Cowboys defeat Bucs despite mental mistakes, 26-20

Mike Evans

But you were left with the impression that the Cowboys' biggest opponent in the fourth quarter was themselves rather than Tampa Bay.

On a frigid night and frozen field in New Jersey, the Dallas Cowboys finally lost a game and their rookie quarterback, the toast of the National Football League for three months running, looked ordinary.

After years of saying running backs aren't worth high first-round picks because, basically, you can find comparable talent in later rounds - and it's much more hard to find, say, shutdown cornerbacks - we will happily admit that Elliott is a glaring exception.

Of course, it helps when they still have Ezekiel Elliott, who continues to make his MVP case. Tampa Bay's defense is stout so if the Cowboys have any trouble moving the ball, it'll be that much more important for this defense to stop Winston & Co.

Jameis Winston is no slouch, and he's got some weapons the Cowboys will need to work to shut down.

"He's having a great rookie year, man", McCoy said, via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. "It's going to be a challenge, but we're very proud of the way that Javien has come in and played".

Elliott romped through the Bucs' defense for 159 yards and one touchdown. Lawrence has played every game since serving his four-game suspension to start the season and this is his first absence due to injury this season. Two plays later, Prescott found Lance Dunbar for a 20-yard touchdown.

The Bucs drop from the No. 6 seed to the the No. 8 seed, out of the final wild-card spot and now behind the surging Green Bay Packers, who are seventh. The penalty pushed the Bucs back to the 28-yard line, where they settled for a field goal. The kick had the distance, but it sailed just to the left of the upright.

The team has allowed only 17 second-half points during its surge, one of the best stretches in franchise history.

The Cowboys can make the switch following the Buccaneers game, but that's it.

But the biggest focal point is Winston, last year's No. 1 overall pick. Dak Prescott's first national ad campaign dropped last week after his second career pro loss and amid odd and controversial remarks by his team's owner.

Nevertheless, the Cowboys tied up the score with a field goal after a 10-play, 58-yard drive.

Dallas linebacker Sean Lee once again led the team in total tackles with 10.

"Lavonte, I think, has had a solid season", Smith told the Tampa Bay Times. Dallas wants to get Prescott as many snaps as possible. Dez Bryant caught eight passes for 82 yards, and Jason Witten added 10 catches for 51 yards. He will prove to be a huge litmus test for this ever-improving Bucs defense, and specifically the front seven.

LB Lavonte David, who strained his hamstring in practice this week, returned to practice Friday but is listed as questionable.

Bailey's 38-yard field goal made it 23-20. All that matters right now is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and getting back on track. That's right, the 11-2 Dallas Cowboys are up next.

Why would anyone of sound mind mess with what the Cowboys have been doing this season?