Dak Prescott wanted it.
He wouldn’t be denied.
And when it mattered most, Prescott made the flipping difference for the Dallas Cowboys in their 24-22 victory against the Seattle Seahawks in an NFC wild-card playoff game at AT&T Stadium on Saturday.
Facing a 3rd-and-14 and nursing a three-point lead with a little more than 2 minutes to go, Prescott went 16 yards on a quarterback draw and nearly scored on a flip at the 1-yard line, sending the whiteout, towel-waving crowd into delirium.
He got the score on the next play to send the Cowboys to divisional playoffs against either the Los Angeles Rams next Saturday or the New Orleans Saints next Sunday depending on the outcome of Sunday’s game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears.
“It’s simple, he’s a grown-ass man,” running back Ezekiel Elliott said. “He led us to this win tonight.”
Elliott added 137 yards on 26 carries.
The Cowboys defense set the tone by stoning the Seahawks’ top–ranked running game and keeping quarterback Russell Wilson in check.
But Prescott carried them to victory, completing 22 of 36 passes for 226 yards with a touchdown through the air and the game decider on the ground as the Cowboys rallied from a 14-10 fourth-quarter deficit and had to survive an onside kick.
It was the just fourth playoff win since the Cowboys won their last Super Bowl title in 1995, but it was the first for Prescott.
“He showed that he won this playoff game,” owner Jerry Jones said. “He took it on his shoulders. He made plays that put us in position to come out like we did. That is what you want from your quarterback.”
Here are five thoughts from the game:
Prescott playoff ready
Prescott was darn-near perfect in the first half completing 17 of 23 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown.
He again showed his focus in two-minute situations. After the Seahawks took a 6-3 lead with 1:43 left in the second quarter, Prescott drove the Cowboys 75 yards on 7 plays. Elliott did the heavy lifting with a 44-yard run on 3rd and 1. But Prescott was razor sharp, completing five of six passes, including a perfect 11-yard fade to Michael Gallup for the touchdown. It was an important redzone score for a Cowboys team that struggled to score touchdowns near the goal line all season.
After leading 10-6 at halftime, the Cowboys found themselves trailing 14-10 going into the fourth quarter.
Prescott, as has done all season, brought them back with two touchdown drives.
He rushed six times for 29 yards in the game, including the game-deciding score from the 1 after just missing on flip following a 16-yard run.
Prescott has 14 game-winning drives in his career, the most of any quarterback since 2016. This was the first in the postseason.
“It just shows his toughness, his competitiveness, man,” center Joe Looney said of the Prescott flip run. “Any time you have a guy like that in your corner, I think good things are going to happen. He’s a leader. He’s the leader of this team. That’s why he has that ‘c’ on his jersey. He’s our captain. He’s our leader.”
Said Jones: “Dak can do those flips, OK? Dak can do it all. But seriously, he had a very physical game. Give them their due, and I thought he played an outstanding game not only just effectively winning the game, but basically taking what was given him. I thought when we stepped out and we said we’ve got to open it up and throw the ball, I thought he was up to the task.”
The thing with great running backs is patience with the run and patience with the running game. It wasn’t always pretty for Elliott. He had six carries for 22 yards in the first quarter. And was 12 for 47 heading into the final drive of the half.
Two passes to Blake Jarwin and Amari Cooper made it 3rd and 1 at the 34. Elliott was supposed to dive up the middle for the first down but he went around the left side against the Seahawks defense keying the middle. He sprinted 44 yards down the right sideline, turning a Cowboys drive into a field goal before the half until a chance for a touchdown. Prescott finished it off with an 11-yard pass to Michael Gallup and a 10-6 halftime lead.
Elliott had 13 carries for 91 yards in the first half. And after just getting six carries on four yards in the third quarter, he proved to be the closer in the fourth with 40 yards to help milk the game and the clock.
He finished with 26 carries for 137 yards and a touchdown.
