Double-Doink Misses, Grass-Green Stains and One Golden Grab – Peter King, ProFootballTalk
Peter King, who’s seen a lot of great players, is very impressed with the Cowboys’ star running back.
Ezekiel Elliott, running back, Dallas. After watching his 169-total-yard night in the 24-22 win over Seattle, I thought, This guy could have played in Jim Brown’s era and been really good. He’s the kind of smart, physical back Vince Lombardi and Paul Brown would have loved. My favorite play from Elliott: Dallas, up 17-14 with 3:41 left, was trying to run down the clock in Seattle territory. Elliott ran around right end, stiff-armed Shaquill Griffin at the Seahawk 32, sprinted up the sideline, looked like he’d get pushed out around the 15, but ducked physically back into the field and dove down at the 13. Gain of 17. But here’s the big part of it: He took the snap with 3:41 left, and the next play was snapped at 2:51. The whole thing there is to bleed the clock AND get yards, both of which are vital. Elliott did both. He has a sense of where he is. “He just kept coming and kept coming,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Physical toughness, mental toughness—he embodies that. He wants it at the critical moments. Boy, he was something else tonight.” Rushing: 26 carries, 137 yards, one TD. Receiving: four catches, 32 yards. A good night’s work.
NFL Wild Card Weekend: Dak Prescott balls, Chicago Bears fall - Adam Schein, NFL.com
Schein liked what he saw from the Cowboys’ signal-caller in the team’s victory of Seattle.
1) Dak Prescott, quarterback, Dallas Cowboys
We know Dallas can run the football. The offense -- shoot, the team -- goes through Ezekiel Elliott. Zeke makes Dak. Always has, always will. And Elliott was vintage in the Cowboys’ 24-22 win over Seattle, racking up 169 total yards on 30 touches.
With all that said, though, you just knew Prescott would be put in a position where he needed to make some plays in the playoffs -- and he passed that test with flying colors Saturday night.
Dak was dynamite when it mattered the most. Dallas has the requisite ground game and defense to win in the postseason; if Prescott plays like he did against the Seahawks (22-of-33 for 226 yards with one touchdown and one pick; six rushes for 29 yards and a score), Dallas is a bona fide Super Bowl threat. He delivered big-time money throws and key fourth-quarter runs. That’s how you win. And no play was more emblematic of Dak’s inspired showing than the one that ultimately decided the game.
Holding a three-point lead with 2:33 left in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys faced a third-and-14 on Seattle’s 17-yard line. In that moment, it appeared Dallas would likely end up with a field goal, giving Russell Wilson the ball back with plenty of time to erase a six-point deficit. Scary hypothetical. But alas, Prescott dropped back a couple steps before planting and taking off up the middle, blowing through would-be tacklers and then diving/somersaulting to the 1-yard line. First down, ‘Boys. And then Prescott rumbled into the end zone on the very next play, effectively ending the game.
Still doubting Dak? Cowboys QB provided more evidence this weekend that you shouldn’t - Tim Cowlishaw, SportsDay
Some fans have been reluctant to embrace Dak Prescott as the team’s long-term answer at quarterback. Cowlishaw says we’ve all seen enough and should stop doubting.
We could have learned this almost 2 1/2 years ago, a warm August night in the LA Coliseum when a young Dak Prescott completed 10 of 12 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns in his opening warm-up act as an NFL quarterback.
If that was expecting too much of our foresight, then maybe the Cowboys’ team-record 11-game win streak that season, the one that earned him Rookie of the Year honors and sent Tony Romo into retirement, should have told the tale.
But if none of that worked and we reserved our doubts about a fourth-round pick all the way into this year’s playoffs, consider what took place over the weekend. It was just another feather in the cap of Dakota Rayne Prescott.
The four wild-card games featured quarterbacks 25 or under still playing on their rookie contracts against a variety of proven veterans including two Super Bowl winners (Seattle’s Russell Wilson and Philadelphia’s Nick Foles). Three of the four young quarterbacks were first-round picks.
