Russell Wilson did his job well, the Seahawks got solid play from its linebackers, and the punting flipped the field on several occasions. But overall, Seattle simply couldn't counter everything Dallas threw its way.
ARLINGTON, Texas – There’s never really a good way for a season to end, and the way the Seahawks went out in 2018 will lead to lots of questions, even if simply getting this far had marked the season as already one that will be remembered as being a pleasant surprise.
An offensive game plan that seemed insistent on establishing the run even when that seemed a losing exercise will lead to all kinds of offseason discussion, as will the inability — on this day, anyway — of the defense to make the big stops when they were most needed.
Maybe the Seahawks simply ran into a team just a little bit better and with the advantage of playing at home resulting in a 24-22 wild-card game defeat to the Cowboys.
On to the grades.
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Russell Wilson didn’t have his best day, maybe. But it was also sort of hard to tell with the way the offense struggled to move it, and with a game plan that didn’t seem to do him a lot of favors. Wilson maybe needed to use his legs more — his two runs were critical on the first TD. But Wilson avoided the big mistake. This was a rare time Seattle lost when it had the turnover margin (Seattle was 8-2 in the regular season when being on the plus side of turnovers) and made some big throws when he had to, though not enough to avoid a 2-for-13 third-down percentage that proved a killer.
Chris Carson was used a lot in the last month of the season and he sort of looked it, held to 16 yards on eight carries in the first half and 20 on 13 for the game. The Seahawks used Mike Davis and Rashaad Penny a lot more in the second half and they gave the running game a little life. But Seattle proved no match against one of the best rushing defenses in the NFL, a surprising development that was as big of a reason for the defeat as any as the Seahawks were held to just 73 yards, their second-lowest total of the season.
Boy, do Seattle’s receivers make big plays at key times.
Tyler Lockett’s sideline grab in the first half was another in a long line of highlight-reel plays this season and his 53-yard catch on the final series led to lots of nervous moments at Jerry World.
And then there was Doug Baldwin’s toe-scraping catch on fourth down to set up Seattle’s first TD that might have been as good of a catch as any in Baldwin’s storied career. Give those two players an A.
But Seattle’s receivers also seemed too often covered up – this was a game when the Seahawks really needed something out of David Moore and/or Jaron Brown. Neither was listed as having an official target.
Sort of weird use of the tight ends at times in this game. Ed Dickson finished with four receptions for 42 yards and his 26-yarder in the second quarter finally got the Seattle offense going. But otherwise there didn’t seem to be a lot of impact from this group. Nick Vannett’s biggest play may have been a block that helped Wilson run for a first down on a third-and-five just before Wilson’s TD run.
Hopes that the return of J.R. Sweezy and D.J. Fluker would lead to a revival of Seattle’s rushing game proved unfounded — each likely is nowhere near 100 percent physically and that may have been a lot to ask (Sweezy had a serious foot injury that normally would have held him out for a month and said later he probably shouldn’t have played). Seattle allowed just one sack and Wilson had decent time overall, it seemed. But that was also because Dallas did a lot of four-man rushes, daring Seattle’s receivers to beat them.
Frank Clark and Jarran Reed had stellar games again. Clark had Seattle’s only sack and three quarterback hits and Reed had four tackles. But the Seahawks need to get more pass rush out of other players. Seattle had just four quarterback hits, all from Clark and Reed.
Going against Dallas’ young, talented linebacking duo, Seattle’s veteran corps of Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright seemed determined to show they are still as good as any twosome in the NFL.
Wagner was all over the place, notably on a key third-and-one stop on Ezekiel Elliott in the third quarter that helped trigger the chain of events that led to the Seahawks’ first touchdown.
Wright had big plays throughout, including the interception in the end zone that kept Seattle alive. A pass-interference penalty in the fourth quarter on Dallas’ final TD drive was critical, though.
Shaquill Griffin played despite an ankle injury suffered last week against Arizona and while coach Pete Carroll said he didn’t think it was an issue, Griffin seemed just a step slow at times, especially in the first half. The Seahawks also appeared to blow a zone coverage that led to a 34-yard Amari Cooper reception in the fourth quarter that resulted in Dallas’ go-ahead touchdown. Justin Coleman also had a critical pass-interference penalty on Dallas’ final drive that while debatable was maybe too close to try there.
Well there was some good: all those long Michael Dickson punts through the first three quarters kept pushing the Cowboys back — including the one at the 2-yard line that helped result in Seattle’s first touchdown.
But there was also lots of bad, such as the miss by Sebastian Janikowski on a 57-yard field-goal attempt at the end of the first half that resulted in a thigh injury that sidelined him for the rest of the game.
And there was the 51-yard Tavon Austin punt return in the fourth quarter that also made the game that much more difficult for Seattle, even if the Seahawks avoided disaster thanks to Wright’s interception in the end zone.
Dickson also didn’t execute well the final drop-kick onsides attempt to give Seattle much of a chance.