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Five plays that shaped the Cowboys’ loss to the Seahawks

The Cowboys lost a game that they could have won with fewer mistakes.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys nearly did it again. After getting down early in the game, the team was so close to pulling off another thrilling comeback victory, but fell just short. With Tyron Smith out again and a banged up secondary incurring even more injuries throughout the game, this one slipped away after a brief lead late in the game. Here are five under the radar plays that were integral to the outcome.

Tony Pollard’s muffed kick return sets up for the easy safety

Things started off really well for Dallas. The defense forced a three-and-out against Russell Wilson and then the offense drove down the field on the strength of Dak throwing it everywhere. The drive stalled and they came away with a field goal; Seattle responded with a touchdown to make it 7-3.

But the offense was getting the ball back, and Prescott’s hot start gave reason to believe they were going to respond right back. Then Tony Pollard muffed the kick as he was coming out of the endzone. It seemed like he then tried to get back into the endzone to force a touchback, but Seahawks players were already too close. The result was a mind-numbing mistake that put the offense on the field inside the 1-yard line.

Not surprisingly, the Seahawks forced a safety on the very next play. You can blame Ezekiel Elliott or the blocking on the play itself, but it wouldn’t have even been a possibility if Pollard makes a clean catch and halfway decent return, or just lets the ball go for a touchback.

Greg Zuerlein misses the extra point to keep the game tied

Despite the big setback of the safety, the Cowboys’ offense held onto their confidence. After their defense forced another three-and-out, Dallas rolled down the field for a touchdown, taking advantage of Seattle’s porous defense.

An extra point would have given Dallas a 10-9 lead, but Greg Zuerlein sliced the ball right, doinking it off the upright. There didn’t seem to be any real reason for the miss - it wasn’t tipped, the hold looked good - but Zuerlein just missed the easy point. In a game that ultimately came down to the wire, this one played a major role in how Dallas handled things moving forward.

Trevon Diggs literally punches a touchdown out of DK Metcalf’s hand

Trevon Diggs has had some (expected) growing pains in his rookie year, but the kid has plenty of heart and talent to match. After the Cowboys tied the game at 9-9 following Zuerlein’s missed extra point, Wilson torched the defense yet again with a bomb to DK Metcalf. The athletic freak of nature blew past Diggs for what would have been an easy touchdown. Would have been.

Metcalf tried to get cute by holding the ball out with one hand while slowing down to a light jog, and Diggs caught up to the receiver and swept his arm up to punch the ball out. The ball flew out of the back of the endzone, creating a touchback. The game was literally a yard away from being a 16-9 Seahawks lead, but Diggs’ hustle play kept it tied up.

Greg Zuerlein’s next PAT gets blocked

The score remained locked up at nine apiece for a while, but after the Seahawks took a touchdown lead, Dak hit Cedrick Wilson for a 40-yard catch-and-run touchdown, the first of his career. It looked like the Cowboys were about to tie things right back up in just three plays.

But Zuerlein’s kick was inexplicably blocked, making him 0/2 on extra points for the day. The Seahawks just got really good pressure around the edge and managed to get in front of the ball, barely tipping it to throw the kick off course.

Not only did this take another point away from the Cowboys, but it ended up playing a huge role in the game. In the fourth quarter, the Cowboys scored a touchdown and, because of Zuerlein’s two missed PATs, had to go for two. They ended up not converting, but if those points had made it onto the scoreboard then it’s a tie game at that point instead of a two-point deficit. And then when you consider that safety, it’s easy to see how these three mistakes dramatically changed the team’s approach.

Trysten Hill’s roughing the passer penalty gives Seattle another chance for two

Trysten Hill deserves a lot of credit for his glow-up this year, going from a routine healthy-scratch player last year to a starter and key cog on this year’s defensive line. But the second-year defensive tackle made a big mistake at a crucial point in the game.

With just under two minutes left in the game, Wilson threw a strike to Metcalf to retake the lead and go up 36-31. Naturally, Seattle lined up to go for two. If the defense managed to stop them, then all it took was a touchdown to win. They make it and a touchdown means overtime.

Initially they didn’t get it, as Wilson overthrew his man. But Hill, who came barreling into Wilson on the play, hit the quarterback in the head. Flags went flying for an obvious roughing the passer penalty, which gave the Seahawks another shot. They converted this time, making the Cowboys’ path to victory that much harder.