The Dallas Cowboys (8-7) will be home for the postseason for the fifth time in seven full seasons under Jason Garrett as a result of an all too familiar outcome — a failure to perform when it matters most.
The Cowboys have lost playoffs-or-go-home matchups in the final game in 2011, 2012 and 2013. In a 21-12 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the Cowboys again came up small when it mattered most. A win would have allowed them to go into the season finale with a chance to make playoffs. Now they face a final game at playoff-bound Philadelphia (13-2) on Sunday.
RUSH OFFENSE: C Ezekiel Elliott’s long-awaited return from a six-game suspension proved to be much ado about nothing. Elliott did his part with 24 carries for 97 yards, including 15 for 73 in the first half. But he had just 15 yards on seven carries in the third quarter and didn’t get one touch on first-and-goal from the 3 in the fourth quarter.
PASS OFFENSE: F Dak Prescott and the passing game has been broken all season and his play and production against the Seahawks proved typical. He completed 21 of 34 passes for 182 yards and two interceptions, including an interception return for a touchdown. He was also sacked four times. He got no help outside from receiver Dez Bryant, who fumbled after a catch and had two crucial drops, including a tipped pass that led to an interception.
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RUSH DEFENSE: A The Seahawks rushed for just 76 yards on 30 carries. Quarterback Russell Wilson had 29 yards in scrambles to inflate the number. Running back Mike Davis had 15 carries for 25 yards in what was an empty showing. Credit linebacker Sean Lee, who led the way on defense with 14 tackles.
PASS DEFENSE: B Russell Wilson didn’t pass for a lot of yards and he was sacked three times. But he didn’t need to do much. He completed 14 of 21 passes for 93 yards with two touchdowns. Both touchdowns were lessons for the Cowboys rookie corners. Doug Baldwin used quick feet to run away from Chido Awuzie at the goal line and tight end Jimmy Graham was too big for Jourdan Lewis, who should have never been assigned to cover him.
SPECIAL TEAMS: F Dan Bailey made four kicks in the game, including two 51-yarders, but this game will be remembered for the ones he missed in the fourth quarter, especially a 34-yarder that would have put the Cowboys within one score with 5:43 left. He also missed a 48-yarder. Bailey also missed two kicks and an extra point against the New York Giants two weeks ago.
COACHING: F The Seahawks gave up 72 points in the previous two weeks, but held the Cowboys to 12 in an elimination game the featured the return of Elliott. The offense regressed and underachieved all season and it was plain to see when it mattered most. Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan must answer for not giving Elliott the ball when it had first-and-goal at the 3 in the fourth quarter.