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Cowboys defense finds way at the end for a 41-35 resilient win and 14th straight at home

The Cowboys were tested quite a bit on Thursday night but thankfully found a way to win.

Seattle Seahawks v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys won their third game in twelve days on Thursday night against the Seattle Seahawks, scoring at least 40 points for the fourth time this season, but still needing some late Dak Prescott heroics paired with a defensive stand to barely escape 41-35 and improve to 9-3. The Cowboys finally being tested in a four quarter game at AT&T Stadium isn’t exactly the surprise coming out of this game as they drew a desperate Seahawks team coming off two straight losses and barely clinging to a playoff spot. The surprise was the offense having to continually pile up points in a game where the defense allowed 35 of their own. That made this a different type of challenge for Dallas to earn their 14th straight home win.

The Cowboys had yet to trail in a home game this season, but some early red zone miscues that resulted in an opening drive field goal opened the door for Geno Smith and the Seahawks offense to strike with just the first big play they’d make on the night. DK Metcalf’s 73-yard touchdown put Seattle ahead 7-3 in the first quarter, but the Cowboys would build a ten-point lead in the second quarter with two straight touchdown drives ending in passes to CeeDee Lamb and Brandin Cooks. This became just the first opportunity Dallas had to take control of the game for the rest of the night, but allowing two touchdowns of their own before the half and another on the opening drive of the third quarter changed the entire course of this game. The Cowboys trailed again at 28-27 going into the fourth quarter, and saw the deficit swell to eight points on Metcalf’s third touchdown of the game.

Prescott’s 12-yard touchdown strike to Jake Ferguson working against safety Jamal Adams gave Dallas the lead for good, capping off a stretch of games leading up to the home rematch versus the Eagles where the Cowboys are trying to keep alive an outside chance of winning the division. While the Eagles have been winning close games that prove their mettle over this stretch to hold off the Cowboys in the standings, it’s the Cowboys that now come into next Sunday night’s game earning a one score win against a team over .500 for the first time since week six at the Chargers.

Seattle Seahawks v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

The Cowboys didn’t exactly find a new way to win by putting up points all night to win by six; the offense has been humming ever since the bye week. Instead they are likely coming out of this game with more concerns on defense after allowing 406 yards on 6.3 yards per play, nine third-down conversions, and committing five penalties that gave the Seahawks first downs. Still, this defense’s best players were able to make enough winning plays to avoid a major upset, with DaRon Bland coming away with another interception and Micah Parsons making the fourth-down play to seal the victory.

With extended rest before the much-anticipated Eagles game, the Cowboys will have no shortage of things to work on coming out of this game, so let’s get right to a few immediate notes on their resilient performance against the Seahawks.

  • The final scores of the Cowboys wins leading into this game tell the story of this defense taking advantage of poor QB play against the Panthers, Giants, and Commanders, but even some of these contests stayed competitive for at least the first half while the defense allowed some plays in man coverage. Geno Smith was the first passer in weeks the Cowboys could expect to make throws that kept his team in the game for a full four quarters, and that’s exactly what he did by targeting Metcalf and Tyler Lockett eight times and Jaxon Smith-Njigba 11 times. This trio of receivers caught 18 of 27 passes thrown their way for 243 yards and three touchdowns, all to Metcalf. When their pass protection was able to hold up long enough, the Seahawks picked on Bland in single coverage against Metcalf, who used his size and speed to attack open space and carry this Seattle offense.
Seattle Seahawks v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The Seahawks also did a good job mixing in screen passes and intermediate throws to keep the Cowboys pass rush at bay, but ultimately they were able to do just enough to affect this game and again become a deciding factor in how this Dallas defense can overtake opponents. Dan Quinn’s defense figured out what base looks they could play against this balanced Seahawks offense as the night went on. Twists and stunts up front were used less as the game went on, as Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence instead focused on keeping Smith in the pocket and not allowing him to extend plays. Johnathan Hankins had a sack for the second week in a row while Osa Odighizuwa was disruptive in pass rush, and this DT duo contained cutback lanes for Zach Charbonnet. The Cowboys brought numbers into the box that created pass protection issues for the Seahawks like on the fourth and two where Parsons coming untouched forced the game-ending incompletion from Smith.

  • The Cowboys offense made enough red zone plays when it mattered to win, but saw some early-season issues in this area reemerge as they settled for four field goals, including on their opening drive. The play sequencing from Mike McCarthy to give Prescott the right looks was still on display, but the offense simply lacked the ability to finish consistently inside the 20. After running Tony Pollard on first and goal on their opening drive, the Cowboys went to a play-action rollout on second down but saw stand out rookie Devon Witherspoon crash on Prescott and knock the pass away. A third-down sack opened the door for the Seahawks to become the first team to take the lead on the Cowboys at home this season when they jumped ahead 7-3 on their first offensive touch, and similar lapses in focus on offense is what kept Seattle in the game until the very end. A play like Bland’s interception has been the turning point for Dallas to put teams away in recent weeks, but instead they turned the ball over on downs immediately after in the third quarter with an incompletion to Lamb.

It seemed as if the Cowboys were a step behind calling plays against the coverages the Seahawks were playing as opposed to just calling the game based on their own script. This will be an interesting thing to monitor with the Eagles as the Cowboys next opponent, with the offense leaving a ton of plays on the field in their previous close loss in Philadelphia. When the Seahawks came out with heavy zone looks on the Cowboys opening drive, the middle of the field throws that Prescott has been so consistent with should have become a focus all night. They were on the next two drives with touchdown strikes of 15 yards to Lamb and seven to Cooks, but the Cowboys got away from this often enough for the Seahawks defense to continuously keep this game alive for themselves.

Seattle Seahawks v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images
  • While this wasn’t quite a December game for the Cowboys, coming on the last day of November while the rest of the league will head into the new month on Sunday, it’s the time of year where games must be won and lost with your best players. The Cowboys may not be thrilled with how their own mistakes allowed this game to stay close, but they absolutely saw their star players make the winning plays when it mattered. DeMarcus Lawrence’s fourth-down stop that set up the go-ahead scoring drive in the fourth shouldn’t be forgotten here. A second-down pressure right in the face of Smith from Odighizuwa forced Seattle to play for some of the ten yards to go on third down, throwing a screen that got them into fourth and one. Lawrence was able to explode off the ball but keep a low pad level to cut across the face of left tackle Charles Cross and stop Charbonnet in the backfield. Lawrence’s run defense has been as good as ever in his tenth season, always in the right place at the right time in a defense surrounded by younger, faster, and more athletic players all flowing to the ball in support. It was the combination of Lawrence, Parsons, and Jayron Kearse all lined up near each other at the line of scrimmage on the Seahawks final fourth-down play that created confusion up front for Seattle and helped Parsons go unblocked in the face of Smith.

The Cowboys defense may have questions to answer about their coverages on the back end, though they won’t be the last defense to get picked on a bit this season by the likes of Metcalf and Lockett, but they continue to prove over the course of any given four quarters their front seven can make enough plays to turn the game in Dallas’ favor.

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