Cowboys studs and duds: Dak Prescott delivers in Wild Card win

Dallas Cowboys, Dak Prescott. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
Dallas Cowboys, Dak Prescott. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /
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Cowboys, Leighton Vander Esch
Cowboys, Leighton Vander Esch. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Stud: Leighton Vander Esch, Linebacker

Leighton Vander Esch appeared to be on his way out in free agency but then re-signed with Dallas on a one-year deal. That proved to be a great move for both sides since he had his most impactful campaign since his rookie season in 2018.

LVE had 90 tackles and a sack but missed the past three games. He returned for the Wild Card game against Tampa Bay and led the team in tackles — but also made plays in the passing game.

Vander Esch broke up a pass near the goal line and also had a hit on Tom Brady that forced an incompletion then broke up another as the game was winding down. He was all over the field and stood out as arguably the best defender in this one.

Stud: Jayron Kearse, Safety

Jayron Kearse continues to be a leader on the Dallas defense and made a huge play to keep momentum on their side. In the first half with the score 6-0, Tamp Bay had a 14-play drive that put them at the five-yard line.

Then, Kearse ended the drive when he caught an errant pass from Tom Brady, which happened to be the first turnover inside the 10 for Brady since he joined Tampa Bay. Kearse added another pass defense helping to keep Brady and the Bucs offense off their game throughout the night.

He was banged up during the game and the Cowboys are surely hoping he’s going to be able to go next weekend against San Francisco/=.