Cow­boys ride El­liott and their de­fence to win over Sea­hawks

Sunday Sports - - PLAYOFFS - JOHN KRYK [email protected]­ @JohnKryk

AR­LING­TON, Texas — Slag Ja­son Gar­rett all you want, but he’s the first head coach to de­feat Pete Car­roll in Seat­tle’s first game of the post-sea­son.

Six oth­ers this decade have tried, but lost.

Gar­rett’s Dal­las Cow­boys on Sat­ur­day night twice ral­lied to de­feat Car­roll’s Sea­hawks 24-22 at AT&T Sta­dium, in the first of two week­end NFC wild-card play­off games.

Should Chicago de­feat Philadel­phia on Sun­day, the Cow­boys (11-6) would play the fol­low­ing Sun­day at New Or­leans.

Should the Ea­gles upset the Bears, then the Cow­boys would play Sat­ur­day at the Los An­ge­les Rams.

Gar­rett lev­elled his play­off record at 2-2, and Dal­las won only its fourth of 13 post­sea­son games since win­ning three Su­per Bowls in four years in early 1990s.

As for the Sea­hawks, this was the first time they lost their open­ing play­off game in seven times reach­ing the post-sea­son un­der head coach Car­roll, since he re­turned to the pro ranks from USC in 2010.

In a game dom­i­nated by the de­fences un­til both be­gan to tire late in the third quar­ter, Ezekiel El­liott rushed for 137 yards and a touch­down for Dal­las. Team­mate Dak Prescott com­pleted 22-of-33 for 226 yards and a touch­down, plus rushed for 29 yards and a late, game-seal­ing touch­down.

The Cow­boys de­fence, though, was the story of the game. It was out­stand­ing, as it had been with lit­tle fan­fare through most of the reg­u­lar sea­son.

Dal­las ab­so­lutely shut down the Sea­hawks’ league­lead­ing rush­ing at­tack, lim­it­ing it as a whole to just 73 yards and lead­ing groundgainer Chris Car­son to just 20 yards on 13 car­ries. Dal­las led 10-6 at the half. The first big break of the sec­ond half went the Sea­hawks’ way when they downed a Dick­son punt at the Dal­las one-yard line. The Cow­boys couldn’t budge in three plays and punted.

Af­ter a short punt the Sea­hawks took over at the Dal­las 44 with seven min­utes left in the third quar­ter — and promptly marched for the go-ahead touch­down, their first of the game.

Three killer plays so typ­i­cal of the Sea­hawks in the Wil­son era got them into the end zone.

First, on a cru­cial 4th-and-5 at the Dal­las 39. With a 57-yard field goal not an op­tion, what with Seat­tle place­kicker Se­bas­tian Janikowski out for the game af­ter in­jur­ing a quad ap­par­ently on a 57-yard at­tempt to end the first half — Wil­son lofted a deep pass to his trusty wide re­ceiver Doug Bald­win, on a crosser go­ing left.

Wil­son threw it per­fectly. Bald­win caught it at the 17-yard line at the side­line, but looked out of bounds. Side­line of­fi­cials ruled him in. They were right. Re­plays showed he got his left foot clearly in bounds then dragged his right foot, spray­ing up tiny bits of chewed-up tires that cush­ion mod­ern foot­ball and soc­cer fields.

Three plays later, on 3rd-and-5 from the Dal­las 12, Wil­son kept on a read-op­tion around left end for seven yards. Two plays af­ter that, Wil­son did it again, this time keep­ing around the right end and he zipped in for an easy touch­down.

Mike Davis ploughed in for the two-point con­ver­sion and Seat­tle led again, 14-10.

With both de­fences now tir­ing early in the fourth quar­ter, the Cow­boys marched 67 yards in nine plays and re­took the lead on a one-yard plunge by El­liott. The con­ver­sion gave Dal­las 17-14 lead, with 12:28 re­main­ing.

Seat­tle then went three­and-out, and mo­men­tum swung fur­ther to Dal­las when Tavon Austin re­turned a 60-yard Dick­son punt 51 yards, from his 11-yard line to the Seat­tle 38.

On first down Prescott faked a hand­off, rolled right, then threw back far and deep to his left to a cross­ing Amari Cooper, for a 27-yard gain. He ap­peared to lose pos­ses­sion af­ter tak­ing a third step and hit­ting the ground.

Car­roll chal­lenged it, but the play was cor­rectly con­firmed. Un­der the old com­plete-the-catch-to-the-ground rule, in ef­fect un­til this year, that prob­a­bly would have been over­turned to an in­com­ple­tion.

Al­though Prescott was in­ter­cepted in the end zone by Seat­tle line­backer K.J. Wright with 9:34 left, again the Sea­hawks of­fence couldn’t do any­thing and punted.

Dal­las then put the game away — a sight sel­dom seen in a huge Cow­boys game this cen­tury. They marched 63 yards in 11 plays, ate 5:12 off the clock — aided greatly by a pair of pass-in­ter­fer­ence calls against Seat­tle, at least one of which was iffy.

Prescott capped the drive with a one-yard run, and Dal­las led 24-14 with 2:08 left.

Seat­tle didn’t quit, and took just 50 sec­onds to drive 75 yards in six plays to nar­row the Cow­boys’ lead to 24-22, af­ter a suc­cess­ful two-point con­ver­sion with 1:18 left.

But Michael Dick­son’s on-side kick at­tempt went way too far and the Cow­boys’ Cole Beasley made an easy catch at the Dal­las 32.

Seat­tle had no time­outs, so Prescott kneeled twice to run out the clock.

The only play peo­ple might re­mem­ber from the first half oc­curred on the Cow­boys’ sec­ond pos­ses­sion.

On a sim­ple slant com­ple­tion to the right, Cow­boys wide­out Allen Hurns had his left foot crunched — hor­ri­bly — on the tackle by hard-charg­ing Seat­tle strong safety Bradley McDougald. A mo­ment after­ward, Hurns lay on his back with both legs raised stiff into the air — only his left foot pointed in the wrong di­rec­tion. Yeah, back­ward.

A hor­rific an­kle/lower-leg in­jury.

Cow­boys quar­ter­back Dak Prescott ad­vances the ball to the one-yard line on a short run for the end zone as Sea­hawks’ Bradley McDougald makes the tackle in Ar­ling­ton, Texas, last night.

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