ARLINGTON, Texas — Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 137 yards and the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, and the Dallas Cowboys hung on for a 24-22 wildcard win over the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday night.
The playoff win by the Cowboys (11-6) was the first for Elliott and quarterback Dak Prescott on their second try after losing a divisional game as rookies two years ago. Dallas will play either New Orleans or the Los Angeles Rams in the divisional round next weekend.
The loss ended a run of nine straight victories in playoff openers for the Seahawks (10-7). The Elias Sports Bureau says it was the longest streak in NFL history.
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) January 6, 2019
Dallas’ defence, ranked in the top 10 most of the season, mostly kept quarterback Russell Wilson under control and handed him his first loss in four wild-card games.
“Our defence was great,” Prescott said. “They keep us in every game.”
It was the eighth win in nine games for the Cowboys.
“We had so much confidence coming it this game and our confidence remains,” Prescott said. “It’s all about the way we fought. … I’m proud of my guys.”
Prescott, the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2016 when the Cowboys lost to Green Bay at home as the top seed in the NFC, threw for 226 yards and had a 1-yard sneak for what appeared to be a clinching score before Tyler Lockett’s 53-yard catch set up a quick Seattle touchdown.
Wilson’s 7-yard scoring pass to J.D. McKissic got the Seahawks within four, and they made it a two-point game on their second 2-point conversion following an injury to kicker Sebastian Janikowski.
But the missing kicker left the Seahawks no good options on an onside kick with 1:18 remaining. Punter Michael Dickson’s drop kick was caught by Cole Beasley at the Dallas 31, sealing the first playoff win for the Cowboys since beating Detroit in the wild-card round in the 2014 season.
Prescott led a 67-yard drive to put the Cowboys in front. A 34-yard pass to Amari Cooper, who had seven catches for 106 yards, led to Elliott’s 1-yard plunge after an apparent touchdown by the quarterback was overturned on replay.
Prescott had a chance to give the Cowboys a 10-point lead, but K.J. Wright made a juggling interception in the end zone.
Dallas’ defence came through again, though, forcing a punt and giving Elliott and Prescott a highlight play apiece on a drive to Prescott’s 1-yard sneak for a 24-14 lead with 2:08 remaining.
First, Elliott stiff-armed Shaquill Griffin on a 17-yard run to get inside the 20, then Prescott scrambled up the middle before a head-over-heels hit from Tedric Thompson at the Seattle 1. Prescott scored on the next play.
Seattle got a double dose of bad news at halftime when Janikowski missed a 57-yard field goal on the final play and injured his left thigh. He yelled as he grabbed the back of his leg and limped to the locker room, unable to return.
Still, the Seahawks took their first lead basically because the 40-year-old’s injury forced them to try.
Facing fourth-and-5 in Janikowski’s range from the Dallas 39, Doug Baldwin made a toe-dragging catch on the sideline for 22 yards. After Wilson ran 4 yards for a touchdown, the Seahawks went for 2, pushing the lead to 14-10 on Mike Davis’ run.
But the Cowboys never did lose control of the Seattle running game after allowing Chris Carson’s first 100-yard game in a Week 3 Seattle win that turned the season for the Seahawks, who finished the regular season with six wins in seven games.
Carson had just 20 yards on 13 carries. Wilson was 18 of 27 for 233 yards, with Lockett getting four catches for 120 yards.
Cowboys receiver Allen Hurns appeared to suffer a severe lower left leg injury in the first quarter. Hurns was being dragged down by Seahawks safety Bradley McDougald at the end of a 14-yard catch for a first down when his lower left leg appeared to buckle. The injury was announced as an ankle injury. … Seahawks cornerback Neiko Thorpe left in the first half with a shoulder injury, and his return was doubtful.
Cowboys: New Orleans or the Los Angeles Rams on the road in the divisional round next weekend.
COLTS 21, TEXANS 7
In Houston, Andrew Luck threw for 222 yards and two touchdowns and Indianapolis raced out to a big lead and cruised over Houston in the wildcard game.
Luck put on a show in his hometown, throwing for 191 yards and two touchdowns before halftime to help the Colts (11-6) build a 21-0 lead.
Running back Marlon Mack had 148 yards and a touchdown for Indianapolis, which advances to face the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round next weekend.
Houston (11-6), which overcame a 0-3 start to win the AFC South, gave up too many big plays and couldn’t get anything going on offence in the first half to fall into the huge hole.
Deshaun Watson, who was sacked an NFL-leading 62 times in the regular season, was sacked three times and hit eight more times in a disappointing playoff debut. He finished with 235 yards passing with a touchdown and an interception.
The Colts, who opened the season 1-5, continued an impressive run by winning their fifth straight and for the 10th time in 11 games. Saturday was their first playoff appearance since the AFC championship game loss at New England in the “Deflategate” game in the 2014 season.
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