TB-DAL grades: Dak Prescott’s accuracy on display in win over Bucs

Highest-graded players and top takeaways from the Cowboys' Week 15 win over the Buccaneers.

| 5 months ago
Dak Prescott

(Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

TB-DAL grades: Dak Prescott’s accuracy on display in win over Bucs


Dallas Cowboys 26, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20

Here are the highest-graded players and top takeaways from the Cowboys’ Week 15 win over the Buccaneers on “Sunday Night Football.”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Quarterback grade: Jameis Winston 42.8

Up-and-down performance not enough for Bucs

Jameis Winston was great at times in this game, most notably in the third quarter when he helped the Buccaneers overcome an 11-point deficit to take the lead. He did this by surgically picking apart the Cowboys’ zone and finishing the final drive with a pinpoint laser to Cameron Brate in the end zone. Overall, however, Winston was just not accurate enough, completing less than half of his passes and struggling under pressure. When Winston was pressured, he completed three of nine throws for 40 yards and two interceptions. His QB rating under pressure in the game was a measly 8.8.

Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston vs pressure

Top offensive grades:

TE Cameron Brate, 87.1

LG Kevin Pamphile, 81.6

C Joe Hawley, 77.5

WR Mike Evans, 76.9

RG Ali Marpet, 76.1

Brate provides threat down the middle for Bucs

Cameron Brate provided a much-needed middle-of-the-field presence for Jameis Winston on Sunday night. He was an instrumental force in the Bucs’ second drive of the third quarter, which was their finest of the night. He caught two difficult passes in traffic; the first was a one-handed grab, and the second was the touchdown pass where he was sandwiched between two defenders as the ball came in. Brate finished with five receptions on eight targets for 73 yards and a touchdown.

Top defensive grades: 

CB Brett Grimes, 83.4

S Keith Tandy, 83.4

CB Javien Elliot, 79.8

LB Lavonte David, 73.7

S Bradley McDougald, 70.8

Bucs’ run defense spoils solid effort from secondary

The Buccaneers received a solid effort overall from their secondary, as the Cowboys chose to attack the middle of the field instead. Linebackers Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David allowed 14 receptions on 15 targets for 120 yards on the night. The Achilles heel for the defense, however, was the Bucs’ run defense, which allowed a whopping 5.6 yards per carry and both Dallas touchdowns. The two culprits in the poor run-defense effort were interior linemen Clint McDonald and Gerald McCoy, who finished the game with run-defense grades of 36.6 and 42.1, respectively, failing to record a single run stop.

Dallas Cowboys

Quarterback grade: Dak Prescott, 87.6

Prescott’s efficiency shines in bounce-back performance 

Coming off a tough loss in primetime against the rival Giants, Dak Prescott returned home on Sunday night with questions still circulating about whether he should still be the starter. Prescott bounced back in a huge way, though, completing 21 of his first 25 throws to put up 17 first-half points against Tampa Bay. Prescott would not throw another incomplete pass on the night, finishing with 32 completions on 36 attempts. Although he did not hit many downfield throws, he was extremely accurate on attempts less than 10 yards downfield, which kept the offense on schedule and allowed the Dallas run game to take over late.

Dak Prescott vs pressure

Top offensive grades:

QB Dak Prescott, 87.6

C Travis Frederick, 84.0

RT Doug Free, 81.3

FB Keith A. Smith, 78.9

RG Zack Martin, 75.6

Dallas offensive line takes care of favorable matchup

Coming into Week 15, Tampa Bay ranked in the bottom third in the league in rushing yards allowed per game, and had the third-worst team run-defense grade. The Cowboys exploited this matchup with their strong zone running game that was effective all night. The standout performance on the line came from center Travis Frederick, who had a 79.8 run-blocking grade on the night and did not surrender a QB pressure.

Top defensive grades: 

ED David Irving, 84.3

LB Sean Lee, 82.5

S Barry Church, 82.1

S Byron Jones, 82.0

LB Justin Durant, 79.7

Lee key in run defense; Irving provides late pressure

When the Buccaneers’ offense is successful, they establish a solid running game, and then compliment it with play-action passing. The largest reason they were unable to consistently establish the run on Sunday night was because of the performance of linebacker Sean Lee. Lee had a total of four stops on the night, and led the team with a 92.9 run-defense grade. David Irving led the way for the Cowboys’ pass-rush with two sacks and four hurries. Irving was also pivotal in the Jeff Heath fourth-quarter interception when he was able to get a hand on Winston’s elbow—as the QB was releasing the ball—causing an errant pass. Irving was also extremely disruptive on the Bucs’ final drive, pressuring Winston on multiple occasions and flushing him from the pocket. On the night, Irving recorded an 81.2 pass-rush grade

PFF Game-Ball Winner: Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys

PFF’s player grading process includes multiple reviews, which may change the grade initially published in order to increase its accuracy. Learn more about how we grade and access grades for every player through each week of the NFL season by subscribing to Player Grades.

  • Terrell

    I’ve noticed all year the craziness of starting Maliek Collins over David Irving at DT and Jack Crawford over him at DE. Disappointed that Marinelli leaves these guys in the past two years over a young player that can actually get pressure and play the run fairly well.

    • Zach

      I hope they change that. Irving has been a difference-maker when given the opportunity

    • JudoPrince

      Irving has excelled in late game situations with the pass rush. It comes in handy with Cowboys normally protecting the lead. Perhaps it is the Cowboys strategy to keep him fresh for the 4th quarter where he can be most disruptive.

      • HiGhGuY

        Definitely think Irving needs some more playing time. According to Jerry Jones, Randy Gregory is eligible to return starting TODAY. Bryan Broaddus said Gregory looks in shape and even got a little bigger. If He could do some things, and Irving continues to play like he did last night, our pass rush and ability to get sacks/turnovers could be looking a LOT better going into the playoffs than anyone thought.