There’s a reason they call it the wild-card round, and the reason is because you get wildly entertaining games like the one played on Saturday night in Dallas.
In a game that wasn’t decided until Dallas recovered an onside kick with 1:16 left to play, the Cowboys outlasted the Seahawks 24-22 for a win that will now be sending Jason Garrett’s team to the divisional round next week against either the Saints or the Rams.
To pick up their first playoff win in four years, the Cowboys did what they they’ve done a lot of this season: They fed Ezekiel Elliott.
Elliott, who finished 2018 as the NFL‘s leading rusher with 1,434 yards, slowly wore down the Seahawks defense on a night where he carried the ball 26 times for 137 yards and a touchdown. Elliott tends to shine in the fourth quarter, and that’s exactly what he did against Seattle.
With just 7:20 left to play and the Cowboys clinging to a 17-14 lead, Dallas needed to put together a time-consuming drive, and so they decided to feed Zeke. On an 11-play drive that ran 5:12 off the clock and essentially iced the game, Elliott carried the ball five times for 31 yards. The Seahawks could only watch as precious seconds ticked away after each one of Elliott’s carries.
Elliott’s performance on the drive set up Dak Prescott for a one-yard score that proved to be the game-winning touchdown.
Although Elliott came up big on that fourth quarter drive, he did most of his damage in the first half, when he carried the ball 13 times for 91 yards. One of the biggest plays of the game came on a third-and-1 for the Cowboys with just 1:09 left to play until halftime. At the time, Dallas was trailing 6-3 and If they didn’t convert the third down from their own 34-yard line, they would have had to punt the ball back to Seattle.
Not only did Elliott get the one yard for the first down, but he also tacked on 43 more yards to set the Cowboys up at the Seahawks’ 22-yard line.
The run was pivotal because it gave the Cowboys a chance to get a touchdown right before halftime. With just 24 seconds left to play in the second quarter, Prescott hit Michael Gallup for a score that put the Cowboys up 14-10 at the half.
Prescott wasn’t perfect in this game, but he did more than enough to keep the pressure off Elliott. Not to mention, the Cowboys quarterback came through when the team needed him the most. In a play that basically saved the win for the Cowboys, Prescott converted a third-and-14 by pulling off a miraculous 16-yard run with under 2:45 left to play in the game.
Overall, Prescott rushed for 29 yards to go along with his 226-yard passing performance.
If the Cowboys win the Super Bowl, they might want to send a ring to Jon Gruden, and that’s because most of Prescott’s passing yardage went to former Raiders receiver Amari Cooper. Cooper continued to come up big for the Cowboys and this time, he did it with a seven-catch, 106-yard performance that included the 34-yard reception you can see below.
That catch, which came in the fourth quarter, set up a one-yard touchdown run by Elliott that gave the Cowboys the lead for good at 17-14.
The Cowboys’ new version of the triplets seems to be catching fire at the right time, and there’s no reason to think that this team can’t upset either the Saints or the Rams next week.
Dallas D puts clamps on Seahawks run game
During the 2018 season, the Seahawks led the NFL in rushing with 160 yards per game, but they got nowhere close to that number in Dallas. Going up against a relentless Cowboys defense, the Seahawks were only able to muster 73 yards on 24 carries. The numbers are actually even uglier than that if you consider that 28 of those yards came on one carry, which means that Seattle gained just 45 yards on their 23 other rushes (1.96 yards per carry).
Seahawks running back Chris Carson, who finished the season with 1,151 yards, had nowhere to run. At halftime, he had just 16 yards and he was only able to tack on four more in the second half. Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, who’s a strong Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate, was all over the field with 10 tackles. One key part of the Seahawks rushing attack is Russell Wilson, but he was mostly ineffective thanks to a perfectly designed defensive strategy from the Cowboys. For most of the game, the Cowboys had a shadow on Wilson to prevent the Seahawks quarterback from doing any damage with his legs, and the plan worked, because Wilson only rushed for 17 yards.
Seahawks help stop the Seahawks
Although the Cowboys deserve a lot of credit for shutting down the Seahawks offense, they also got some help from Seahawks offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who seemed lost calling plays. For the most part, the Seahawks spent the game running on first and second down, then hoping that Russell Wilson could bail them out on third down.
The problem for the Seahawks is that kind of offensive strategy just doesn’t work when you’re playing a defense as good as the Cowboys. Although Wilson had an impressive night (18 of 27, 233 yards, one touchdown), none of his magic was working on third down with the Seahawks going just 2 of 13 on third down conversions.
