The Tampa Bay Buccaneers entered Week-16 with nothing left to play for but pride and tape. Both should be important for Buccaneers players, but once again the team fell short of having something to play for in January.
The Bucs started the game with the football, and the offense got moving right away after Jameis Winston hit Mike Evans for 38 yards. As has happened all too often to the Bucs this season, the drive was eventually bogged down by a holding call and a drop, and they’d have to settle for a 37-yard Cairo Santos field goal to go ahead 3-0.
The lead wouldn’t last that long however as the Cowboys has a big pass play of their own as Dak Prescott hit Michael Gallup for 31 yards which set up an eventual rushing touchdown for Prescott to put Dallas ahead 7-3.
It wasn’t long before Dallas was stretching that lead to 14-3 on defense as Randy Gregory caught up to a scrambling Winston, causing a fumble which was picked up by Jaylon Smith and returned for a touchdown.
When the Bucs offense took the field, Winston continued an uneven afternoon as he wasn’t sharp on the drive, but did get the Bucs into field goal position, and Santos put it through from 45 yards away to cut the lead to 14-6.
The Cowboys would add another field goal, but it was a late drive by the Buccaneers that ended up in the end zone when Jacquizz Rodgers punched it in to finish off a drive aided by a pair of big penalties on the Cowboys defense that cut the lead to 17-13.
It looked as if the Cowboys might find a way to add more points late in the half after a big 16-yard carry by Ezekiel Elliot, but it was Vita Vea coming up with a big sack that ended the half and sent the teams into their locker rooms with a four-point margin.
The score would remain that way until late in the third quarter when Dallas would drive inside the Bucs 10 for a 1st-and-goal, but Tampa Bay’s defense finally stood up and forced Dallas to settle for three and push the lead to 20-13.
Next, it was Bobo Wilson’s turn to break Bucs fan’s hearts as he’d take the ball from Winston on an end around and fumble it right to Gregory who added a fumble recovery to the fumble he forced earlier in the game. The fumble officially went on Jameis, but anyone watching knows it was Bobo’s blunder.
Moments later Prescott was finding Gallup in the end zone over the head of Brent Grimes who looked absolutely lost on the play to give the Cowboys a 27-13 lead late in the third quarter.
Most of the fourth quarter was just an exercise in frustration for the Buccaneers as they would drive the ball inside the Dallas 10-yard-line, but had the drive stalled by a delay-of-game penalty that led to Winston scrambling and falling half ayard short on 4th-and-6 when he could have picked up a first down at the 1-yard-line.
The Bucs would finally pull to within seven with a Winston to Mike Evans touchdown with 2:05 remaining, but it would take an onside kick to give them a chance to try. The Bucs wouldn’t pull off the unlikely play, and would fall 27-20 to the Cowboys in Dallas.