The 2021 NFL season is finally here!
The regular season kicks off Thursday as the defending Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers play host to the Dallas Cowboys. The game will mark Dak Prescott‘s much-anticipated return from a compound fracture and dislocated ankle last October. Prescott and the Cowboys’ promising offense – which is set to be without all-pro guard Zack Martin – will have a tough test out of the gates against a Buccaneers defense that surged during its Super Bowl run last season.
Meanwhile, Tom Brady will be making his record 300th career regular-season start against a Dallas defense looking to find its footing under new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.
Stay here for updates from USA TODAY Sports, including Jori Epstein and Jarrett Bell on the scene in Tampa, throughout the action.
Score: Cowboys 7, Buccaneers 7 1:35 first quarter
Welcome back, Dak Prescott. The Cowboys QB led a seven-play, 75-yard drive to even the score late in the first. Prescott found Michael Gallup three times on the series, but CeeDee Lamb made up for his earlier drop by faking a screen and dashing past Buccaneers cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting for a 22-yard scoring strike. Murphy-Bunting was hurt on the play and later ruled out for the remainder of
Score: Buccaneers 7, Cowboys 0 5:23 first quarter
Tom Brady and his receiving corps didn’t take long to kick off the rust. Brady led the Bucs on a nine-play, 94-yard touchdown drive capped by a 5-yard strike to Chris Godwin over the middle. Brady also showed off his connection with Antonio Brown, who hauled in a 28-yard over-the-shoulder grab on a sluggo route. Brady went 6-of-7 for 86 yards on the drive, hitting four different receivers. And just like that, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys find themselves in an early hole again.
Score: Cowboys 0, Buccaneers 0 9:32 first quarter
Nice start for Dak Prescott, who finds a wide-open Amari Cooper down the left sideline for an easy 28-yard gain on the quarterback’s first play from scrimmage since last year’s compound fracture and ankle dislocation. But the drive stalls in part due to a CeeDee Lamb drop and a false start on “the entire offensive line,” as the officials called it. Prescott then threw an incompletion on third-and-15 as Lavonte David barreled down on A-gap blitz.
Score: Cowboys 0, Buccaneers 0 13:18 first quarter
An early win for Dan Quinn and the Cowboys defense, which forced Tom Brady and the Buccaneers to a three-and-out on the first series. Tampa Bay wanted to test out Dallas’ run defense, which ranked 31st last year, on first and second down, but Brady couldn’t connect with Chris Godwin on third down. Bradley Pinion then pinned the Cowboys inside their 5-yard line.
The Cowboys’ inactives for Thursday night are: safeties Malik Hooker and Israel Mukuamu, quarterback Will Grier, defensive ends Azur Kamara and Chauncey Golston, linebacker Luke Gifford and wide receiver Noah Brown.
The Buccaneers’ inactives are: quarterback Kyle Trask, running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn, wide receiver Jaelon Darden, offensive guard Nick Leverett, defensive lineman Khalil Davis and safeties Jordan Whitehead and Chris Cooper.
Cowboys-Buccaneers injury report
The Cowboys looked to be in good shape this week, with all of the players on their injury report listed as full participants by Wednesday. Starting right guard Zack Martin, however, figures to be out after testing positive for COVID-19.
The Buccaneers, meanwhile, will be without starting safety Jordan Whitehead as he continues to recover from a hamstring ailment.
Get set for Thursday night’s matchup with some of our best recent stories on the Bucs-Cowboys tilt as well as predictions for the upcoming season.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Cowboys vs. Buccaneers score updates, live analysis of NFL opener