TAMPA, Fla. — The Dallas Cowboys finally discovered Tom Brady.
After seven consecutive losses against Brady dating to 2003, the Cowboys demolished the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their future Hall of Fame quarterback, 31-14, while dominating nearly every phase of their wild-card matchup Monday night.
The Cowboys will face the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif. on Sunday within the divisional round, while Brady will contemplate his future as a 45-year-old free agent after enduring the certainly one of the worst playoff defeats of his 23-year profession.
For all their bombast and hype, the Cowboys have been dismal within the playoffs for the past quarter century, winning only three games and failing to advance past the divisional round. But Monday’s game was lopsided from the beginning as Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott accomplished passes to an array of receivers, and running back Tony Pollard sliced through Tampa Bay’s defense for 77 yards on 15 carries.
Prescott finished with five total touchdowns, and passed for 305 yards. Previously, he had won just one playoff game in seven seasons in Dallas, but on Monday he seemed determined to conquer his postseason demons. In the primary half, he dove for one first down and scored on a nifty bootleg for the Cowboys’ second rating.
That run was bracketed by two touchdown passes to tight end Dalton Schultz in the primary half, when the Cowboys took an 18-0 lead at Raymond James Stadium. In regards to the only offensive breaks the Buccaneers mustered in the primary half got here from Brett Maher, the Cowboys kicker, who missed all three extra-point attempts, an N.F.L. playoff record. (He later missed a fourth attempt within the second half, setting a latest league record.)
The last time Brady was shut out in the primary half of a playoff game was his first postseason appearance, with the Patriots in 2002. The Patriots rallied that day to beat the Raiders in extra time, 16-13.
There was no comeback on Monday. The Buccaneers never established their running game, forcing Brady to throw 23 times in the primary half alone. Several of his passes were batted away and at one point he threw to tight end Cameron Brate, who was quadruple-covered in the long run zone, in the primary quarter.
Brady also overthrew several passes, including one which was intercepted by safety Jayron Kearse at the back of the Dallas end zone at first of the second quarter.
Within the third quarter, after the Cowboys accomplished an eight-play, 86-yard drive that ended when Prescott found Michael Gallup in the long run zone for a touchdown, Brady tried to drag the Buccaneers out of a 24-point hole.
Disaster appeared to strike again when receiver Chris Godwin fumbled after a reception on third-and-9 from the Tampa Bay 20-yard line. At the tip of the play, Brady appeared to attempt to trip Cowboys safety Malik Hooker, who had recovered the ball.
The fumble was overturned after a review, but Brady couldn’t capitalize. He sailed a third-down pass into empty space to finish the fruitless drive, and a smattering of boos rose from the restless home crowd.
Brady finally looked just like the Brady of old at the tip of the third quarter, when he hit receiver Julio Jones running full stride down the left sideline for a 30-yard rating. The Buccaneers went for the 2-point conversion, but Brady badly missed Godwin in the long run zone.
Dallas quickly responded, marching down the sphere with ease. On fourth-and-4, Cowboys Coach Mike McCarthy, perhaps attempting to spare Maher one other embarrassment, opted to not kick a field goal. Prescott found receiver CeeDee Lamb wide open for an 18-yard touchdown rating. Maher finally converted the additional point try and push Dallas’s result in 31-6.
In his greater than 20 years within the N.F.L., Brady has led nine fourth-quarter comebacks within the playoffs. But Tampa Bay fell too far behind for Brady to engineer a tenth.
The sport got here to a somber stop with under three minutes remaining when Tampa Bay receiver Russell Gage lay on the sphere after a success that appeared to jolt his neck. Players from each teams knelt as medical personnel attended to Gage in a moment eerily harking back to the collapse of Bills safety Damar Hamlin earlier this month. Gage was carted off to a hospital with a concussion and a possible neck injury, but was moving his fingers, Buccaneers Coach Todd Bowles said.
When the sport resumed, Brady finished the drive with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Brate and converted a 2-point try and bring the rating to 31-14. The Buccaneers recovered an onside kick near midfield, however the late rally fell short.
Brady finished with 35 of 66 passing for 351 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception.
If this was Brady’s last game, it was definitely an anomaly. He owns nearly every major N.F.L. passing record, including yards and touchdowns. This yr, he set personal bests for completions and pass attempts as he threw for 4,694 yards and 25 touchdowns.
Brady’s parents got here off the sphere arm-in-arm after the sport, and his mother, Galynn, had tears in her eyes. Brady declined to reply questions last week about reports suggesting that he might try and add to his profession totals by joining a latest team next season. On Monday, Brady offered little insight on his future.
“I’m going to go home and get a very good night’s sleep,” he said when asked about his plans for next yr.
But at the tip of his four-minute news conference, he thanked the media, including the Tampa Bay beat writers, in addition to the Buccaneers organization, seeming to shut his time with the franchise.
News reports have suggested that Brady is focused on playing in South Florida so he will be near his children. Last yr, the N.F.L. found that the Dolphins had “impermissible” talks with Brady while he was under contract with the Patriots and Buccaneers.
Dolphins General Manager Chris Grier said Monday that the team supports their current quarterback, Tua Tagavailoa, a former first-round draft pick who missed five games this season due to concussions.
The Las Vegas Raiders have been reported as one other potential destination for Brady. He has an extended history with Raiders Coach Josh McDaniels, who was his offensive coordinator in Latest England for 13 seasons.
With seven Super Bowl titles, three M.V.P. awards and nearly 300 wins, Brady is unlikely to be glad leaving the sphere after such a drubbing against the Cowboys. Where, and if, he tries to erase the memory is yet to be determined.
“You usually wish to end every yr great, but unfortunately sports doesn’t work that way,” Brady said.