Do I even have to tell you which one was the only youngster to advance to the next round?
The Eagles, Chargers, Cowboys and Colts Advance—and Look Dangerous - Albert Breer, SI.com
The Cowboys’ not-so-great offensive line play has been a problem most of the year but the unit came up big in the team’s biggest game of the season (so far).
This isn’t 2014 for the Cowboys. Or 2016.
Those Dallas teams, for the most part, had the same five offensive linemen (from left to right, Tyron Smith, Ron Leary, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin and Doug Free) straight through. The 2014 group had Bill Callahan as line coach, and the 2016 group had his 2014 apprentice, Frank Pollack, in that role. And those units defined those teams, in front of Tony Romo and DeMarco Murray, then Dak Prescott and Zeke Elliott.
This year has not been that. Which is why what the offense did in the final 7:20 of Saturday’s 24-22 win over the Seahawks (we’ll get to the gambling implications of Sebastian Janikowski’s injury) meant so much to the Cowboys. Dallas got the ball with that much time left on the clock, up 17-14. They gave it back to Seattle, with the lead up to 10 and 2:08 showing, and they did it without completing a single pass.
“I was just saying that, you want to look at the tape first, but just from the feel of it, I feel like that was one of our best drives,” Martin told me, in the wee hours of Sunday mornign. “We ran the ball, milked the clock, and then Dak made some big plays there at the end. That’s pretty much exactly how you want to draw it up as an offensive lineman—just running the ball down their throats and taking time off the clock.”
Did @ScooterMagruder enjoy the Cowboys’ win Saturday night? Why yes, yes he did.
Cowboys Fans During the Seahawks Game pic.twitter.com/txJTiIGXAa— Cameron Magruder (@ScooterMagruder) January 6, 2019
Clutch Encounters: Wild Card - Scott Kacsmar, Football Outsiders
Kacsmar gives his summary of the Wild Card weekend and his thoughts on the Cowboys - Seahawks contest.
The first 40 minutes were a tough watch, but things got interesting with 4:55 left in the third quarter. The Seahawks went for a fourth-and-5 and Wilson delivered with a 22-yard gain to Doug Baldwin. Wilson finished the drive off with a 4-yard keeper run and Mike Davis scored on a two-point conversion that typically would have been an extra point if not for the Janikowski injury. Seattle led 14-10 going into the fourth quarter, so this was technically the third blown fourth-quarter lead in the playoffs in the Carroll era.
It also became the 15th game-winning drive for Prescott, tying Wilson for the most by a quarterback in his first three seasons in NFL history. The Dallas offense wasn't incredible or anything, but at least Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 137 yards and Amari Cooper had 106 receiving yards. The stars were allowed to shine. Elliott had a 44-yard run, and even if you take that away, his other 25 carries gained 93 yards so it wasn't slamming into a brick wall over and over like the Seattle running game. Cooper was left wide open on a 34-yard gain that set up Elliott for a 1-yard touchdown run to give Dallas a 17-14 lead with 12:28 left.
After Tavon Austin returned a punt 51 yards, Dallas had a chance to take a two-score lead. However, K.J. Wright got away with some pass interference in the red zone on an interception with 9:34 left for the game's only turnover.
Audibles at the Line: Wild-Card Round - Staff, Football Outsiders
As always, the FO gang also had their running live blog of the Wild Card round. They were not impressed by the Seattle coaching strategy.
Aaron Schatz: Twitter is filled with criticism of the Seahawks' offensive game plan tonight but it seems to me that both teams used the same run-heavy game plan. It just worked better for Dallas. They ran the ball a bit better, and when both teams passed the ball, the Cowboys had better coverage. I can't remember Byron Jones getting beat by anyone for a completion until that huge Tyler Lockett catch in the final two minutes.
