“Everything concerns you when you play the Cowboys,” Bowles told reporters on Monday, January 8. “They got talent all over the field. They have a swarming defense. We know that. They have ballhawks in the secondary that can get to the passer as well. Micah [Parsons] is not the only one.”
“Offensively, they’re healthier on the offensive line. They can run the ball very well,” Bowles added. “Obviously, they got talent on the outside and in the backfield. They have a great quarterback.”
“They can beat you a lot of ways,” Bowles concluded. “You gotta play a complete game.”
While the Bucs beat the Cowboys 19-6 in Week 1, the teams went opposite directions after that. Dallas survived an injury to starting quarterback Dak Prescott as backup Cooper Rush led the team to a 4-1 start. The Cowboys (12-5) kept thriving from there amid Prescott’s return.
Tampa Bay (8-9) mustered only seven more wins after that game amid a disappointing regular season. The offense went into neutral all season, the defense buckled at times amid the extra pressure, injuries piled up, and the Bucs struggled to nab a division title and playoff spot.
“We’ve changed. We’re a different team [than Week 1],” Bowles said. “From our standpoint, I think we’re mentally tougher. Those guys are resilient. We didn’t blink.”
“I don’t think we’ve played a complete game yet,” Bowles added.
Bowles liked how his team started fast in Week 18 against the Atlanta Falcons before he rested most of the starters. The Bucs lost the game 30-17 with most backups playing in the second half.
“We need to get off to a fast start this week as well. That will be key to the game,” Bowles said about the Cowboys. “We’ll watch some tape and get to work on them.”
Bucs Health Up Front Remains Center of Attention
Hainsey pulled a hamstring in the Week 18 loss. Jensen is still in the middle of a return from injured reserve after a knee injury in training camp.
“He got a sore hamstring. We’ll see how sore,” Bowles said regarding Hainsey.
Bowles said an MRI isn’t set for Hainsey unless the severity of the injury warrants it. As for Jensen, Bowles turned a little humorous when asked about the recent Pro Bowler.
“I’ll give you the same answer as last week,” Bowles said with a smile. “He’s status quo. He’s working hard, and we’d like to see him out there, but we’ll see.”
“Window is starting to close this week, so we’ll see where we’re at,” Bowles added.
The Brady Factor
Despite all of the challenges the Bucs went through in the regular season, the Bucs still have seven-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady. His poise and experience could make the difference for the Bucs against the Cowboys and beyond if the Bucs advance.
“Again, Tom’s tough. He’s been around for a long time. There’s not a lot he hasn’t seen or been through,” Bowles said. “I don’t think every day of his career has been a great day.”
“He’s had some rough days here and there, but he works through them,” Bowles added.