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Bucs start strong, limp home in loss to Cowboys

In the season opener for both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys, youth lose to experience as Dallas stomped into Raymond James Stadium and beat the Bucs 34-21.  It was certainly a tale of two halves, with the Bucs hanging tight at halftime only down 13-7 at the break. 

The game opened up with a decent kickoff return by the Cowboys.  The defense had the typical bend don't break philosophy and tightened up once in the red zone and held Dallas to a field goal from 50 yards.  The Bucs would counter with a strong running attack and work there way down to Cowboys territory and stall.  The Bucs lined up for a field goal just to see it blocked. 

The Bucs D would again have to defend a short field, and did so nicely holding Dallas to another field goal, putting them up 6-0.  The Bucs offense would take the same approach and ran the ball well, ultimately capping a long drive with a Cadillac Williams one yard TD run.  After the extra point, it was 7-6 Bucs.

The teams would trade a few punts until the Bucs got the ball with two minutes remaining deep in their own territory.  Rather than run the ball a few times and go into half up 7-6, they threw a pass, attempted another pass where Leftwich ran out of bounds, and then ran the ball on third down.  Dallas called a timeout and would get the ball back with just over a minute left.

The Bucs poor clock management would come back to haunt them as Romo connected with Miles Austin who beat Elbert Mack and eluded Jermaine Phillips to make it 13-7 Dallas.  The Bucs would get the ball back and still were looking to put points on the board.  Leftwich hooked up with Michael Clayton on a huge 47 yard pass play to get in field goal range, only to see Mike Nugent miss just before half, leaving the score at 13-7.

Somewhat encouraged, but surely deflated, the Bucs looked to start the second half.  The Bucs opening drive stalled and after a punt, chaos ensued.  In a coverage mix up, Sabby Piscitelli was left to cover Roy Williams, who took a pass 66 yards from Romo to put the Cowboys up 20-7.  This was the start of a bad half for both the Bucs and the Cowboys.

Both defenses held tough as each team punted 2 times, leading to the Bucs getting the ball back.  Working mostly through the air, the Bucs were able to dodge an interception on an illegal contact call and connect with what looked to be a touchdown for Sammy Stroughter.  After review, he was ruled down just short of the goal line, where Derrick Ward came in to clean up the mess and score.  20-14 Bucs. 

On the second play after the kickoff, Patrick Crayton would take Sabby Piscitelli to school, scoring on an 80 yard pass from Romo.  27-14 Bucs.  The Bucs would mount a 5 minute drive that ended on a 4th and 7 pass that fell incomplete as Kellen Winslow bobbled a wide open pass.

The Bucs were deflated at this point, and Dallas just marched down the field, capping the drive with a 6 yard Marion Barber TD.  34-14 Bucs.  Trying to salvage some momentum, the Bucs would move down the field and score a garbage TD with Leftwich hitting Kellen Winslow for the late score.  34-21 Cowboys. The game would end after an unsuccessful onsides kick.

The Bucs running game was particularly impressive, with Cadillac Williams and Derrick Ward combining for 25 carries, 159 yards and 2 scores.  Leftwich was efficient, going 25 of 41 for 276 yards and 1 TD.  The Bucs did not turn the ball over. 

With the loss the Bucs fall to 0-1 and now are 0-4 in home season openers.  They travel to Buffalo to take on the Bills, who have New England on Monday night.