The 2021 NFL season is here. The reigning Super Bowl champion Buccaneers are hosting the Cowboys on “Sunday Night Football” to kick off the season Thursday night.
The Buccaneers are coming off their second Super Bowl win and first with Tom Brady at the helm. Brady helped lead the Bucs on a run to the Super Bowl as the No. 5 seed in the NFC. Brady threw the ball well during the postseason, but it was the team’s defense that was most responsible for the team’s 31-9 win over the Chiefs back in February.
Brady, now 44, is looking for his eighth Super Bowl title, and the Bucs are favored to win the NFC. It’s easy to understand why; they are the first team in the salary cap era to return all 22 of their Super Bowl starters. They have the continuity, chemistry and talent needed to make another playoff run.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys are coming off a disappointing campaign that saw them sputter when Dak Prescott went down with an ankle injury after five games. Prescott has returned and is expected to play despite nursing a shoulder injury that sidelined him during the preseason.
Dallas is hoping that Prescott’s return will help spark the offense, but the team really needs its defense to step up after allowing 29.6 points per game last year. That ranked fifth-worst in the NFL.
The Cowboys hired Dan Quinn to serve as the new defensive coordinator and spent its first six draft picks on defensive players, including first-round selection Micah Parsons. They’re hoping those changes help, but they face a tough task containing a Bucs offense that features Brady, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski.
Sporting News is tracking live scoring updates and highlights from Cowboys vs. Buccaneers on Thursday night. Below are the key moments from the 2021 NFL season opener.
Cowboys vs. Buccaneers score
Cowboys vs. Buccaneers live updates, highlights from Thursday night football
(All times Eastern).
11:10 p.m. — The Cowboys get the ball back with 11:53 left in the fourth quarter. They’re trailing by two and they”ll be starting from their own 6-yard line.
11:08 p.m. — On third-and-10, Tom Brady threw a perfect pass to Chris Godwin. He couldn’t catch it at the 5-yard line. The Bucs will be forced to punt.
11:05 p.m. — The Buccaneers convert a third-and-2 at midfield with 13:30 left in the game. Brady went back to Mike Evans, who hadn’t caught a pass since the first quarter before the short completion.
End of third quarter: Buccaneers 28, Cowboys 26
11:02 p.m. — The Buccaneers pick up back-to-back first downs after a Leonard Fournette screen pass and a Dallas penalty. That will wrap up the third quarter.
10:59 p.m. — The Cowboys have run 63 plays compared to Tampa Bay’s 37. Dallas has sustained drives all night long.
Buccaneers 28, Cowboys 26
10:56 p.m. — TOUCHDOWN. Dak Prescott hits Amari Cooper on a 21-yard TD to cap off a 10-play, 75-yard drive that lasted nearly six minutes of game time.
10:55 p.m. — Prescott did well to avoid a sack on first down, but the Cowboys are facing a third-and-4 after a short scramble and a short run by Ezekiel Elliott.
10:54 p.m. — The Cowboys convert. They run a play-action pass and Prescott hits Dalton Schultz for the first down. Dallas is driving with two minutes left in the third quarter.
10:53 p.m. — Dak Prescott just went over 300 yards passing on a 9-yard pass to CeeDee Lamb. Third-and-1 for the Cowboys upcoming.
Buccaneers 28, Cowboys 19
10:45 p.m. — TOUCHDOWN. Tom Brady finds Rob Gronkowski for the second time of the day. It marks the 100th touchdown that Brady has thrown to Gronkowski during his career.
10:41 p.m. — The Buccaneers’ defense comes up with another big play. Prescott throws a pass into traffic over the middle of the field. CeeDee Lamb probably should have caught it, but it bounced off his hands. Carlton Davis made the interception and ran it back inside the 20. However, an illegal block in the back will bring the return back.
10:39 p.m. — Mike McCarthy and the Cowboys kicked a field goal from inside the 5-yard line last year. That dropped their win probability by 6 percent. That said, they’re in position to take a lead with a field goal this possession. Will old-school thinking beat analytics tonight?
According to the Next Gen Stats Decision Guide, the Cowboys should have gone for it on 4th & 3 from the TB 3-yard line trailing 21-16 with 9:06 left in the 3rd quarter.
