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Seahawks @ Cowboys: Dallas throws away playoff chances in 21-12 defeat

The return of Ezekiel Elliott was more a sputter than a spark.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

It was effectively the end to the season for the Dallas Cowboys as they dropped a really poorly played game to the Seattle Seahawks, 21-12. And the Cowboys pretty much handed the win to the visitors with mistakes in all phases of the game.

So many predicted that Ezekiel Elliott would be the real difference maker for the Cowboys, but he was not able to break any big plays. He did have a good effort, accumulating 97 yards on the ground, but it took him 24 carries to do it. More crucially, Dallas had the ball inside the Seattle five yard line twice, and went with pass plays instead of pounding Elliott at the defense, losing ground and having to settle for field goal attempts.

In a game that was all important to keep alive playoff hopes that had gotten much bigger after both the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions lost earlier in the day, the Cowboys put a horrible performance on the field. They had multiple turnovers, key penalties, and questionable playcalling. Things got off to a really bad start when Tyron Smith, who had battled to get ready for this game after his knee injury last week, left the game after only one offensive series. Dak Prescott would wind up getting sacked and hit multiple times, and while Elliott was productive, he was not getting long runs, instead stacking up a bunch of short runs. He had 73 yards by halftime, but no run more than nine yards. The most crucial mistakes, however, were by Prescott and Dez Bryant. Bryant was shown on camera looking upset in the first half when he had not caught a pass yet. He had one ball go right off his hands, and then when he finally pulled one in, he let it be punched out of his grasp by Byron Maxwell, setting up the first Seattle touchdown. Prescott would throw two interceptions, one of which was a pick six on a simply terrible throw over Elliott’s head. And another interception would be a combined effort by Prescott and Bryant. It was thrown a bit behind Bryant, but bounced off his hands and was picked by K.J. Wright.

The Cowboys moved the ball well, much better than the Seahawks, really, but stalled over and over when they got into Seattle’s end of field. The had to settle for six Dan Bailey field goal attempts, and he missed the fifth and sixth ones with the Cowboys trailing by nine points, 21-12. The first came with under six minutes left in the game, and when the defense was not able to get a stop, it pretty much ended things. The second miss by Bailey just sealed the deal with only 1:05 left on the clock and all the timeouts long spent. Jason Garrett even wasted a challenge on the series after the first Bailey miss in a desperation attempt to get a first down call overturned. When the challenge failed, there was only 3:47 left on the clock, and with a two score deficit, there just wasn’t enough time.

The game was a waste of a generally good defensive effort by the Cowboys, with Taco Charlton, Benson Mayowa, and Demarcus Lawrence all notching sacks, and the team adding eight tackles for a loss. Sean Lee had a typically good game, and absolutely looked like he was in the other huddle on one play in the third quarter when he got one of the TFLs. But Seattle also had four sacks to their credit, and the turnover differential really doomed Dallas. And the defensive effort was marred by two defensive pass interference calls in the end zone, both of which helped the Seahawks score a touchdown.

It was a frustrating performance when things were totally open for them. Both the Seahawks and the Cowboys were playing to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, but Seattle avoided the most costly mistakes, while Dallas set them up repeatedly with short fields due to turnovers. All 21 points the Seahawks scored were due to the takeaways they made.

This was just another one of the inexplicably inept performances by Dallas, where they found a way to lose despite outgaining the opponent by better than a two to one margin. Prescott at times looked lost, again, and there were few big plays to be had.

Now that their last playoff chance has been crushed, it is time to look to the future, and Dallas has a tremendous number of questions to answer. They do not have the suspension of one of their star performers looming over them, but there were five losses this year where they simply did themselves in.

This last debacle leaves a bad taste in the mouth, and they may even be facing another 8-8 season. It was both unexpected and somehow typical of this year’s team.

They have to do much better next year, or there will be some big changes coming.

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