page,” Leftwich added. “That’s what bit us early in the year. It’s hard to get people on the same page when you’re not practicing and there’s a different guy in the huddle every day and there’s youth in the huddle. … I think we have benefited from some of those young guys playing a lot.”

This content was originally published here.

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