ARLINGTON, Texas – Tom Brady as the first 45-year-old starting quarterback in NFL history looked quite a bit like the younger versions.
Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys were left with an old, familiar feeling that isn't quite so fuzzy.
Brady and Mike Evans connected on a punctuating touchdown, Leonard Fournette ran for 127 yards, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dominated the Cowboys 19-3 in a season opener Sunday night.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said after the game Prescott needs surgery for a fracture near the thumb on his throwing hand and will miss multiple weeks, a season-altering blow for the defending NFC East champs.
A rough night for Prescott got worse after his right hand struck a defender when throwing a pass in the fourth quarter. He was checked on the sideline before jogging to the locker room.
The latest injury came almost two years after the compound fracture of Prescott's right ankle on the same field, a gruesome injury that ended his 2020 season in Week 5.
“It's very disappointing, but injuries happen,” Prescott said. “Can't necessarily control it. Obviously going to miss some time, not be there for my team. And that's what hurts more than anything.”
Brady was in control throughout despite an extended break during training camp to attend to personal issues. The seven-time Super Bowl champ got a big assist from the defense in Todd Bowles' debut as Tampa Bay's coach following three seasons as defensive coordinator.
“I always play the game for my team, my teammates and the organization,” Brady said. “Just being around them is something I always enjoy. It keeps me very grounded, very humble. I feel like just one of the guys. Not many places where I can go where I feel like just one of the guys, but the locker room’s definitely one of those places.”
The Cowboys and Bucs had the top two offenses in the NFL last season, which started with Tampa Bay's 31-29 win at home over Dallas when Brady and Prescott combined for seven TDs passing. Only one offense showed up this time.
Dallas drove 54 yards to a field goal on the first possession, but didn't score again while finishing with its second-fewest points in an opener. The Cowboys lost to New Orleans 28-0 in 1989 — Jerry Jones' first game as owner.
Julio Jones had a 48-yard catch in the two-time All-Pro's Tampa Bay debut to set up one of four first-half field goals from Ryan Succop, who had five attempts before the break without a punt from the Bucs.
Brady, who improved to 7-0 against the Cowboys, was 18 of 27 for 212 yards with an interception that didn't amount to much because Prescott and receiver Noah Brown couldn't connect on an easy third-down throw near midfield early in the fourth quarter.
The Cowboys did nothing to quiet questions about the receiving group behind CeeDee Lamb, the third-year player who is the new No. 1 target after the offseason trade of Amari Cooper.
Lamb had two catches for 29 yards while drawing most of the attention. Noah Brown had five catches for 68 yards, while Prescott finished 14 of 29 for 134 yards with an interception that set up one of the first-half field goals.
The gap in receiving depth was clear, with Evans and Chris Godwin both having catches of at least 20 yards in the first quarter before Godwin had to leave with a hamstring injury.
The Cowboys stayed close in the first half only because of two sacks from reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons. Both forced field goals, and Succop missed one of the tries.
Devin White matched Parsons with two sacks of Prescott as the Cowboys lost to the Bucs at home for just the second time while coach Mike McCarthy dropped to 0-3 in openers with Dallas.
Bowles is 1-0 with the Bucs after taking over when Bruce Arians retired and moved to the front office.
“I think it was just about being dominant,” White said. “We wanted to set a tone for him as a head coach, for us as a defense as a whole. I think it was a great thing. We still have some things. We left a lot of plays out there.”
Fournette had 40 of the 79 yards on the drive that ended with Brady's 5-yard scoring pass to Evans for a 19-3 lead.
Dallas first-round pick Tyler Smith was the first rookie in franchise history to start an opener at left tackle. The Bucs also had a rookie starter in left guard Luke Goedeke, a second-rounder. Both teams entered the opener with questions up front because of injuries and personnel changes.
The injuries mounted, too. Dallas left guard Connor McGovern didn't return after injuring his right ankle on the first series. Tampa Bay left tackle Donovan Smith exited in the second quarter with an elbow issue and also was ruled out.
Bucs: Godwin’s hamstring injury came after he entered the game with an uncertain status because of his recovery from a knee injury. ... Cowboys S Jayron Kearse, who was questionable coming with a neck issue, left in the second half with a knee injury. ... Dallas DE Tarell Basham was sidelined by a thigh injury. Cowboys S Jayron Kearse, who was questionable coming with a neck issue, left in the second half with a knee injury.
Buccaneers: At NFC South rival New Orleans next Sunday. One of these teams has either won or shared the past five division titles.
Cowboys: Defending AFC champion Cincinnati visits next Sunday. Dallas opens with three of four games at home.