Go For It: 25% Win
Field Goal: 19% Win
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) September 10, 2021
10:36 p.m. — The Buccaneers go three-and-out in short order. The Cowboys got a lot of pressure on Tom Brady on third down to force a third straight incompletion. Dallas will get the ball back.
10:34 p.m. — Good news for the Bucs: Mike Edwards got an IV on the sideline and will be able to return to the field.
S Mike Edwards will be returning to the game after getting an IV on the sideline. Filling in for him, Andrew Adams drew one PI penalty but also made a fantastic open-field tackle on Ezekiel Elliott to force Dallas to settle for a field goal.
— Scott Smith (@ScottSBucs) September 10, 2021
Buccaneers 21, Cowboys 19
10:31 p.m. — On third-and-goal, the Cowboys run the option. Andrew Adams makes an excellent open-field tackle on Ezekiel Elliott. The Cowboys have to settle for a 21-yard field goal, which Greg Zuerlein makes.
10:30 p.m. — Ezekiel Elliott nearly got a touchdown on second-and-goal. He caught a pass in the flat but went out of bounds after getting both of his feet in.
10:29 p.m. — Dak Prescott is hit hard again, but he gets the ball to Cooper again. First-and-goal, Cowboys.
10:26 p.m. — Another third down, another catch for Cooper. He has eight catches, 91 yards and a touchdown during the game.
10:24 p.m. — Prescott completes a third-and-5 pass to Amari Cooper while getting hit off a blitz. He continues to lead the Dallas offense down the field at will against a good Bucs defense.
10:22 p.m. — The Cowboys threw on each of their first two plays of the second half. The first went incomplete while the second, a completion to Dalton Schultz, went for five yards. Buccaneers safety Mike Edwards went down after the play and is now walking off under his own power.
10:19 p.m. — The second half is about to kick off. The Cowboys will get the ball first.
10:14 p.m. — With both teams passing a lot, Dak Prescott and Tom Brady are putting up some incredible stats. They are as follows:
- Prescott: 23 of 32 for 224 yards, two TDs
- Brady: 13 of 21 for 213 yards, three TDs, two interceptions
That would be a good full-game stat line for some quarterbacks.
10:12 p.m. — The first half has been pass-happy for both teams. The Cowboys are passing 82 percent of the time while the Buccaneers are throwing 70 percent of the time.
|Team||Pass plays||Run plays|
End of first half: Buccaneers 21, Cowboys 16
10:05 p.m. — Brady throws two incompletions and an interception in the endzone to end the half. Jourdan Lewis returned it all the way into Bucs territory before an offensive lineman brought him down.
10:03 p.m. — Wow. The Cowboys decided to attempt a 60-yard field goal… and they missed. The Bucs now have 15 seconds to get into scoring range.
10:01 p.m. — Prescott is chased out of bounds by Shaq Barrett, who had the sack. The Cowboys will punt with 20 seconds on the clock.
10:00 p.m. — On third-and-22, the Cowboys are whistled for holding. They’re now about 10 yards away from field goal range.
9:59 p.m. — There’s the first big play for the Tampa Bay defense. They finally get home with their pressure on Dak Prescott and sack him for a 12-yard loss. It’s third-and-22.
9:57 p.m. — Prescott completes a pass to CeeDee Lamb on third-and-3 to get to the Bucs 21. There’s 1:20 (and counting) left in the first half.
9:55 p.m. — Jamel Dean just got whistled for two penalties on the same play — pass interference and a face mask. That results in 30 yards for the Cowboys.
9:51 p.m. — Dallas picks up a first down via an 11-yard Amari Cooper catch. We’ve reached the two-minute warning with the Buccaneers leading by five.
Buccaneers 21, Cowboys 16
9:48 p.m. — TOUCHDOWN. Tom Brady leads a two-play drive and finds Antonio Brown for a 47-yard touchdown. Brown now has four catches for 114 yards in the first half.
9:47 p.m. — Jaydon Mickens returns the kick out to the 45-yard line. The Bucs now take the field after having turned the ball over on each of their last two plays.
