Cowboys vs. Brady: History needs to change

SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) — There was a time not that long ago when the idea of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beating the Dallas Cowboys was nothing less than laughable.

You have to go back a ways to remember that time period, but the fact is the Bucs are still one of the most recent expansion teams in the NFL after having been born on the football field in 1976, along with the Seattle Seahawks. To put it another way, only four teams have joined the NFL as new expansion teams since Tampa Bay started play in those – well, ‘iconic’ orange and white creamsicle uniforms that screamed the 1970s.

In 1976, the Cowboys were peaking as a dynasty in the NFL, bowing only to Pittsburgh in that decade as a result of two Super Bowl losses to the Steelers. Dallas was becoming ‘America’s Team’ as the decade was ending, and this was about the time Tampa Bay was learning to put on pads and helmets.

After a winless inaugural season in ‘76, the Bucs would face the Cowboys for the first time in their second season, a relatively modest 23-7 loss in Dallas – but this was just the beginning. These two teams would not play again until 1980, but from that point until 1990, the Cowboys would establish a perfect 8-0 all-time record against the Buccaneers, including two playoff wins at Texas Stadium in 1982 and 1983. In fact, it wasn’t until a full-fledged Dallas rebuild was happening under then-new owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jimmy Johnson that the Cowboys even played a game in Tampa, Florida, and even that was a win in the second of two regular season matchups between these teams in 1990.

But in time, the eventual Dallas dynasty of the 90s eroded and the Buccaneers finally established a uniform design and color scheme that people could take seriously. After eventually winning the Super Bowl following the 2002 regular season with arguably the best defense seen since the 1985 Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay had a winning culture.

Fast forward to 2021, and we get into a story about a guy named Brady.

Yeah, Tom Brady: Former quarterback of the New England Patriots and now in his third year with Tampa Bay. Yes, the guy with a jewelry store’s worth of Super Bowl rings, including championships with both teams.

More significant for the Cowboys right now than their historic stretch of dominance over a young Tampa Bay franchise is their recent struggles with the Bucs with Brady at quarterback. Having said that, a historical look at Dallas versus New England is in order.

The Cowboys and the Boston Patriots were both born on the field in 1960, but they never met face-to-face until the NFL and the AFL merged in 1966, yet it would still be four more years until both leagues, or conferences, would start playing each other during the regular season. Much like Dallas’ undefeated run over Tampa Bay early on, the Cowboys would win their first seven games against the renamed New England Patriots from 1971 through 1996.

But Brady changed all of that starting in 2003 as a young quarterback with a single Super Bowl win under his belt at the time. His first win over Dallas was just the second ever for the Pats against the Cowboys, but since then Brady remains perfect. After five straight wins against America’s Team while in New England, Brady has now won two straight games against the Cowboys while leading the Bucs, both coming in the last two season openers for both teams.

14 October 2007: Tom Brady (12) of the New England Patriots during the Patriots 48-27 win over the Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas.

That’s right, Brady has a perfect 7-0 record against the Dallas Cowboys spanning a career that started in Y2K, not long after we learned that civilization would continue after the 1900s were finished. Back then, VCRs were still more popular than Tivo, and there were no smart phones.

If you have been following along, you can clearly see that historical trends have a way of dissolving in the NFL landscape, no matter which team you may follow. It even goes so far as to flip from one time to another, and heading into Monday night’s third playoff game ever between the Cowboys and the Bucs, Dallas needs only to focus on that dynamic.

This will not be the same Brady who launched 50 touchdown passes in 2007, 23 of those to wide receiver Randy Moss, who also never lost a football game to the Cowboys while going 8-0. This Brady is 45 years old and, while still capable as a passer, shows clear signs of age and almost zero ability to get out of the pocket.

Further, Tampa Bay comes into this game as the worst division winner out of eight in the NFL. The Buccaneers are the only team in the postseason below .500 and if not for winning the NFC South, they would be making vacation plans right now. The Cowboys should bring a few travel agents with them on the trip to Tampa, but which team will need them?

There was much talk about how the Cowboys were not prepared against Washington on Week 18, and that much cannot be argued – never mind the fact that other games including Philadelphia and San Francisco did not go as needed to help Dallas’ playoff seeding.

In this case, the Cowboys can not only beat one of the league’s great quarterbacks for the first time ever, but let’s get back to that seeding discussion right quick: A Dallas win over Tampa Bay would obviously push the Cowboys into the Divisional Round of the NFC playoffs for the second straight year, but where would they go from there?

All it would take for the Cowboys to actually get a home game after the Wild Card round is a win by the New York Giants over the Minnesota Vikings and an upset victory by the Seahawks over the San Francisco 49ers, which happens to be a third meeting this year between those two rivals in the NFC West.

It is tough to beat a team three times in a season, and the 49ers will be trying to do that with a rookie quarterback in Brock Purdy, no matter how well he has played in a limited sample size.

Would you really be shocked if Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins went out and laid an egg against a Giants team that might deserve a little more respect that it has gotten this year?

Don’t think so.

Yes, this is a huge game for the Cowboys on several levels, and playing Tom Brady again is probably not the biggest issue facing Dallas heading into the playoffs. Tampa is more than solid on defense and the Cowboys obviously have a defensive secondary to figure out and an offensive line to set up for the postseason. Maybe the biggest issue facing Dallas is quarterback Dak Prescott’s cascade of interceptions thrown down the stretch during the regular season.

But changing history against Brady, cosmetic or not, has to happen if Dallas is going to have a shot at meaningful playoff success for the first time since – well, since Brady was backing up starting quarterback Brian Griese at the University of Michigan.

How’s that for history?

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