With 41 seconds left in the third quarter Sunday, after yet another failed Dallas drive, the Cowboys punted away to the Seahawks. It didn’t seem all that significant — they were trailing 20-7, but they were the Cowboys and they had an entire quarter to go.
Who knows what could’ve happened? Football is unpredictable, and amazing comebacks are an exciting part of the NFL. Dallas had some time — not much, but enough time to rally for 13 points or more.
Not so much. Quarterback Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense switched into victory mode and did exactly what they needed to do: run down the clock. Meanwhile, Seattle’s defense, which had been shutting down the Cowboys all afternoon, shifted into overdrive.
In the fourth quarter, Seattle had the ball for 13:31; Dallas got it for just 1:29. The best way to prevent an opponent from scoring is to keep their offense off the field. The Seahawks never gave the Cowboys a chance, grinding them into submission one running play at a time.
Back to that punt. With 41 seconds left in the third quarter, Dallas’ Chris Jones punted out of bounds at Seattle’s 12-yard line. Eighty-eight yards away and comfortable with their lead, the Seahawks turned to running back Marshawn Lynch to begin running down the clock.
But that didn’t mean the Seahawks wouldn’t try for some insurance points. Here’s how Seattle’s first fourth-quarter drive went down.
- First-and-10 at the Seattle 12 (0:32 left in third quarter): Lynch runs 5 yards up the middle.
- Second-and-5 at the Seattle 17 (beginning of fourth quarter): Wilson passes 7 yards to tight end Anthony McCoy for a first down.
- First-and-10 at the Seattle 24: Lynch rushes right for 3 yards.
- Second-and-7 at the Seattle 27: Left tackle Frank Omiyale flagged for a false start. Loss of five yards.
- Second-and-12 at the Seattle 22: Wilson scrambles left 14 yards for a first down, aided by WR Golden Tate’s huge block. Official flags Dallas linebacker Bruce Carter for unnecessary roughness, for pushing Wilson out of bounds. Seahawks get 15 more yards.
- First-and-10 at the Dallas 49: Lynch runs right for 6 yards.
- Second-and-4 at the Dallas 43: Lynch powers right for 7 more yards. First down.
- First-and-10 at the Dallas 36: Running back Robert Turbin goes 5 yards up the middle.
- Second-and-5 at the Dallas 31: Wilson passes short left to Turbin for 14 yards and a first down.
- First-and-10 at the Dallas 17: Lynch runs right for 1 yard.
- Second-and-8 at the Dallas 16: Lynch rushes right again for 5 yards.
- Third-and-4 at the Dallas 11: Wilson passes short right to Tate for 8 yards and a first down.
- First-and-goal at the Dallas 3: Lynch runs left into the end zone for a touchdown. Kicker Steven Hauschka’s PAT is good and the Seahawks extend their lead to 27-7.
It was a 12-play, 88-yard drive that took a full 7:35 off the clock. But the Seahawks weren’t done yet. Oh no.
After Hauschka’s kickoff, which Dallas’ Felix Jones returned to his 19-yard line, the Seahawks defense took over. It was one of the most decisive series of the game — a three-and-out in which Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo looked almost incompetent.
Three plays from the shotgun looked like this. Incomplete pass to tight end Jason Whitten. Sack by Seattle’s Bruce Irvin and Jason Jones. Incomplete pass to receiver Miles Austin. On fourth-and-14 from his own 15-yard line, Dallas’ Jones punted 51 yards to Seahawks running back Leon Washington, who signaled a fair catch at the Seattle 34-yard line.
Perhaps more than Seattle’s previous touchdown drive, it was the Seahawks’ final possession that put to bed any doubts about which team was better on Sunday. Seattle got the ball again with 7:04 left, and the offense did a tremendous job of putting away the game.
- First-and-10 at the Seattle 34: Lynch runs up the middle for 1 yard. Dallas calls a timeout.
- Second-and-9 at the Seattle 35: Lynch rushes right for 3 yards. Dallas calls a timeout.
- Third-and-6 at the Seattle 38: Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer sacks Wilson for a loss of 11 yards. But he is flagged for facemask and the Seahawks get 15 yards, resulting in a first down.
- First-and-10 at the Seattle 42: Wilson passes short right to McCoy for 5 yards. Dallas calls its final timeout.
- Second-and-5 at the Seattle 47: Lynch rushes left for 4 yards.
- Third-and-1 at the Dallas 49: Fullback Michael Robinson runs right for 2 yards and a first down.
- First-and-10 at the Dallas 47: Lynch pushes right for 3 yards.
- Second-and-7 at the Dallas 44: Lynch goes right for 2 yards.
- Third-and-5 at the Dallas 42: Wilson’s pass to Washington is incomplete to bring up fourth down.
- Fourth-and-5 at the Dallas 42: Seahawks take punt formation, but Dallas is flagged for having 12 men on the field. Seattle gets four yards but it’s still fourth down.
- Fourth-and-1 from the Dallas 38: Seattle goes for it, and Wilson sneaks up the middle for 2 yards and a first down.
- First-and-10 at the Dallas 36: Turbin runs up the middle for 2 yards. Game clock hits 2 minutes.
- Second-and-8 at the Dallas 34: Turbin loses 1 yard on a run to the left.
- Third-and-9 at the Dallas 35: Washington goes up the middle for 5 yards.
- Fourth-and-4 at the Dallas 30: Seattle goes for it and Washington is stopped for no gain. Turnover on downs.
But, by this point, there were just 36 seconds left in the game. It didn’t matter that the Seahawks didn’t score on that drive — the beauty of it was that the Seahawks ate up so much time.
And the Cowboys couldn’t do anything about it.
“We just sustained long drives,” Wilson said of Seattle’s second half. “We made plays, we got first downs, we kept sitting up on those blocks, and we finally busted a couple for Marshawn and he did a great job of making some moves. The offensive line did a tremendous job of staying on their blocks, and then we capitalized on third down when we needed to.”
“Guys did a tremendous job of giving me time,” he added, “and helping me complete some passes, and making plays, and guys making people miss. And that’s how we need to play every time we come out on the field.”
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