Dak Prescott outperformed seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady as the Dallas Cowboys knocked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of the playoffs.
Despite Brady, 45, having his first losing season in his 23-year career, the Bucs made the playoffs.
But their luck ran out as Prescott threw four touchdown passes and ran for another as Dallas earned its first away playoff win since 1993.
Dallas cruised to a 31-14 victory after leading 18-0 at halftime.
The five-time Super Bowl champions, who last won the Vince Lombardi Trophy in 1996, had lost their previous eight road playoff games dating back to a win at the San Francisco 49ers in 1996.
The 49ers defeated the Cowboys in the wildcard round last season, and the old rivals from the 1990s will meet again in next week’s divisional round at Levi’s Stadium.
As it turned out, dominant Dallas ended Brady’s season, while the Bengals, Giants, and Bills held on for playoff victories.
Despite having a worse regular-season record than Dallas (12-5), Tampa Bay (8-9) won the NFC South division and secured home-field advantage for the final game in week one of the playoffs.
Dallas had to go to Raymond James Stadium, where Brady won a record seventh Super Bowl in his first season with the Buccaneers two years ago.
This was Brady’s 48th play-off game, more than 23 of the NFL’s 32 franchises have had in their entire history, but there was never any indication that he would add to that total.
On the game’s first four possessions, neither team got a first down, but Prescott eventually found his rhythm, with tight end Dalton Schultz catching a high throw for a 22-yard touchdown.
The Buccaneers gained 70 yards on their next drive before Brady made an uncharacteristic error, attempting to throw the ball away under pressure only to be intercepted in the end zone.
The Cowboys responded with a 15-play drive that covered 80 yards, with Prescott capping it by faking a hand-off and running into the end zone untouched.
On Dallas’ next drive, Prescott completed 20-yard passes to Schultz and CeeDee Lamb before connecting with Schultz for an 11-yard touchdown to cap a 91-yard drive.
On the Cowboys’ first possession after halftime, Prescott, who had a league-high 15 interceptions despite missing five games during the regular season, picked out Michael Gallup in the back of the end zone.
Julio Jones then held on to a 30-yard pass from Brady to put the Buccaneers on the board, but Prescott added an 18-yard touchdown pass to Lamb in the fourth quarter to finish with 305 yards and 25 completions on 33 attempts.
Brady salvaged some pride with a late touchdown pass to Cameron Brate and finished with 351 yards on 35 of 66 attempts.
The ultimate guide to the NFL playoffs
What comes next for Brady?
When Tom Brady decides to retire from football, he has already agreed to transition into broadcasting.
There is now speculation that this will be Tom Brady’s final game in his record-breaking career.
The three-time NFL MVP had already retired after Tampa Bay was eliminated from the playoffs last season, but he returned just 40 days later to play for the Bucs again.
Brady then agreed to a 10-year, $375 million contract with Fox Sports to become the network’s lead NFL analyst – whenever the future Hall of Famer decides to hang up his helmet for good.
The Buccaneers are expected to welcome Brady back for his 24th NFL season, but a number of teams are interested in signing him in free agency.
He could stay in Florida, as the Miami Dolphins have long been interested in him. Between 2019 and 2021, when he was with the New England Patriots, owner Stephen Ross was fined $1.5 million for ‘illegal contact’ with Brady.
Tua Tagovailoa’s NFL future is in doubt after the quarterback, 24, missed the Dolphins’ play-off loss to the Buffalo Bills while recovering from his second concussion of the season.
Following his divorce from Gisele Bundchen last year, Brady is also building an eco-friendly mansion in Miami.
From pick 199 to the all-time greats
He’s also been linked to the Las Vegas Raiders, whose head coach is former Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, and there’s been talk of a possible return to the Patriots now that coach Bill Belichick, with whom Brady won six Super Bowls, has agreed to a new contract.
But one thing is certain. Brady will take his time making a decision after admitting he made a mistake by deciding his future in the days following last season’s play-off exit.
“I’m going to get home and get a good night’s sleep,” he said after the game on Monday. “This game has received a lot of attention, and it will be one day at a time.”
Brady went on to say: “This organization is fantastic. It’s a wonderful place to be, and I appreciate everyone’s hospitality. I’m grateful for the respect, and I hope I returned the favor.”