TAMPA, Fla. — 11 of months of questions. 11 months of unknowns. 11 months of hot takes.
11 months laid to rest by the first 60 minutes of the 2021 NFL season.
Dak Prescott is back.
The Dallas Cowboys $160 million quarterback threw for 403 yards and three touchdowns in his first NFL action since fracturing his right ankle vs. the New York Giants on Oct. 11, 2020.
There was no pitch count. No load management. No establishing the run.
Prescott came out firing and did not stop until the clock hit triple zeroes in Tampa Bay.
The 28-year-old captain threw 58 passes -- tied for a career high -- in the Cowboys' season opener against the Buccaneers on Thursday night.
Perhaps it was a function of gameplan, as the Bucs featured the NFL's top run defense in 2020 and returned all of its starters for 2021.
Perhaps it was out of necessity with Cowboys All-Pro right guard Zack Martin absent, as he recovers from COVID-19.
The Cowboys ran the ball 18 times for 60 yards. Running back Ezekiel Elliott led the team with 11 carries for 33 yards.
Zeke looked good. The Bucs run defense looked better.
58 passes later, the Cowboys took the lead late in the fourth quarter.
Normally reliable kicker Greg Zuerlein booted home a 48-yarder and seemingly redeemed himself after three atrocious misses in the first half (two field goals, one extra point).
Cowboys led by one.
But, it's a tale as old as 44-year-old father time.
Bucs quarterback Tom Brady started his 22nd NFL season and ended his 347th NFL game in all-too-familiar fashion.
A fourth-quarter drive in the final two minutes to set up a game-winning field goal.
And it wouldn't be a Brady "comeback" without controversy.
A phantom no-call on a 24-yard pass to Bucs receiver Chris Godwin -- who blatantly pushed off on Cowboys cornerback Jourdan Lewis -- put Tampa into range for Ryan Succop's game-winner.
The result isn't surprising.
The Super Bowl Champs were favored to win by more than a touchdown for all the reasons mentioned or alluded to above.
Though they tried hard to give it away.
Tampa turned the ball over four times, as Dallas won the turnover battle 4-1.
Dallas had three fewer penalties for 51 fewer yards.
Cowboys receivers Amari Cooper (13 rec, 139 yards, 2 TD) and CeeDee Lamb (7 rec, 104 yards, TD) were mostly sensational.
Lamb dropped a couple passes including one that deflected into the hands of Bucs cornerback Carlton Davis for Prescott's only blemish of the night.
The Cowboys defense fared better in the debut of new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, yet still showed plenty of room for improvement.
All things considered, this was the best game the Cowboys have played since 2019.
That's not saying much.
Success in sports is measured by wins and championships -- not moral victories.
But as Kanye once rapped, "They say your attitude determines your latitude."
In that case, the Cowboys have zero worry about their latitude in the current NFL standings.
When Prescott and Brady dapped up after the game, Prescott had a parting message for the seven-time Super Bowl champion.
"We'll see y'all again."
Prescott must be a fan of WFAA because I "boldly" predicted that a few nights ago. (Check the 2:30 mark.)
“That’s just the confidence I have in this group," Prescott explained postgame. "The expectations are high. This is a playoff team. We’re gonna make a big push this year."
On Thursday night, the Cowboys went on the road... without their best offensive lineman... with a quarterback who hadn't played one snap in an NFL game in nearly a year... to play the defending champs led by a top 10 defense and the greatest quarterback of all time.
And yet, they were 89 seconds away from victory.
11 months of nerves. 11 months of concerns. 11 months of fears.
11 months laid to rest with four parting words for the GOAT.
Dak Prescott is back.
And so are the Cowboys.