There was no one-and-done for the Dallas Cowboys, as they handled the Seattle Seahawks 24-22, and now await the outcome of the Philadelphia Eagles-Chicago Bears game to find out if they play a divisional round game in New Orleans or Los Angeles.
It was a game that was too close for comfort until just before the two minute warning. Up until Dak Prescott sneaked the ball into the end zone to push the lead to ten points, no team had led by more than four all game, with three lead changes. The Seahawks only had 2:08 to work with. They would make it a bit exciting as the defense inexplicably let Tyler Lockett get deep to set up a touchdown and two point conversion that narrowed the lead to two, but the onside kick was a popup that was easily fielded by Cole Beasley. Seattle had no timeouts left, and Prescott just had to kneel twice to get Jason Garrett his second playoff win and the first of the Dak/Zeke era.
The stars for the Cowboys were Ezekiel Elliott, who had 137 yards and a touchdown rushing and added 32 as a receiver; Amari Cooper, who had 106 yards receiving; Prescott, who had a passing touchdown to Michael Gallup and two key runs in the red zone that both set the Cowboys up on the one yard line, plus the QB sneak for the Dallas’ third TD of the game; and the defense. The defense largely shut down the Seahawks running game, and despite giving up a few long passes, also kept Russell Wilson well in check. They gave up a handful of big gains, but did not let Wilson take the game over as he has done so often.
For three quarters, the game was mostly a defensive struggle on both sides, punctuated by a handful of big plays. The Cowboys could only convert three first downs, but that was one more than the Seahawks had. Seattle did have a big fourth-down conversion to set up a touchdown in the third, with Wilson making a ridiculously good throw and Doug Baldwin managing to drag his toe to get a 22 yard completion. But the Cowboys had a couple of big plays of their own, first a 41 yard burst around right end for Elliott that set up a perfect pass from Prescott to Michael Gallup for their first touchdown. Then a 34 yard completion from Prescott to Cooper got them into the red zone on the second play of the fourth quarter, with Dallas down by four points. That led to Elliott plunging in from the one-yard line to retake the lead.
The Cowboys made the first big mistake of the game, when Prescott was intercepted on a pass at the end zone to Noah Brown. The replay showed that K.J. Wright should have been flagged for interference before the ball got to them, but since the refs missed a facemask on Maliek Collins when he sacked Wilson in the first half, we can’t complain too much. Then the Seahawks had their own mistakes, with a holding call and a personal foul killing any chance of them getting the ball up the field. And they weren’t done, as two pass interference calls on the ensuing drive kept it alive for Dallas. Both were on third down and could have gotten the ball back for Seattle, but instead Dallas was able to move down the field and burn up clock since the possession started with just seven and a half minutes left in the game. That would eventually lead to the touchdown that gave the Cowboys a margin that the Seahawks could not overcome.
The Cowboys lost Allen Hurns early in the game on his lone reception, when he apparently broke his ankle. It was so bad that FOX did not show the replay more than once, and reportedly it was not shown inside AT&T Stadium at all. It may be a career-ending situation for Hurns. We can only hope for the best for him.
Cole Beasley also had an ankle problem early in the game, but pushed through it to stay on the field. More importantly for the outcome, Seahawks placekicker Sebastian Janikowski went down and grabbed his hamstring after missing a 47 yard field goal at the end of the first half. He was later ruled out, leaving the Seahawks having to rely on punter Michael Dickson to handle kickoffs (with a dropkick), and that almost certainly was why the onsides kick attempt was so easy for Beasley to field after it popped up and traveled 33 yards.
While the defense was solid for most of the game, and the offense came up with three touchdowns on four trips into the red zone, the special teams for Dallas were mostly horrible, with one notable exception. They allowed big returns, Chris Jones had a bad punt, Brett Maher missed his own long field goal attempt, and a punt return for a touchdown by Tavon Austin was called back due to a (rather tick-tack) holding call. But they had a moment of glory later when Austin ripped off a 51 yard return, showing just how dangerous he can be.
Another thing to note is that the Cowboys overgame a -1 deficit in turnovers to pull off the victory. Throughout the game, even when the offense was sputtering, the team maintained its composure and never gave up. We were rewarded with an exciting and gratifying win, and some playoff success that has been absent for so long.
This was a game that may have gone a long way to securing Jason Garrett’s future. It featured a lot of the same things that got the Cowboys into the playoffs after starting 3-5. Strong defense, some clutch play from Dak, Zeke carrying the biggest part of the load, and just finding a way to come out on top. Now we will see if they can go even deeper in the playoffs.