Cowboys hang on to beat Seahawks, as Elliott, Prescott deliver
The Dallas Cowboys seemingly had no idea how to protect a lead until late, but they did enough of their best work coming back from two deficits to win a playoff game for the first time in four years.
The Cowboys beat the Seattle Seahawks, 24-22, on Saturday night at AT&T Stadium. The two teams traded the lead four times in this defensive battle, with Dallas able to wrest away control of the game late despite a few shaky moments.
But when things got rough, they gave the ball to Ezekiel Elliott. The player who was the team’s talented distraction in 2017 has become their irreplaceable tank. The league’s regular-season rushing leader, who also had career bests in receiving, was the main source of offense against Seattle, accounting for 169 of the Cowboys’ 382 yards of offense.
In his first playoff victory, Dak Prescott also provided two thrilling fourth-quarter runs, both of which were ruled down at the 1-yard line — and, really, inside the 1 both times. Elliott capped off the first fourth-quarter drive to give Dallas the lead, and Prescott took it in the second time to effectively finish off the Seahawks.
On the two drives on which the Cowboys were trailing, they scored 14 points. When they were tied or protecting a lead, they scored only three points in their first drive. But the last one was what mattered most.
Prescott was up and down as a passer, but he made enough plays to hold off Russell Wilson and the Seahawks. Wilson had a few magic moments as well as the Seahawks stole second-half momentum coming out of halftime and kept the announced attendance of 94,327 holding their collective breaths until the final moments.
A late TD and two-point conversion (out of necessity; keep reading) made it a two-point game, but Michael Dickson’s strange pooch kickoff proved to be easy to field for Dallas to hang on to the win. Dickson was only attempting the kick because the Seahawks had to play the second half without kicker Sebastian Janikowski, who got hurt right before halftime.
The Seahawks’ conservative play calling appeared to sheath Wilson until it was too late, and they totaled a mere 224 yards of offense and nine first downs in the first 58 minutes of the game. The Seahawks first stole that momentum with two great defensive stops — one a third-and-1 Bobby Wagner hammer-blow stop, the other a near safety — and strong special-teams play.
Then it was Wilson time. He hit Doug Baldwin on a gorgeous over route on the sideline, which was one of the best toe-tapping grabs you’ll see on this stage. Then Wilson kept the ball on back-to-back read-option runs, the second of which ended in the end zone. With Janikowski out, they went for two and Mike Davis rumbled in to make it 14-10, Seahawks.
Prescott didn’t want to be undone. He nearly scored on a beautiful touchdown sweep, but Prescott was ruled down inside the 1-yard line after replay. After Elliott was stoned on first-and-goal, he plowed in for a touchdown to put Dallas back on top, the fourth lead change of this slugfest.
After a Seattle punt, Tavon Austin took the return back 51 yards. Prescott then hit Amari Cooper for a 27-yard catch, one that stood after Seahawks coach Pete Carroll’s challenge a review as to whether he had bobbled the ball when going to the ground. But K.J. Wright bailed out his coach with a brilliant interception in end-zone traffic to thwart the drive.
Prescott’s throw was bad — the kind of underthrown ball that gets burned into the brain — but it somehow didn’t hurt the Cowboys. The defense held after the Seahawks gifted Dallas two mindless penalties on the ensuing drive. And Cooper was great all night, catching seven passes for 106 yards.
The Cowboys came out for the first drive of the game fairly sharp on offense, but they seemed to lose some steam after a gruesome injury to WR Allen Hurns, whose ankle appeared to turn sideways following a 14-yard grab. Hurns remained down for several minutes while the Cowboys’ medical staff tended to him, and he was carted off the field with what clearly was a serious injury.
The Cowboys’ defense forced three straight three-and-outs to start the game, as QB Russell Wilson finished the first quarter with minus-8 pass yards. But Dallas got a tough blow when Tavon Austin’s 80-yard punt return was called back on a holding infraction that had head coach Jason Garrett berating the officiating crew.
The Seahawks didn’t have a first down until five-plus minutes into the second quarter, but Wilson struck quickly on wide-open passes of 26 and 40 yards before the Seahawks bogged down in the red zone. They added a field goal to tie the game, 3-3, midway through the second quarter.
Maher — who was 6-of-7 from 50 or more yards in the regular season — missed a 58-yard try on fourth-and-10 with three minutes to go before the half. The Seahawks struck back quickly, with Wilson hitting Tyler Lockett on an amazing 25-yard grab. They stalled again, but Sebastian Janikowski’s second field goal gave the Seahawks their first lead of the game.
Elliott finally got the Cowboys in gear with a 44-yard run on the Cowboys’ final possession of the half, and this time they weren’t settling for a field goal. Prescott hit Michael Gallup on a fade pass — after badly overthrowing a first attempt to the same spot — for an 11-yard TD to steal the lead back before the half at 10-6, Dallas.
After Lockett returned the ensuing kickoff 52 yards, Seattle was immediately back in business, bringing the half to a semi-fascinating finish after a sluggish first 27 minutes. Then it got really interesting: Janikowski injured his thigh attempting a 57-yard FG try (no good) at the end of the half.
Janikowski was ruled out midway through the third quarter, so the Seahawks not only trailed but also faced not having a kicker to help. Still, they faced bigger issues — a strong Dallas defense and a Seahawks coaching staff that played awfully conservatively after appearing to be the team in control in the second half.