LAST PLAYOFF MEETING
The one and only playoff meeting between the Seahawks and Cowboys took place in Seattle on wild-card weekend in 2007. After Seattle rallied to take a one-point lead on a safety and a Matt Hasselbeck touchdown pass to Jerramy Stevens, the Cowboys drove the field and lined up for a likely game-winning 19-yard field goal with just 1 minute, 19 seconds to go. But Dallas quarterback Tony Romo fumbled the field goal snap and was chased down by “Big Play” Jordan Babineaux as he tried to run for a first down, and Seattle hung on to win 21-20. “You coach long enough, you end up seeing just about everything,” Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren told reporters after the game. Here’s a few other notable stats from that game for longtime fans to reminisce on: Shaun Alexander ran for an abysmal 69 yards on 24 carries; future Seahawk Julius Jones had 112 yards rushing for the Cowboys; the Seahawks were led on defense by Leroy Hill and Julian Peterson with seven tackles each; and Bryce Fisher had two sacks.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Bobby Wagner vs. Ezekiel Elliott
Wagner, who on Friday earned another All-Pro honor, has been nothing short of stellar for the Seahawks this season. According to NFL Research, Wagner missed only one of his 138 attempted tackles. Elliott, meanwhile, led the NFL with 950 yards after contact and forced 37 missed tackles, tied for ninth-most in the league. But Elliott also led all running backs with six fumbles and scored just six touchdowns on the ground. According to Football Outsiders, Elliott’s DVOA (Defense-Adjusted Value over average; represent value, per play, over an average running back in the same game situations) of 3.0-percent was just 18th-best among all running backs in the NFL.
Chris Carson vs. Dallas linebackers
On the other side of the ball, the running back vs. linebackers matchup is equally as important. Carson blossomed this season to the tune of 1,151 yards rushing and nine touchdowns. Furthermore, his bruising style set the tone for Seattle’s offense, just like Marshawn Lynch back in the glory days. Dallas’ Leighton Vander Esch, a rookie from Boise State who played eight-man football in high school, tallied 140 tackles this season, third-most in the league. Jaylon Smith, Vander Esch’s running mate, piled up 121 tackles and four sacks. So no question, who wins these linebacker/running back matchups will likely go a long way in determining the outcome of Saturday’s game.
Pete Carroll vs. Jason Garrett
After missing the playoffs last season and making the unpopular hire of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer in the offseason, some fans were ready to send Carroll to pasture. Not so fast. Carroll led this young, underwhelming bunch to 10 wins and a playoff berth, and will likely garner some votes for NFL Coach of the Year. The game against Dallas will be Carroll’s 15th playoff game in nine seasons. Then there’s Jason Garrett. The Dallas coach will be participating in just his fourth playoff game (one win) in nine seasons in charge of the Cowboys. So be careful what you wish for, Seahawks fans, and enjoy the remaining years of one of the best football coaches of this era.
94.6 The number of rushing yards per game allowed by the Cowboys, fifth best in the NFL. Seattle led the NFL with 160.0 rushing yards per game. Want a key factor in the game? Look no further. Both teams take immense pride in these numbers. The Seahawks claim that being able to run the ball is at the core of their team identity. The Cowboys’ front seven is young, fast and active. Dallas’ secondary is probably the weakness of its defense, but don’t count on the Seahawks throwing the ball 50 times all of the sudden. Seattle does not care if the opponent knows it will run the ball. This can be maddening at times for viewers at home, but it’s hard to argue with success.
DID YOU KNOW?
Wide receiver Tyler Lockett obviously had a terrific season for the Seahawks, but did you know that Russell Wilson’s passer rating when targeting Lockett this season was a perfect 158.3? Outstanding. In fact, Lockett’s season is the most efficient for a wide receiver ever measured by Football Outsiders. Despite averaging just four targets per game, Lockett posted 965 yards receiving, 10 touchdowns, caught 81 percent of his chances and drew six pass interference penalties for 182 yards, most in the NFL. In case you are keeping track, among qualified receivers, former Seahawk Golden Tate measured as the worst receiver in the NFL and former Seahawk Jermaine Kearse came in fifth from the bottom. Perhaps Seattle’s front office does know what it is doing after all.
When Dallas acquired wide receiver Amari Cooper in a trade with the Oakland Raiders, you may have heard tales of Cooper’s ability to run the entire “route tree.” The route tree is a numbering system used by offenses to identify where receivers will run on a given play. Each route a receiver could potentially run is given a number: 1. flat, 2. slant, 3. comeback, 4. curl, 5. out, 6. dig, 7. corner, 8. post, 9. go. Now imagine each set of two like a branch on a tree, so 1 and 2 are branches at the bottom, 3 and 4 are medium depths that work back to the quarterback, 5 and 6 are medium depths that stay at 12-15 yards, 7 and 8 are branches toward the top that go out and up and 9 is the tip of the tree. Cooper does have the ability to run all of these routes, so see how many you can identify during the game.
Look, it’s the playoffs, so there’s no messing around anymore. It’s not the right time to tell you what to make; instead it’s your turn to be a hero. Bust out your best tailgating dish, whatever that is, from pulled pork to smoked ribs, to that perfect bowl of homemade chili. Better yet, make them all and invite your friends to do the same. And enough with tailoring your beer selection to the Seahawks’ opponent. It’s time to bring that local beer out of the cellar you’ve been saving. Fremont Brewing’s B-Bomb Bourbon Abominable Winter Ale is a true winner. Aged 8-12 years in bourbon barrels, this award-winning limited release is perfect to share with friends at your viewing party.
Seahawks 24, Cowboys 23
In a game that honestly seems like a toss-up, the tipping point goes to the team with the best quarterback. The Seahawks’ Russell Wilson is superior to the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott in almost every conceivable way. Add in the fact that this will be Wilson’s 13th start in the playoffs as opposed to Prescott’s second, and Seattle has the decisive advantage at the most important position in all of sports. Dallas gets a bump for playing at home, but the Seahawks find a way to pull this one out and advance.