“He was outstanding,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Again, a really good defense that is so hard to run against. Every inch is contested and he just kept battling. Talk about physical toughness. Talk about mental toughness. He embodies that. Boy he was something else. A lot of dirty runs throughout the game that showed up at the end of the game. He is a big-time football player. ”
Defense turns doomsday
The Cowboys held the Seahawks to five yards and just nine plays on the first three drives. They forced five three and outs on the first seven drives.
Seattle made three plays in the first half to get themselves two field goals. Passes of 26 and 29 yards to Tyler Lockett and a 40-yard pass to Ed Dickson. Of course, coach Jason Garrett’s decision to try a 57-yard field goal set the Seahawks up for a field goal after Brett Maher’s miss.
With kicker Sebastion Janikowski out for the second half after suffering a thigh injury on a 57-yard miss on the last play of the first half, the Seahawks couldn’t rely on field goals and extra points in the final two quarters.
Down 10-6 at halftime, the Seahawks took the lead in the third quarter when quarterback Russell Wilson threw a 22-yard pass to Doug Baldwin on fourth and 5 and then scored on a zone read for four yards out. Mike Davis made the try for two good with a dive up the middle.
But that would be it for the Seahawks as this Cowboys defense was in shutdown mode all night.
The Cowboys held the league’s top-ranked rushing offense to just 73 yards.
Wilson completed 18 of 27 passes for 233 yards and got a late score on a 7-yard pass to running back J.D. McKissic to make the score 24-22 following a 2-point conversion with 1:18. But it was too little too late as the Cowboys survived an onside kick.
Linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith led the charge with 10 and seven tackles respectively.
“Limit them in yardage on first and second down and that’ll help you in the end,” Smith said. “You can let our pass rushers get after the quarterback. We were able to do that tonight. We’ve just got to keep it going.”
Amari Cooper makes impact
Receiver Amari Cooper wasn’t with the Cowboys when they played the Seahawks in September. In that game, tight end Geoff Swaim led the team in receptions and Cole Beasley had three catches for the wideouts. Cooper has made a difference in the passing game since coming over in a bye week trade from the Raiders. And he made his presence felt Saturday night with seven catches for 106 yards.
His 34-yard catch set up the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. He also had a 27-yard catch that should have led to a score. But Prescott was intercepted in the end zone on a throw to Noah Brown.
Elliott had four catches for 32 yards and Beasley had three catches for 28.
Receiver Tavon Austin had one catch for seven yards and had a 51-yard punt return.
“Tavon really gave us a shot in the arm,” Garrett said. “Cooper came up big again, at the critical moments. He’s a damn good football player. He’s done a lot for our team.”
The Dallas Cowboys are moving on, winning just their fourth playoff game since 1995 and the second under Jason Garrett since 2014.
They advance to play in the divisional round for the first time since January 2017 when they lost to the Green Bay Packers.
They’ll travel to either the No. 1 New Orleans Saints or the No. 2 Los Angeles Rams.
Sunday’s wild-card game between the Eagles and Bears will determine where the Cowboys play next week. If the Bears win, the Cowboys go to New Orleans for a Sunday afternoon game. If the Eagles win in Chicago, the Cowboys will play in Los Angeles Saturday night.
“This is payday for a lot of work and a lot of good things happening, but at the end of the day our accountability has to do with some degree with how we played today and whether we could win this game or not,” Jerry Jones said of rebounding from a 3-5 start to win of their last nine games. “We still have some accounting to do and comes up next week and it will just be another level of really a rewarding year and the old adage about this game is you just shouldn’t count it out. We’ve got a lot of tools in the NFL, we can trade, we can bring people in who aren’t on rosters, there is a lot of machinations that you can do. It’s a credit to your coaching staff and players that when you bring players in like Cooper and you bring them in in the middle of the season that they can incorporate them into a team that can really execute and really have success. That says a lot about the team, too.”