Cowboys and Seahawks face rematch in postseason

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 09: Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Amari Cooper (19) stretches to make a reception during the game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys on December 9, 2018 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. (Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 09: Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Amari Cooper (19) stretches to make a reception during the game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys on December 9, 2018 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. (Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks played each other in Week 3. Now, the two teams square off with a trip to the Divisionals on the line.

In the playoffs, it is not uncommon that two teams will play one another after already meeting in the regular season. That is just the nature of the beast in the playoffs. That will be the case with the Cowboys and the Seahawks this post-season as the two have already played in Week 3.

However, those two teams that played in September couldn’t have looked any more different compared to what we will see on Saturday night. Each squad has made some drastic changes throughout the season and are playing much better football. Let’s take a look back at that Week 3 matchup to see what has changed for the Cowboys since that Week 3 game.

By far the biggest storyline coming into this game was Seahawks’ safety, Earl Thomas. At the end of the 2017 season, Thomas ran into the Cowboys’ tunnel after a Seahawks win in Week 16 and told Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett to “come get me” via a trade. Thomas, a life-long Cowboys’ fan, knew he was entering the final year of his contract in 2018 and asked several times for a trade over the offseason.

Thomas proceeded to hold out all through training camp as he demanded a trade or a contract extension by the Seahawks. Thomas eventually returned by Week 1 and immediately made his presence known in Week 3 against the Cowboys. We will get to that in a moment.

On the field, the Seattle’s game plan was rather simple on defense. The Seahawks knew that Dallas lacked an explosive, reliable outside target. So Seattle did everything in their power to take away the one weapon Dallas did have; Cole Beasley. All game long, the Seahawks sent multiple defenders at Beasley, especially on third down. Take a look at how Seattle covered him on this third down:

The Seahawks wanted to throw a lot at Prescott and disguised their coverage often to confuse Dallas’ quarterback. On nearly every snap, the Seahawks would drop a linebacker into Beasley’s area or a safety would sprint to the middle of the field. Here is another example of that.

All game long, the Seahawks challenged the Cowboys and Prescott to throw the ball to someone besides Cole Beasley. However, Dallas couldn’t do so. In Week 3, receivers not named “Cole Beasley” combined for just 64 receiving yards on eight receptions (13 targets). As a team, the Cowboys were held to only 137 passing yards. This goes without saying, but if the Cowboys have this limited amount of success in the passing game again this, they will surely lose.

Since this meeting, the Cowboys have added receiver Amari Cooper, and he has essentially saved their season. He has given Dallas a reliable option on the outside. It will be fascinating to see how the Seahawks decide to cover the Cowboys now with Cooper in the fold. Will they continue to try to take away Dallas’ third-down weapon in Beasley or will they adjust their coverage to stop Cooper on the outside? In any event, how the Cowboys pass will likely decide this game, just like it did in Week 3

Dallas’ lack of a passing game was only part of the story in their first meeting with the Seahawks. While Seattle played a fine game, the Cowboys beat themselves. In nearly every quarter, the Cowboys made an unforced error that changed the game. Let’s take a look at a few, shall we?

Earl Thomas’ first interception came off an unforced error as a passed bounced off Michael Gallup’s hands and into the arms of Thomas. This wasn’t a poor throw by Prescott by any means.

Thomas’ second interception was of the same variety as Prescott’s pass bounced off the hands of tight end Blake Jarwin. But we’ve seen that play over and over again. Let’s take a look at another massive play from this game doesn’t get the same amount of coverage.

Late in the second quarter, the Cowboys were driving on Seattle, trailing 7-0. On 3rd and 2, Prescott found Ezekiel Elliott streaking down the sideline. Unfortunately, Elliott stepped out of bounds unnecessarily and was the first player to touch the ball. This should have been a touchdown, but instead, it was a penalty, and the Cowboys were forced to kick a field.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t Elliott’s only mistake of the game. Elliott dropped a pass on third down that would have resulted in a big gain, and he fumbled in the fourth quarter as the Cowboys were trying to mount a comeback.

Let’s fast-forward to another crucial mistake by the Cowboys later on in the second quarter. With nine seconds left in the half, the Seahawks are trying to add a field goal to their lead. On 3rd and 7 from Dallas’ 44-yard line, Wilson missed his receiver Tyler Lockett down the right sideline with just four ticks left on the clock. Seattle now had a decision to make; do they attempt a  61-yard field goal into the wind or try for a hail mary?

Unfortunately, Dallas made that decision a lot easier for Pete Carroll. After the third-down play, Cowboys’ defensive end Randy Gregory punches a Seahawks’ offensive lineman in the helmet, drawing a 15-yard penalty. This gave Seattle a more manageable 47-yard field goal attempt, which they of course made. In a close game, Dallas gave Seattle a free three points. Completely unnecessary and avoidable.

All around, it was a poor performance by Dallas in Seattle as they continued to beat themselves all day long. Was the crowd noise a problem? Or were the Cowboys just a young team making silly mistakes?

In any event, Dallas will need to play a much cleaner game this time around if they want to beat Seattle. However, that is easier said than done. Seattle is one of the most experienced teams in the playoffs, and they certainly won’t be afraid of the moment. I’m not sure I can say the same for the Cowboys, by far the youngest team in the playoffs. How Dallas handles the pressure of this big game will ultimately decide if they move onto the second round of the postseason.