Schottenheimer’s obsession with sticking with something that wasn’t working (the run game) didn’t make any sense, and that’s mostly because Wilson came up huge when he was actually allowed to throw. For instance, the Seahawks quarterback single-handedly kept his team in the game when he converted a fourth-and-6 in the third quarter with this perfect throw to Doug Baldwin.
The crazy thing is that Wilson was making throws like that all game. The Seahawks quarterback would put the ball where only his receiver could get it, and then his receiver would make a huge play. Here’s a look at a 25-yard pass that Tyler Lockett caught in the second quarter.
Schottenheimer’s desire to stay with a run game that absolutely wasn’t working turned the Seahawks into a one-dimensional team that the Cowboys easily shut down. Lockett, who caught four passes for 120 yards, was one of the few bright spots for the Seahawks offense.
Home-field advantage is alive and well at Jerry World
Although Seattle is known as a tough place to play, it’s the Cowboys that have actually had one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL this year. Dallas finished the regular season with a 7-1 record at Jerry World, which was tied for the best home record in the NFC. The Cowboys asked their fans to wear white on Saturday to match the team’s white uniforms, and let’s just say, the fans in Dallas came through.
Everyone loves to joke about Cowboys fans being bandwagon jumpers, but the fact of the matter is that this fan base has stood by the organization for nearly 25 years even though the Cowboys haven’t come anywhere close to sniffing a Super Bowl since 1995. You could tell the fans in Dallas were eager to see the win on Saturday, and they came out in full force to AT&T Stadium to give the Cowboys a true home-field advantage against the Seahawks.
The Cowboys could actually end up hosting one more game this postseason, but that would only happen if they end up playing the Eagles, which means the Cowboys would need Philadelphia to somehow put together another magical playoff run. If the Eagles and Cowboys meet in the NFC Championship, the game would be played in Dallas on Jan. 20.
Allen Hurns carted off after gruesome injury
The Cowboys lost Allen Hurns for the night after he suffered an ugly injury midway through the first quarter. The injury happened after Hurns caught a big 14-yard pass on a third-and-7 play for the Cowboys. As Hurns was fighting to get a few more yards, he got hit by Seahawks safety Bradley McDougald, who came down on the receiver’s left ankle. In what can only be described as one of the most gruesome injuries you’ll ever see, McDougald’s body weight snapped Hurns’ ankle. The game had to be stopped for nearly 10 minutes so trainers could take care of Hurns and get him carted off the field.
The good news is that Hurns was able to give a thumbs up before he was taken off the field.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones revealed after the game that Hurns immediately underwent surgery after leaving the stadium. According to Jones, Hurns dislocated his ankle and fractured his knee.
One storyline that was hanging over the second half of this game was the health of Sebastian Janikowski. The Seahawks kicker injured himself while attempting a 57-yard field goal at the end of the first half, and by the start of the third quarter, he had been ruled doubtful to return before eventually being ruled out. That left the kicking duties to Seahawks punter Michael Dickson, who isn’t exactly known for his ability to placekick.
Dickson was missing field goals left and right during his halftime warm-up, and apparently, things were so bad that Pete Carroll decided not to attempt any kicks in the second half.
The Seahawks scored two touchdowns in the second half and after each score, Carroll decided to go for two (the Seahawks scored on both conversions). Although Dickson wasn’t forced to try a game-winning field goal, he did kill any chances Seattle had of winning when botched the onside kick with 1:16 left to play. Someone must have forgotten to tell Dickson that an onside kick only needs to go 10 yards, because he sent it more than 30 yards down the field.
The big kick was good news for Cole Beasley, who made the easiest onside recovery of his life.
Although the Cowboys will definitely be playing in the Divisional Round next week, they won’t find out who they’re playing until after the Eagles-Bears game on Sunday. If the favored Bears come away with the win, then the Cowboys will be headed for New Orleans in a game that would be played on January 13. This will be a rematch of a Week 13 game played in Dallas where the Cowboys upset the Saints 13-10. On the other hand, if the Eagles pull off the upset in Chicago, then Dallas will be headed to Los Angeles for a Saturday night showdown with the Rams.
As for the Seahawks, their season is now over, which means they can start focusing on things like the combine and free agency. The Seahawks can also turn their eyes to the draft. Since they were eliminated in the wild-card round, the Seahawks will pick either 21st or 22nd during the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
If you want to keep reading about the game, you can re-live everything from the Cowboys’ win in our blog below.