Cowboys 16, Buccaneers 14
9:44 p.m. — The Buccaneers’ defense stops the Cowboys on three downs and Greg Zuerlein comes out for the field goal. This time, he makes it and Dallas takes its first lead of the night.
9:42 p.m. — After Ronald Jones’ fumble, Leonard Fournette makes a mistake. He can’t handle a screen pass and Trevon Diggs catches it off the deflection. The Cowboys get the ball in great field position once again.
9:41 p.m. — The Cowboys came prepared with a pass-heavy game plan. They have thrown 24 times and have run it just six times. Ezekiel Elliott has just four carries so far.
Buccaneers 14, Cowboys 13
9:38 p.m. — TOUCHDOWN. Dak Prescott recovers a bad snap and tosses it to Amari Cooper in the endzone. Dallas had a chance to tie it up, but Greg Zuerlein misses the extra point. The Buccaneers lead by one point.
9:36 p.m. — Dak Prescott finds Cedrick Wilson over the middle on a third-and-8 for a first down. The Bucs blitzed on the play and it cost them.
9:33 p.m. — Ronald Jones fumbles on the first play of the Buccaneers’ next drive. DeMarcus Lawrence punches it out and the Cowboys recover in great field position.
9:29 p.m. — Prescott is nearly intercepted on third down, as he was off on a toss to CeeDee Lamb in the endzone. Greg Zuerlein comes on but misses a 31-yard field goal, wide left. The Buccaneers get the ball back, still up 14-7.
9:27 p.m. — The Cowboys have picked up first downs on back-to-back plays. They’re threatening to score again.
9:25 p.m. — Strike that, Jarwin actually got his foot down just before it went out of bounds. Second-and-4, Cowboys.
9:23 p.m. — Our first challenge of the year: Blake Jarwin caught a pass for a gain of about six yards. However, he only got one foot down. The Bucs are challenging and they should win to force second-and-10.
9:22 p.m. — On the following play, Amari Cooper draws a pass interference call. The Cowboys are in Bucs territory again.
9:21 p.m. — Dak Prescott continues to look good. He hits CeeDee Lamb for a 22-yard gain on the first play of the drive following the Buccaneers’ TD.
Buccaneers 14, Cowboys 7
9:17 p.m. — TOUCHDOWN. Brady finds old friend Rob Gronkowski for a touchdown. It’s the 101st TD of Gronk’s career. He found space right in front of Chris Godwin to make the catch.
9:16 p.m. — The Bucs create a goal-to-go opportunity after a Chris Godwin catch. Leonard Fournette gets halfway to the goal line on first down.
9:15 p.m. — We have our first taunting call. Tampa Bay center is whistled for taunting after Carlos Watkins hit him with a cheap shot to the face. The penalties offset and the Bucs still had a first down.
9:13 p.m. — Brady hits on back-to-back passes. One was threaded to Rob Gronkowski over the middle of the field. The second was a 19-yard pass to a wide-open Chris Godwin on third-and-short to pick up a first down.
9:10 p.m. — Bucs corner Sean Murphy-Bunting has been declared OUT after an ugly-looking elbow injury. The third-year pro had three interceptions for the Bucs in 2021.
9:08 p.m. — Jaydon Mickens returned the punt to the Dallas 30, but a holding penalty will bring it further back. The Bucs are still in good field position as the refs get more involved with this game in the second quarter.
9:07 p.m. — The Cowboys go three-and-out quickly after dump-offs to Cedrick Wilson and Tony Pollard and a run by Pollard. Making matters worse, the Cowboys take a delay of game penalty to back them up further. Bryan Anger will punt from his own end-zone.
9:05 p.m. — Bradley Pinion’s follow-up is caught by Cedrick Wilson and returned to the 11-yard line, but an illegal block in the back puts it back inside the 10-yard line. Go figure.
9:04 p.m. — The Buccaneers decided to punt. Their first punt was downed inside the 5-yard line, but it was called back due to a holding penalty.
9:03 p.m. — In the first quarter, Dak Prescott threw for 124 yards and a TD. Tom Brady threw for 113 yards and a TD. Good start for both QBs.