Vince Verhei: Well, yeah -- it was a good game plan for Dallas because it was working, at least some of the time, and so they stuck with it. Seattle kept running for 1 and 2 yards a pop even though it clearly wasn't working. If you want to say it was a fine game plan but a failure to adjust midgame, then OK, but that's just semantics. The point is that Seattle kept calling plays that wouldn't work when it was obvious to everyone they wouldn't work.
God, it just hit me, for most of the season it looked like Brian Schottenheimer had learned and developed and become a new coach ... and then in the playoffs he reverted to, well, Brian Schottenheimer.
Dallas Defense Primed For Another Challenge - David Helman, DallasCowboys.com
Over at the Mothership, they’re already looking forward to the team’s contest against the Los Angeles Rams, asking if the defense can step up yet again.
Congratulations on a great game – now, do it again.
If it’s a theme for football in general, it’s definitely a theme for the NFL playoffs. You couldn’t ask for a better example than this Dallas Cowboys defense, which now must follow Saturday’s dominant performance against Seattle with a game against the best offense in the NFC.
“It doesn’t matter how we handled it or whatever,” Tyrone Crawford said on Monday. “The point is we’ve got to get going this week and we’ve got to get after it.”
The Cowboys completely stifled the Seahawks for just 299 yards and 22 points in Saturday’s wildcard win. They limited the league’s best rushing offense to half of its average output, and they held Seattle to a woeful 2-of-13 performance on third down.
Their reward is a trip to Los Angeles to play the Rams, who sit at the top of the chart in most offensive categories. Spurred on by Todd Gurley, they’re averaging 421 yards and 33 points per game – second in the league in both spots, trailing only Kansas City.
It appeared that the Seahawks didn’t have a good plan when the Cowboys got into their “trips” look. I believe this was an adjustment that the Cowboys made at halftime, as they didn’t handle it well earlier in the game. The Seahawks struggled with the route combinations and Scott Linehan took advantage of them with the pass to Amari Cooper behind Dalton Schultz’s vertical route. Each time the Seahawks faced a trips look, there was an open Cowboys receiver -- which is surprising, given how well the Seahawks generally handle their coverages.
I am usually very critical of the officials in these games, but I did feel like Walt Anderson and the assigned crew did do a good job running this contest. Where I did take one exception with Anderson was the holding call he missed on Duane Brown, as he held Randy Gregory on the fourth down pass from Russell Wilson to Doug Baldwin. Brown was beaten so badly that he had no choice but to extend his left arm around Gregory’s neck. Brown even turned Gregory’s body as he was rushing toward Wilson, which is a clear indication that he was being held. I believe Anderson was too focused on Wilson and not the big picture of the rush.
Tavon Austin felt disrespected by Rams for trade - Stefan Stevenson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Tavon Austin will be facing off against his former team; Stevenson has the inside scoop.
Austin said he talked to Rams coach Sean McVay on the phone when the trade went down and there are no hard feelings.
“When I was there he was one of my closest dudes,” he said. “You’re always going to feel disrespected because you’re getting traded. If you get traded, evidently you’re not doing something right. Or you ain’t getting it done, or they don’t believe in you. One of those areas.”
It’s the cold, business side of the NFL, Austin said, and it took him a moment to get over it. A groin injury put a damper on Austin’s first season with the Cowboys but he returned after missing nine games for the regular-season finale and then showed off his big-play potential in the wild card win against the Seahawks. After having an 80-yard touchdown on a punt return called back because of a holding call, Austin returned a punt 51 yards, his longest since he returned a punt 75 yards for a score in Sept. 2015. That was also against the Seahawks.
Getting the big return felt good, he said, especially having a touchdown erased.
“Oh, yeah, for sure, because we got the win,” he said. “I’m the flag man. That’s been happening to me since I’ve been in the league. At the end of the day, it felt good. To go out there and do that, to still let myself know, after battling through all my injuries the last two years. I showed myself, ‘You’re still Big Tay.’”
We finish with this uplifting moment for a fallen Cowboy.