They're one step closer to Finishing This Fight.
The Dallas Cowboys, winners of 10 regular-season games, including seven of their last eight, and champions of the NFC East, opened their NFL-leading 33rd playoff run with a 24-22 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. In the process, they also got revenge on a team that had defeated them back in Week 3.
It wasn't always pretty, with the defenses on both sides largely controlling the game, but no matter. A win is a win, especially in January.
The Cowboys defense did what it had to do, holding Seattle under its 26.8 points-per-game average, which was tied for sixth in the NFL. They limited the Seahawks to 299 yards of total offense, including slowing the league's top rushing attack to just 73 yards on the ground. Quarterback Russell Wilson managed 233 passing yards and a touchdown for a 105.9 passer rating, but it wasn't enough.
Because the Cowboys racked up 380 total yards and held a sizeable margin in the time of possession, 34:50 to 25:10. Ezekiel Elliott again proved to be the workhorse, as he picked up 137 rushing yards and added another 32 yards receiving, but he was joined by Amari Cooper, who co-starred by leading team pass-catchers with 106 receiving yards.
Dak Prescott had an efficient day, completing 66.7 percent of his passes for 226 yards with a touchdown and an interception for an 83.6 passer rating. But late in the game, when the Cowboys needed him most, the quarterback was even more impressive running the ball, finishing with 29 rushing yards on six carries with the game-clinching score.
In fact, Prescott got off to a fast start as well, as he completed 4-of-5 passes on the Cowboys' opening drive for 39 yards, moving the team from his own 25-yad line to the Seahawks' 21. But what has plagued Dallas all season again proved problematic here as the drive stalled, Brett Maher instead coming out for a 39-yard field goal and a quick 3-0 lead.
The game took a scary turn on the Cowboys' next series, though, when Allen Hurns moved the chains on third-and-7 with a 14-yard catch. But the wideout suffered a gruesome leg injury on the tackle and had to be carted off, players on both sides first taking a knee and then offering words of encouragement to Hurns as he left.
Trying to recover from the blow, the Cowboys offense then struggled to find its rhythm again, but the Dallas defense picked up the slack, simply dominating Seattle in the first quarter, allowing only 5 yards of offense.
Unfortunately, that changed on the Seahawks' first drive of the second frame, as Wilson hit tight end Ed Dickson for 26 yards and Tyler Lockett for a big 40-yard gain on back-to-back plays to reach the Cowboys' 12-yard line. There the defense held, but with a 27-yard field goal from Sebastian Janikowski, the game was tied, 3-3.
Which soon enough became a 6-3 Seahawks advantage. Dallas came back on its next offensive series and managed to cross midfield, but when the drive stalled, the decision was made to give Maher a shot at a 58-yard field goal. When his attempt then sailed wide right, Seattle had great field position with 3:12 remaining in the half.
The visitors took advantage. Behind a 25-yard Wilson-to-Lockett connection, the Seahawks worked their way to the Cowboys' 24-yard line where Janikowski was good on his 42-yard attempt.
But the Cowboys still had 1:43 to play with in the second quarter, which was plenty of time. Finally finding a groove, the offense quickly worked down the field with Elliott breaking loose around the right end on third-and-1 for a 44-yard gain to the Seattle 22-yard line. Four plays later, Prescott threw a fade to rookie wide receiver Michael Gallup on the right side of the end zone for the touchdown.
Those good vibes nearly vanished just before the half when Lockett took the ensuing kickoff back 50 yards to midfield. But with only 16 seconds remaining, Seattle could only give Janikowski a shot at a 57-yard field goal, and like his counterpart on the Cowboys, the Seahawks' try was pushed wide right, Dallas maintaining its 10-6 lead at the break.
Perhaps even more important to the eventual outcome, Janikowski suffered an injury to his kicking leg on the attempt and was sidelined for the rest of the game. It would prove costly for the Seahawks.
Admittedly, the signs were worrisome at that point for Dallas. The Cowboys had outgained Seattle 224 yards to 112, had 12 first downs to 4 and held the time of possession, 19:24 to 10:36. Yet they only had a four-point lead.
Which became even more troubling when Dallas went three-and-out on its first two possessions of the second half. The second of those came with the Cowboys pinned down on their own 2-yard line. That punt led to Seattle getting the ball back in great field position at the Dallas 44-yard line.
And while the Cowboys almost got out of the predicament unscathed, on fourth-and-5 at the 39-yard line, Wilson found Doug Baldwin on the left sideline for a 22-yard gain. That led to the quarterback converting on a third-and-5 at the 12 and then running the read-option around the right end himself from the 4-yard line for the score. With their kicker sidelined, the Seahawks went for 2 and converted, the lead changing hands for the third time, 14-10.
Make that four times. With the clock ticking over into fourth quarter, Prescott took his team on the move, going 67 yards in nine plays, the big one a 34-yard strike to Cooper to the Seattle 16-yard line. Four more plays later and Dallas was in the end zone, Elliott powering his way in behind First Team All-Pro right guard Zack Martin for the score, the Cowboys back in front, 17-14.
For good, as it turned out. Dallas had the chance to really put the game away on its next possession after Tavon Austin took a punt return back 51 yards to the Seattle 38. But with the Cowboys knocking on the door at the Seahawks' 16-yard line, Prescott tried to find Noah Brown in the end zone, only to have the receiver mauled by K.J. Wright, the pass bouncing off Brown and into the hands of the linebacker.
No matter, as the Dallas defense continued to do its job. Behind that effort, the Cowboys then took over their next series at their own 37-yard line and helped by a pair of pass interference calls on the Seahawks, pounded out an 11-play drive that just as importantly ate up 5:12 of clock.
The highlight of the possession was Prescott's run on third-and-14 at the Seattle 17-yard line. The quarterback took off up the middle, avoided the first line of defense then went head-over-heels to the 1-yard line. The next snap he was in the end zone on a keeper, the Cowboys now enjoying a two score advantage, 24-14, with 2:08 left in the game.
Seattle, though, didn't go quietly. The visitors came right back with a quick score of their own, helped by a 53-yard completion from Wilson to Lockett, which set up an eventual 7-yard pass to running back J.D. McKissic for the touchdown. Again, with Janikowski out, the Seahawks went for 2 and were successful, narrowing the score to 24-22 with 1:18 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Out came punter Michael Dickson to try what was expected to be an onside kick. But his drop-kick went high in the air and easily fell into the arms of Beasley. With Seattle out of timeouts, two kneel-downs later the game was done.
With the win, the Cowboys improved to 35-27 all-time in the playoffs, tying the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most postseason victories in NFL history. They'll now await the outcome of the Chicago Bears-Philadelphia Eagles game on Sunday to determine where they'll play in the division round next weekend.