End of first quarter: Buccaneers 7, Cowboys 7
9:00 p.m. — On third down, Brady has time and gets a pass to Antonio Brown. He can’t make the catch. It’s fourth-and-5 on the Dallas 40. The Bucs will have a decision to make when the second quarter begins.
8:59 p.m. — Tom Brady did well not to fumble on this play. He has amazing grip strength for a 44-year-old.
8:58 p.m. — Brady completes another long pass, this one over the middle to Antonio Brown. They’re already at the Cowboys 45 thanks to that catch.
8:57 p.m. — NBC showed a replay of the Sean Murphy-Bunting injury. Antoine Winfield came over to hit CeeDee Lamb and hit Murphy-Bunting’s arm hard. He’s heading to the locker room.
Buccaneers 7, Cowboys 7
8:55 p.m. — The Cowboys make the extra point after the injury timeout. Tie game.
8:51 p.m. — TOUCHDOWN. Dak Prescott finds CeeDee Lamb for a 22-yard touchdown pass. The Cowboys faked a screen pass and Lamb went by Sean Murphy-Bunting before. diving over the pylon. Murphy-Bunting is being tended to on the field.
8:49 p.m. — The Cowboys move over midfield in short order. Michael Gallup catches his third pass of the drive with a beautiful toe tap at the 29-yard line.
8:47 p.m. — The Cowboys start with a quick pass in the flat to Tony Pollard. He gets the first down. They’ve moved the ball well tonight so far.
8:44 p.m. — Interesting stats from that TD drive: Brady targeted each of his three starting receivers twice. Mike Evans saw the first two; Antonio Brown got the next two; and Chris Godwin caught the last two, including the touchdown. Rob Gronkowski also had a target and a catch on the drive.
Buccaneers 7, Cowboys 0
8:43 p.m. TOUCHDOWN. Brady fires a pass to Godwin for a 6-yard touchdown pass. The Buccaneers score the first points of the 2021 season.
8:42 p.m. — Chris Godwin makes his first catch of the game. It’s another first down, and the Buccaneers are at the Dallas 6-yard line. That was fast!
8:41 p.m. — OK, now the Bucs are moving it. Antonio Brown catches back-to-back passes for first downs. The first went for 29 yards. The second for about 13.
8:40 p.m. — The Bucs pick up another first down after Brady threw a perfectly-placed ball to Rob Gronkowski. He put it in between two defenders and right over a linebacker’s head.
8:39 p.m. — Brady completes his first pass and the Bucs get their first down. Mike Evans makes the catch. He has had seven consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to start his NFL career.
8:34 p.m. — The Buccaneers got enough pressure to hurry Dak Prescott on third-and-long. He throws another incomplete pass, and Jason Pierre-Paul nearly strip-sacked him. The Cowboys punt and the Bucs will get the ball at their own 6-yard line.
8:33 p.m. — Prescott came up short on a pass to CeeDee Lamb. Then, Lamb dropped what should have been an easy catch. After a false start, it’s third-and-15.
8:31 p.m. — The Cowboys are moving the ball well. They’ve already picked up three first downs. Ezekiel Elliott converted a third-and-inches after lining up at fullback and Dalton Schultz took a screen pass into Buccaneers territory.
8:29 p.m. — Amari Cooper was wide open after a busted coverage by the Tampa Bay defense. The play went for 28 yards.
8:28 p.m. — The Bucs go three-and-out. Fournette got another three yards on a second-down carry, but Tom Brady threw an incomplete pass on third down. The Cowboys got a little pressure. Now, we get to see Dak Prescott on the field, but he’s backed up quite a bit. Bradley Pinion kicked it 65 yards and downed it at the 2-yard line.
8:25 p.m. — Leonard Fournette gains about five yards on the first play from scrimmage. He’s wearing a new number — No. 7 — during the 2021 season.
8:24 p.m. — Greg Zuerlein kicks it off for the Cowboys. It goes into the endzone for a touchback. That’s the first play of the 2021 NFL season.
8:22 p.m. — The National Anthem is in the books. We’re just about ready for some football.
8:15 p.m. — The Buccaneers just unveiled their new Super Bowl banner (or sign) and took the field. The 2021 NFL season is almost here.
