TAMPA — The most glorious gift S Bradley McDougald could've asked for on his 25th birthday landed in his arms late Sunday afternoon, via air mail from Cowboys QB Matt Cassel.
Ensnared in one-on-one coverage with WR Dez Bryant on the Cowboys' last-gasp drive, McDougald intercepted Cassel's heave from midfield in his end zone with 14 seconds to play, sealing the Bucs' 10-6 victory. His thoughts as the ball sailed toward him and Bryant?
"It's my ball or no ball at all," McDougald said.
"That's the mentality defensive backs need to have. When the ball's in the air, you're either going to make the play on the ball or the receiver's not going to make the play on the ball. That's the only two options there are."
Bryant said he pondered a third option: a pass-interference whistle.
"I felt I was so more caught up in that little quick moment of, 'I know the ref sees it, I know he is going to call it,' but he didn't," Bryant said. "I'm not trying to make any excuses. It just threw me off of my target."
OUT OF THE DROP ZONE: Among Sunday's prevalent subplots was Bucs WR Mike Evans' redemptive tale of sorts. A week after dropping six passes against the Giants, Evans (eight catches, 126 yards) had only one glaring drop, in Dallas territory in the second quarter, on 13 targets.
"I think you were giving Mike a hard time last week, and I was trying to tell you Mike is a beast," QB Jameis Winston said. "You know he is going to come in day in and day out and work hard and keep making plays. You know everyone makes mistakes, but Mike Evans, when he wants to, he's hard to stop."
PIONEER SIGHTING: While lifelong football fan Jen Welter was growing up on Florida's east coast, reaching the NFL in any capacity transcended her wildest dreams.
Today, there's something wilder: Girls dressed up as Welter — who coached inside linebackers for the Cardinals in the preseason — for Halloween. Welter, who presided over a flag football game at halftime, has the photos to prove it.
"I think one of the things I would like anybody to take from me is that I didn't start playing football with this dream of the NFL, because that was not a place that was possible for girls," said Welter, who competed in women's pro leagues before becoming the first female to coach in any men's pro football league.
"I took it as an opportunity to play a game that I grew up loving in Florida. … And when I finally got a chance to play, I was like, 'This is where I'm meant to be in this world.' And I promised myself that I would follow the journey, do everything I could to be great in the game in whatever challenge came forward."
ODDS AND ENDS: Sunday was the Bucs' first fourth-quarter rally since a win at Pittsburgh in September 2014. … The Bucs' defense held Dallas to 216 total yards, an average 4.0 yards per play and 12 first downs all season lows for Tampa Bay opponents. … With his third-and-10 sack of Cassel in the red zone, LB Kwon Alexander joined David Greenwood as the only Bucs to have two sacks and two interceptions in their rookie year. … With four total points Sunday (including a 52-yard field goal), Connor Barth slipped past Mike Alstott for third place on Tampa Bay's all-time scoring list with 434 points.