Dallas, TX — For the first time since 2014, the Dallas Cowboys were on the winning end of a playoff game thanks to a stout defensive performance.
As a unit, they held the NFL’s number one rushing attack to just 73 yards and limited the Seattle Seahawks to just 11 first downs in their 24-22 victory. Running back Ezekiel Elliott had a big day for the Cowboys offense rushing for 137 yards and one touchdown on 26 carries.
The Seahawks had their chances late in the game to tie things up but an injury to kicker Sebastian Janikowski, undisciplined play by their offensive line, and two borderline defensive pass interference calls, derailed their odds.
It was a defensive slugfest early on as both teams struggled to move the ball. The Cowboys kicker Brett Maher was able to knock in a 39-yard field goal on their opening possession but the two teams didn’t score again until late in the second quarter.
Seattle was able to tie things up with just over seven minutes to go thanks to a 27-yard field goal by Janikowski. Dallas had an opportunity to retake the lead but Maher was unable to connect on a 58-yard field goal, giving the Seahawks great field position.
The ensuing possession, Russell Wilson drove his team 28 yards setting up Janiskowski for a 42-yard field goal, giving the Seahawks a 6-3 lead.
Prescott and the Cowboys responded quickly driving 75 yards on seven plays and capitalized with an 11-yard touchdown to Michael Gallup to retake the lead 10-6.
With less than 30 seconds, the Seahawks had great field position thanks to Tyler Lockett’s 52-yard kickoff return. Wilson set his team up for another field goal but Janiskowski could not convert on the 57-yard attempt and in the process, injured his hamstring and would not return for the remainder of the game.
The two teams exchanged a series of punts to start the second half which benefited the Seahawks as they had flipped field position in their favor. Starting at the Dallas 44-yard line, Seattle was able to pound it into the end zone running the ball on eight of the drive’s nine plays. Wilson kept the ball on a zone read to run it in from four yards out.
Head coach Pete Carroll elected to go for the two-point conversion and it was a success, as Mike Davis ran it in on a zone read play giving the Seahawks a 14-10 lead.
The Cowboys responded with a methodical nine-play drive that resulted in a touchdown thanks to Elliott who ran it in from one yard out. Prescott was perfect on the drive going 3-3 and set Dallas up at the one-yard line thanks to a tough run on a designed quarterback keeper.
After jumping out to a 17-14 lead, the Cowboys forced the Seahawks to a three and out and had great field position thanks to Tavon Austin’s 51-yard punt return. After first downs on back-to-back plays, Prescott took a shot to the end zone where his pass was intercepted by linebacker K.J. Wright. It looked like Wright had gotten their a split second too early but no pass interference was called, as the linebacker was able to coral in the ball after a juggling act.
The Seahawks collapsed on the ensuing possession due to a holding penalty on center Justin Britt on first down and then an unnecessary roughness penalty on guard D.J. Fluker who hit Jaylon Smith after the play was over on second down. Seattle was forced to punt the ball away to Dallas after the interception.
With seven minutes left to go, the Cowboys were trying to run the clock out as Elliott carried the ball six times on the final possession. Dallas was helped out by two questionable pass interference calls on consecutive third downs. The first was on Wright, who benefited from a no-call earlier in the game and the second was on Justin Coleman as he seemed to get tangled incidentally with Cole Beasley during his route.
With the ball at Seattle’s 17-yard line, the Cowboys called a quarterback draw and Prescott was able to weave his way down to the one-yard line. The following play, he called his own number on the quarterback sneak and ran it in, putting Dallas on top by a score of 24-14.
Seattle did not go down quietly, however. Wilson connected with Locket on a 52-yard pass that put the Seahawks at the Dallas 13-yard line. Three plays later, Wilson hit running back J.D. McKissic for a touchdown and then the running back was able to run it in on the two-point conversion making it 24-22 setting the viewers up for a dramatic finish.
With a 1:18 left in the game, punter Michael Dickson was asked to attempt an onside kick due to Janikowski’s injury and was unable to get off a successful attempt. Cole Beasley caught the ball with ease.
There were plenty of question marks surrounding Prescott coming into the game but the third-year starter handled the big stage well finishing with 226 passing yards and one touchdown on 22-33 passing. The Cowboys leading receiver was Amari Cooper as he hauled in seven receptions for 106 yards.
Leighton Vander Esch and Demarcus Lawrence led the charge defensively as the rookie linebacker led the team with 10 tackles and Lawrence recorded six and two tackles for a loss.
Wilson finished the game going 18-27, 233 passing yards and one touchdown. Lockett was the lone big performer with four receptions for 120 yards.
With the victory, Dallas collects only their third playoff win since the year 2000 and will face either the New Orleans Saints or Los Angeles Rams depending on the outcome of the the Eagles-Bears game Sunday afternoon.