The Dallas Cowboys managed to hang on for a tight 41-35 win over the Seattle Seahawks. It kept them in solid position to at least get the fifth seed for the playoffs and they didn’t fall any further behind the Philadelphia Eagles, but the way they had to claw their way to this victory may have resurrected all the questions about their ability to play well against teams with a winning record. Seattle came in at 6-5, and gave them almost more than they could handle.
What most of us expected to be an easy game for the Cowboys at home instead turned to a nail-biting, back and forth contest as the Dallas defense was far too porous. The offense did its job, and with 4:37 left in the game, it was a narrow three-point lead for the Cowboys in a game that had no earlier punts. Seattle got the ball with the ability to control the clock and tie or take the lead. On fourth and four, just shy of the midfield stripe, the pressure was enough on Geno Smith to get the ball back as his pass wasn’t close to any of his receivers. The Cowboys would only manage a field goal on the ensuing possession, giving Seahawks the ball back with 1:43 left, which looked like too much time for an offense that had marched up and down the field all game. Then, after so many issues earlier, the defense stood up for the Cowboys and stopped Seattle on the third fourth-down attempt in a row to get them to the Landry shift and a hard earned ‘W’.
The Cowboys got the ball to open the game, and started off hot, marching quickly down to the Seahawks’ two-yard line, making first downs on Dak Prescott passes to CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, Tony Pollard, and KaVontae Turpin. But things stalled in the red zone, and they had to settle for a Brandon Aubrey field, who extended his perfect streak to give Dallas an early 3-0 lead. But on Seattle’s first possession, D.K. Metcalf beat DaRon Bland to get open, and Geno Smith found him for a 73-yard touchdown. It was the first time the Cowboys had trailed at home all season.
They responded quickly, with a clutch catch and run from Jake Ferguson on 3rd and 16 following the second sack of Prescott in the game, followed by a pass interference call drawn by Jalen Tolbert to get them in the red zone again. Prescott would find Lamb in the end zone, with his receiver going up to pull it down for the score and get the lead back.
The Seahawks would mount another drive after Mike McCarthy elected to decline a holding call to set up 3rd and 9, and Metcalf would strike again with a 34-yard catch. The defense would stiffen and force Seattle to settle for their own field goal that Jason Meyers would push wide right, letting Dallas go into the second quarter still leading by three.
Taking over at their own 32, the offense would start moving again with a 12-yard catch by Luke Schoonmaker, who continues to progress as a weapon. On the first play of the second quarter, Prescott would come up a yard short on a third-down keeper. With the ball at the Seattle 46, McCarthy didn’t hesitate, and Pollard got around left tackle easily to get a first down at the Seahawks 36. A few plays later, Lamb would catch a ball that set up 1st and goal at the two again. It looked like McCarthy called another keeper for Prescott, but he was cut off and threw the ball, which led to an illegal man downfield flag, moving the Cowboys back to the seven. It didn’t hurt them as Prescott found Cooks, wide open at the goal line, for another touchdown.
The defense, however, was still having trouble getting off the field. After Javon Smith-Njigba got a third-down conversion when he broke a tackle from Bland, who was having a bad start to things, Rashaan Evans and Stephon Gilmore would keep the drive alive with pass interference calls to set up a Zach Charbonnet one-yard touchdown plunge, cutting Dallas’ lead back to three.
First-down runs continued to be an issue in this game, as they have all year as the next possession for the Cowboys opened with another two-yard gain. They would overcome that, including a couple of nice receptions and one entertaining hurdle from Ferguson, to get on the Seahawks’ side of the 50. The drive would continue inside the two-minute warning. After Pete Carroll also declined a holding call to leave Dallas facing a third and goal from the six, and Prescott would come up short after pulling the ball down and trying to make it in himself. That left the offense facing fourth and goal from the 3, but offensive holding again would nullify a Prescott touchdown and push them back, and Aubrey would come on again to extend his streak by one more.
Carroll had used his timeouts to save time, giving his offense a minute and a half to see if they could get more points. The rain of penalty flags against the Cowboys would continue to help their opponent, and Smith would find Smith-Njigba for an apparent touchdown, but it was overruled. It wouldn’t matter, because Smith would find Metcalf for the third Seahawks touchdown of the first half. Dallas’ defense was just unable to stop them, and the Cowboys went into halftime trailing by one. It was a troubling look as Seattle had come into the game having not scored a touchdown in seven quarters of play. They shredded Dan Quinn’s unit, and you know the Philadelphia Eagles are going to be studying this game intently. Smith was not sacked at all in the first half and only hit three times. With them getting the second half kickoff, the Dallas defense had to find some answers, stat. The offense had played well, with Bryan Anger not punting once in the first half, but red zone problems had emerged again to lead to the halftime deficit.
Things did not get off to any better a start after the intermission as the Seahawks kept moving the ball, including finding some running room up the middle. Not only would they quickly get on Dallas’ side of the field, Markquese Bell would draw yet another penalty, a facemask that got Seattle into the red zone. Smith would take the ball into the end zone himself. Dallas’ defense was struggling badly, with no sign they could figure out the suddenly potent Seahawks offense.
The Cowboys now trailed by eight with 25:01 left in the game. And they had not played well when behind in their three losses on the season. On their next drive, the yellow laundry worked in their favor, as five calls against the defense helped them get into the red zone. Ferguson would give them 1st and goal from the six. Pollard would carry it to paydirt two plays later. With all the penalties, Dallas managed to collect nine first downs in driving 75 yards. They would not go for two, leaving them down one with 3:41 left in the third quarter.
The defense would finally rise up, and in what has become a very predictable way. Bland had been picked on all game, but on third and seven, he got the first turnover of the game, handing the ball back to the offense at the Seattle 38. He didn’t score, but extended his league leading interception total to eight. The offense would not be able to convert on third down, and McCarthy elected to go for in on fourth and two instead of trying to retake the lead with a field goal. Lamb would drop Prescott’s throw at the sticks and the ball would go right back to Seattle, with the onus back on the Cowboys’ defense.
They staggered immediately as Noah Fant pulled in a 25-yard pass against Jayron Kearse. Then Charbonnet would take screen pass all the way to the Dallas six on the final play of the third quarter. And the second play of the fourth would see Metcalf hauling in his third touchdown pass of the game, and getting to 134 yards.
The offense might have had some issues, but they once again got a gift when Lamb drew a pass interference call, one that was frankly somewhat questionable. That set them up on the Seattle 34, and Prescott halved the distance with an escape from the continual pressure to find Tolbert on the sideline. Two failed plays led to a third and 12, and a miss to Lamb in coverage forced them to settle for a field goal that left them trailing by five, 35-30.
There were almost eleven and a half minutes left, and neither team had punted. Dallas could afford few miscues if they wanted to pull this one out. And the defense finally got a stop on fourth and one as DeMarcus Lawrence blew through the line to drop Charbonnet for no gain at the Dallas 46.
With time ticking down to five minutes in regulation, it was now four down territory the rest of the way for the Cowboys. But they wouldn’t need to go for it as Prescott and company quickly marched down the field Ferguson would get his second touchdown catch of the game, overcoming yet another yellow flag, their ninth of the game. McCarthy would dial up a two-point play, and Cooks would bring it down to make it a three point lead for the home team, setting up the final drama of the game recounted above.