TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' quest to defend their Super Bowl LV title began Thursday night with a 5-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Tom Brady to wide receiver Chris Godwin to put the Bucs up 7-0 over the Dallas Cowboys with 5:27 remaining in the first quarter.
But, the Cowboys had an answer.
One wouldn't know it is Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott's first game in 11 months. On the team's second drive, Prescott completed all seven passes to five different players, culminating with a 22-yard touchdown pass to CeeDee Lamb, who beat cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting with a double move. The Cowboys tied the game at 7-7.
On the Buccaneers' first touchdown, with Godwin in motion moving across the formation, Brady faked a hand-off to running back Leonard Fournette, before finding Godwin inside for a touchdown on a drive that went 94 yards on nine plays.
It was Godwin's 25th career touchdown catch, tying Mike Williams for seventh-most in Buccaneers' history.
On the Cowboys' first touchdown, Prescott found Michael Gallup three times; Tony Pollard twice and Blake Jarwin once as he diced the Buccaneers' defense before finding Lamb. The Cowboys did not face a third down on the drive. With Zack Martin on the COVID list, the Cowboys have not been afraid to attack the Tampa Bay defense despite not having their best offensive lineman.
Prescott showed off his arm with a slant to Gallup. He showed off his legs with a sprint-out completion to Gallup and a waggle to Jarwin. The touchdown pass showed he could push the ball down the field without any issue, too.
Prescott's first touchdown pass to Lamb came under duress, and according to ESPN Stats & Information, none of Prescott's nine passing touchdowns last season came when pressured.
On a six-play, 50-yard drive in the game's second quarter, Brady found tight end Rob Gronkowski for a 2-yard touchdown with 9:48 left in the first half.
The score put the Buccaneers on top of the Cowboys, 14-7.
A connection that never gets old: pic.twitter.com/d8ncaKIZYi— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) September 10, 2021
Gronkowski's first touchdown was the 87th receiving touchdown of his 11-year career, tying him with Andre Reed for 14th all-time.
Brady was running 12.11 miles per hour at the time of the throw on his pass -- his third-fastest time when throwing a touchdown pass over the past four seasons.
Prescott's second touchdown pass of the evening put the Cowboys up 16-14. The score came after Prescott showed a willingness to run, picking up 7 yards on a scramble to move the ball to the Tampa Bay 5 on his first attempt since suffering that dislocation and compound fracture of his right ankle last October.
On the next play, he scooped up a low snap from Tyler Biadasz, but did not panic and found an alley for wide receiver Amari Cooper for the score. For the second time in six opening-day starts, Prescott has multiple touchdown passes. He beat the New York Giants in 2019 in Week 1 with a four-touchdown effort.
And with less than four minutes to play in the first half, Brady and the Bucs' offense aren't done.
Brady throws a 47-yard pass to Antonio Brown for a touchdown to put Tampa Bay up 21-16. Brady's throw had 45 air yards, which marks his second most air yards on a touchdown with the Buccaneers.
The Buccaneers and Cowboys enter halftime with Tampa Bay up, 21-16.
On a 13-play, 72-yard drive, the Cowboys add three points to the scoreboard when Greg Zuerlein makes a 21-yard field goal with 9:19 left in the third quarter.
Dallas trails Tampa Bay, 21-19.
The Brady-Gronk connection continued into the third quarter.
With 6:27 left in the quarter, Brady tosses a pass down the middle to Gronkowski, who scores on an 11-yard touchdown. The score marks the third time Brady has thrown four touchdowns in his team's season opener.
Tampa Bay goes up, 28-19.
Notching his second touchdown of the game, Cooper hauls in a 21-yard touchdown pass from Prescott with 38 seconds left in the third quarter to put the Cowboys within two points, 28-26.
Since joining the Cowboys in Week 9 of 2018, Cooper has eight receiving touchdowns of 20-plus air yards, according to ESPN Stats & Info. No other Cowboy has more than two TDs in that span.
At the 2 minute warning, the Buccaneers lead the Cowboys, 28-26.
With 1:24 to go in the game, the Cowboys take the lead, 29-28, on a 65-yard field goal by Zuerlein.
With one play and 2 seconds left, the Cowboys' final play goes nowhere and Tampa Bay wins, 31-29.
Of note from ESPN Stats & Info: Brady improves to 6-0 against the Cowboys. Including playoffs, that mark surpasses Joe Montana (5-0) for the best record by any starting quarterback against Dallas.