The Cowboys won the toss to start the game in Jerry World and elected to defer. The Buccaneer offense was able to march right into the red zone on a couple long plays before getting hit with a holding call that backed them up outside the 20-yard line with a first-and-20. They wouldn’t be able to convert but kicker Cairo Santos was still able to get the Bucs on the board first with a 37-yard field goal with 12:12 left in the first quarter.
The Cowboys came right back and answered. A couple of costly Buccaneer penalties gave Dallas an extra boost and their first possession ended with a seven-yard dash into the end zone by Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. It gave the Cowboys a 7-3 lead halfway through the first.
On the Buccaneers’ next possession, quarterback Jameis Winston made an attempt to scramble outside before he was blindsided by Randy Gregory, who knocked the ball out in the process. He recovered the ball and ran it into the end zone for the defensive touchdown, extending the Cowboys’ lead to 14-3 with a couple minutes to go in the first quarter.
The Buccaneers restarted on their next possession but the drive would stall behind a couple offensive penalties. Tampa Bay didn’t come up empty, though. Santos connected on a 45-yard field goal to cut the Cowboys’ lead to 14-6 with 9:19 left in the first half.
Dallas came up empty on their next drive behind a couple of good plays by all levels of the defense. It ended up being linebacker Lavonte David and safety Andrew Adams who stopped Elliott short of the first down on third-and-four, forcing the Cowboys to punt.
Tampa Bay answered with a punt of their own, giving the ball back to Dallas with 5:41 left in the second quarter.
The teams traded punts again before the end of the half. Dallas got the ball back with 2:21 to go after the Bucs were forced to punt from their own end zone. The Cowboys started the drive inside Buccaneers territory but the first play knocked them back to midfield when defensive end Carl Nassib dropped Prescott for a three-yard loss. The Cowboys were forced into settling for a 59-yard field goal attempt that kicker Brett Maher converted to extend the Dallas lead to 17-6 inside the two-minute warning.
The Bucs moved well down the field on their next possession. A big hit on wide receiver Adam Humphries baited a helmet-to-helmet penalty, setting up first-and-gal for the Bucs with just under 30 seconds left to go before halftime. On second-down, running back Jacquizz Rodgers plowed across the goal line from two yards out, cutting the Cowboys lead to 17-13 with 20 seconds to go in the half.
Dallas made an effort but with 10 seconds left, defensive tackle Vita Vea dropped Dak Prescott for the sack to end the half, leaving the score 17-13.
On Dallas’ first possession of the second half, rookie cornerback Carlton Davis forced the ball out of Elliott’s hands on second down. The fumble just got away from defensive end Carl Nassib and the Cowboys recovered but wouldn’t convert and punted. The Bucs took over at their own 36 after the short kick.
Tampa Bay moved down the field before a sack on quarterback Jameis Winston brought up a second-and-18 situation. The Bucs would end up attempting a 52-yard field goal that went wide right, leaving the score 17-13 with 10:45 left in the third quarter.
The Cowboys got into first-and-goal from the three-yard-line and the Buccaneer defense was able to hold, forcing the short field goal. It remained a one-possession game with Dallas up 20-13 halfway through the third quarter.
View photos from Tampa Bay's Week 16 matchup against Dallas.
On the next possession, the Bucs stalled on a fumble as Winston tried to hand the ball off to wide receiver Bobo Wilson. The Cowboys took over right at the goal line and Prescott connected with Michael Gallup in the back corner of the end zone for the four-yard touchdown, extending the Cowboys’ lead to 27-13 with 2:27 left in the third quarter.
The Bucs' next drive saw Tampa Bay go for it on fourth down to keep the drive alive. They got down to fourth-and-one at the two-yard line before a delay of game penalty backed the Bucs up to fourth-and-six. Winston scrambled but was just short of the line of gain, turning the ball over on downs on the Dallas goal line with 7:57 left in the game.
The Cowboys came up empty on the drive, surrendering the ball via punt to the Bucs with 4:28 to go in the game and the Bucs down 27-13. The Buccaneers answered with a score of their own on a seven-yard touchdown catch by wide receiver Mike Evans just before the two-minute warning. Tampa Bay went for the onside kick but Dallas recovered at the Bucs' 44-yard line with the Bucs out of time outs to stop the clock.
The Cowboys were able to run the clock down and time expired, leaving the score 27-20 in favor of the home team.