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Cowboys run past Seahawks, into Divisional Round

*The Dallas Cowboys will have a chance to play in their first conference title game since the 1995 season after edging the Seahawks, 24-22, on Saturday at AT&T Stadium. They now await Sunday's Bears-Eagles winner to find out whether they travel to the Saints or Rams next weekend. *

Here's what we learned from Dallas' win over Seattle:

  1. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott effectively answered any question on whether he can handle the spotlight. With a defensive slugfest leaving the game in doubt, Prescott came up big in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, scampering up the middle for a 16-yard gain on third-and-14 from the Seahawks' 17-yard line. Prescott then punched it from the 1 on the next play to give the Cowboys a 24-14 edge with 2:08 left in the game. The Seahawks didn't help themselves on that drive, though, as two pass interference penalties on third down helped extend Dallas' march down the field. But it was Prescott who placed the icing on the cake with a gutsy performance. In addition to scoring the game-winning touchdown, Prescott completed 22 of 33 passes for 226 yards and a touchdown with an interception. He added 29 yards rushing on six carries to help the Cowboys move on to the NFC Divisional Round of the playoffs, their opponent to be determined by Sunday's clash between the Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears.
  1. Prescott didn't do it alone on offense, of course, as running back Ezekiel Elliott and wide receiver Amari Cooper also came through with big individual performances. Elliott gashed the NFL's No. 13 run defense with 137 yards and a touchdown on 26 attempts, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. Cooper, the Cowboys' prized midseason acquisition from the Oakland Raiders, turned in a 106-yard receiving output on seven catches, averaging a healthy 15.1 yards per catch. With Prescott, Elliott and Cooper, the Cowboys have a modern version of The Triplets and are good enough offensively to cause headaches for any opponent in the postseason.
  1. The Cowboys' defense proved to be the most consistent unit on the team throughout the season and it once again stepped to the plate in a game of strength against strength. The Seahawks' rushing attack finished the regular season ranked first in the NFL (160 yards per game) and squared off in a heavyweight fight against the Cowboys' fifth-ranked run defense, which is anchored by linebackers Jaylon Smith and rookie Leighton Vander Esch. The Dallas defenders beat Seattle to the punch early and often in the game, and provided the knockout blow by holding Seattle's vaunted ground game to a mere 73 yards. Seahawks running back Chris Carson, who rushed for 102 yards against the Cowboys in Week 3, found the going tough Saturday. The Cowboys defense swarmed the line of scrimmage, limiting Carson to 20 yards rushing on 13 carries. Vander Esch finished the game with a team-high 10 tackles, while Smith chipped in with seven stops.
  1. Despite the ground game struggling, Seattle attempted to stay true to its identity by running the football throughout the contest. It came at a cost, though, as six of the Seahawks' 12 possessions resulted in three-and-outs, including the team's first three possessions. The Seahawks would finish the game with a miserable third-down conversion rate, going 2 of 13 (15 percent), which contributed to Dallas dominating time of possession (34:50-25:10).
  1. Quarterback Russell Wilson gave the Seahawks a short-lived 14-10 lead in the third quarter on a 4-yard touchdown run, but the team's inability to loosen up the Cowboys' defense with the passing game contributed to the loss. Seattle appeared allergic to take consistent shots down the field, even with defenders creeping to the line of scrimmage. Wilson finished the game completing 18 of 27 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown. The score and 75 of the passing yards, however, came on the Seahawks' final possession and with the team in desperation mode. Wilson's favorite target was wide receiver Tyler Lockett, who caught four passes for 120 yards, including a 53-yard catch on Seattle's last drive.
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