NFC Playoff Recap: Wildcard Weekend

How about them Cowboys?

Seattle Seahawks – 22
Dallas Cowboys – 24

I give the Cowboys a hard time. I know it. It’s nothing personal. It’s just that since 2010, the Cowboys have wavered between scintillating potential and blasé mediocrity. They’ve won only one playoff game in that time, a wildcard triumph over Matthew Stafford and the Lions back in 2014. They put up a string of 8-8 seasons, and finished up last year at 9-7, on the outside looking in. You’ll forgive me for not being a believer when they manage to win the muddled NFC East at 10-6. That defense does look stout, though, doesn’t it? Fifth against the run, sixth overall. Great front seven and a young sideline to sideline tackling machine in Leighton Vander Esch. The Cowboys kept the Seahawks under wraps the whole game, holding the vaunted Seattle rushing offense to under seventy-five yards all game. During the regular season, the Seahawks averaged more than twice that amount. Chris Carson could manage only twenty yards on thirteen carries. It was his lowest total all season. His long run of five yards on Saturday was just above his season average per carry (4.7). The Cowboys made themselves at home in the Seattle backfield, registering five tackles for loss and making Russell Wilson exceedingly uncomfortable as the game wore on. Despite that defensive performance, though, the Cowboys simply couldn’t pull away, it took star turns from both Ezekiel Elliot (26 carries, 137 yards rushing and a TD, 4 receptions for 32 yards) and Amari Cooper (7 receptions for 106 yards) to generate enough offense to get past the wildcard representatives. The game-winning fourth quarter drive by the Cowboys was aided by not one, but two pass interference penalties that sustained the drive, and it was just enough to hold off the surging Seahawks, who scored 16 points after halftime by going for two after both scores. While it looks gutsy on paper, there’s a reason that Pete Carroll dialed it up to eleven after scoring. He had to. Just before halftime, Seattle found itself in prime position to tack on a few points after a tremendous kick return by Tyler Lockett, who brought the ball out of the end zone into Cowboy’s territory. Then, normally sure footed veteran Sebastian Janikowski blew his hamstring at the end of the half on a 57-yard attempt that pushed wide right. He wouldn’t return, leaving Seattle with little option at placekicker. Those three points and wildly errant on-side kick attempt late in the fourth would seal Seattle’s fate.

All game long, it looked like Seattle would find a way to win. A fourth quarter interception by K.J. Wright in the end zone looked to be the momentum swing that would propel Seattle forward, but a quick three-and-out kept the Cowboys in front for good.

The Cowboys squeaked out a home playoff win, but they couldn’t seem to put Wilson and the Seahawks away.

If they want to be taken seriously, but they’ll need to prove it on the road next weekend against the L.A. Rams, who pose a much larger threat than Seattle on offense.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out Tom’s other playoff previews here

Image Source: USA Today

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