8:09 p.m. — Every NBC pregame analyst picked the Bucs to beat the Cowboys. Can Dallas pull off the upset? It might be hard if Tom Brady is as locked in as he looks.
8:05 p.m. — Just 15 minutes until kickoff. Football is almost here!
8:01 p.m. — Ezekiel Elliott looks ready to eat. Will he be able to against a Buccaneers defense that was No. 1 against the run last year?
7:58 p.m. — In case you missed it, Ed Sheeran was chosen to be a part of NFL Kickoff and performed a concert in Tampa Bay. Needless to say, football fans were confused about the choice.
7:56 p.m. — Drew Brees just spoke about the weather in Tampa Bay. He said that often, the center for his team had to change pants at halftime to make sure the ball was as dry as possible when the QB gets it. So, if there are any haywire throws early, it may have to do with the QBs adjusting to the wet ball.
7:54 p.m. — The Cowboys seem focused and ready to take on the Buccaneers.
7:50 p.m. — Drew Brees and Tom Brady caught up before the game. Brees is now working for NBC’s broadcast team after retiring from the NFL. His final game was an NFC Divisional Round loss to Brady’s Bucs during the 2021 NFL playoffs.
7:45 p.m. — If you’re looking for a last-minute prediction for Cowboys vs. Buccaneers, SN’s Vinnie Iyer has you covered. Here’s his pick for the game and all the matchups to watch and trends to know ahead of kickoff.
7:39 p.m. — Tom Brady is making his 300th NFL start today. He’s still as hyped as ever as he enters his 22nd NFL season.
7:35 p.m. — JaQuan Hardy mimicked Dak Prescott’s pregame routine. He gets a 10 for this one.
7:33 p.m. — Dak Prescott put on his usual display in pregame warmups, with his twists and shoulder rotations. That’s a good sign considering that he was dealing with a shoulder injury during the preseason.
7:30 p.m. — Rob Gronkowski is on the field for the Buccaneers. He’s looking good in pregame warmups.
What time is the NFL game tonight?
- Date : Thursday, Sept. 9
- Time : 8:20 p.m. ET
The Cowboys and Buccaneers will square off at 8:20 p.m. ET with NBC’s pregame coverage of the contest and NFL kickoff beginning at 7 p.m. For Cowboys fans, the contest will begin at 7:20 p.m. with pregame coverage at 6 p.m., as Dallas is in the central time zone.
Throughout the season, all Thursday night games will kick off at 8:20 p.m. ET. The only Thursday with day games will be Thanksgiving, per usual.
Cowboys vs. Buccaneers will be played at Raymond James Stadium, both the home of the Buccaneers and the location at which they won Super Bowl 55.
What channel is Cowboys vs. Buccaneers on today?
Cowboys vs. Buccaneers will be broadcast on NBC. Al Michaels (play-by-play), Cris Collinsworth (color analyst) and Michele Tafoya (sidleine reporter) will be on the call as NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” team for 2021.
And yes, though this game is being broadcast on Thursday night, it still is, technically, considered a “Sunday Night Football” game. Why? Because Fox owns the rights to “Thursday Night Football.” So, don’t be confused if they refer to the program as “Sunday Night Football” throughout the evening.
Below are the top TV markets in the United States and the NBC affiliate/TV channel for each.
|Market||NBC TV channel (digital)|
|New York||4 (36)|
|Los Angeles||4 (36)|
|Dallas-Ft. Worth||5 (24)|
|San Francisco/Bay area||11 (12)|
|Washington D.C.||4 (48)|
|Tampa/St. Petersburg||8 (7)|
|Minneapolis-St. Paul||11 (11)|
|St. Louis||5 (35)|
|San Diego||39 (40)|
|Salt Lake City||5 (38)|
|San Antonio||3 (16)|
|Kansas City||41 (36)|
|Las Vegas||3 (22)|
|Oklahoma City||4 (27)|
|New Orleans||6 (43)|
Streamers will be able to watch the game via NBCSports.com, the Fox NBC Sports app or by using fuboTV, which comes with a seven-day free trial .
Meanwhile, viewers in Canada can watch the game exclusively on DAZN with a subscription .