The Cowboys are moving onto the Divisional Round, following a 24-22 win over the Seahawks in Arlington. The game was a close, hard-fought encounter, which was impacted greatly by injuries in the first half. Allen Hurns suffered a brutal injury to his left ankle, and is done for the year. The capacity crowd at AT&T Stadium fell silent at the sight of the incident, and all of us at Franchise Sports wish him the best in his recovery.
The game was then altered irrevocably by an apparent hamstring injury to Sebastian Janikowski at the end of the first half. This left punter (and drop-Kick specialist) Michael Dickson to take kick-offs in the second half, and meant that Seattle could no longer kick PATs or field goals. While this did not cost them any direct opportunities, it was a looming theme of the second half, forcing Pete Carroll to go extremely aggressive on 4th Down and 2-point conversions.
The first half was largely a kicking battle, with the first 10 possessions ending on either a punt or FG attempt. The Cowboys scored three on their opening drive, with six punts following on from this. The Seahawks then evened it up with seven to go in the second. Following a Brett Maher miss with under four minutes to go in the second quarter, Seattle managed to drive and take their first lead of the game, through another FG.
Dak Prescott led a perfect 2-minute drive at the end of the second, with 4/5 passing before connecting with rookie Michael Gallup to go up 10-6. Seattle managed to generate enough offense to get near FG range, before sending out “Seabass” who suffered the aforementioned injury on an unsuccessful kick as time expired.
The game returned in much the same vein, with the 2nd half beginning with four punts. On that 4th drive, Dallas were flagged repeatedly and backed up, leaving the punt unit only able to get it out to their own 44-yard line. A run-heavy drive followed; with the only pass being a perfectly weighted ball to Doug Baldwin on the left sideline, which the Stanford alum hauled in with a toe-tap. The drive culminated in a read-option keeper with Russell Wilson capitalising on a slip by star defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence to jog into the endzone.
Dallas then returned the favour with their own touchdown drive. The main highlight of this drive was Dak standing in the pocket to deliver a strike to Amari Cooper who shot up the pitch for a gain of 33 yards. Dak Prescott, then ran in the score, but was adjudged to have not broken the plane with his forward stretch, leaving Ezekiel Elliot to bundle over from a yard out to take the lead 17-14.
Seattle were then held to a quick 3-and-out, but Dickson’s long punt was caught by Tavon Austin and returned for 51 yards to the Seattle 38. Another Dak-Amari throw set the Cowboys up on the edge of the 10, and they needed only two more plays until the ball would once again be in the endzone, but this time it was in a Seahawks hands, with veteran LB KJ Wright providing the crucial play.
However, the Dallas D held firm and forced another quick punt. Dak and Co then drove once more, determined to shake off the interception, and completed a tough 63-yard touchdown drive, which also managed to drain over five minutes from the clock late in the 4th.
Wilson kept the game alive with a 50 second touchdown drive, highlighted by a 53-yard bomb to Tyler Lockett, setting up an onside kick attempt to get the ball back and go for the win.
Alas, Dickson mishit his drop-kick, with the ball ballooning to Cole Beasley some 20 yards passed the line of scrimmage for an easy catch. Dallas were simply left to kneel the ball twice and end the game as victors 24-22.
The Cowboys will now travel to Los Angeles to take on Todd Gurley and the Rams. They are being marked as underdogs, but with a front seven and running game like theirs, anything is possible.
It would be unexpected to see a blowout either way, with Dallas likely looking to keep it tight and lean on Zeke. Maximising the 3rd year RB out of Ohio State, while limiting the Rams star Gurley, will be vital in any chance the Cowboys have of winning.
Seattle meanwhile are heading home, but should be left with a sense of optimism after this year where they over-achieved. Carroll will look to continue this new-look Seahawks success, and will look to the draft and free agency to address any needs they have.