The Dallas Cowboys ended their playoff chances in disappointing fashion with a 21-12 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. The defense played great, but the offense couldn't do much of anything, despite the return of All-Pro running back Ezekiel Elliott. The Cowboys turned the ball over three times and couldn't ever find the end zone. It was a horrible way to get bounced from playoff contention.
Despite that, there were a few bright spots to go a long with the disappointment. Here are this week's winners and losers:
Critics have been hard on the Cowboys first-round draft pick this season because he's been quiet for most of the year. He didn't record his first career sack until midway through the season, for example. With that said, Charlton has put together some nice reps recently and on Sunday, he had his best game of the season.
He had another sack, giving him three on the season now. He made a nice tackle for a loss on a bubble screen. He should have had his second sack of the game when he beat Seahawks tackle, Germain Ifedi around the edge. Ifedi grabbed Charlton and pulled him out of the way with a clear hold, but the referee didn't throw the flag. This allowed Russell Wilson to complete a 20-yard pass to Doug Baldwin on a drive the Seahawks would eventually convert into a touchdown.
Patience is starting to pay off as Charlton is flashing signs that he can make plays on the edge.
There is not much you can say about Sean Lee that we don't already know. The Cowboys defense is so much better when he's on the field. Lee was tasked to spy the dangerous Wilson and attacked him whenever he fled from the pocket. Wilson took off running nine times, but only gained 29 yards for a measly 3.2 yards per carry.
The Seahawks had very little of a rushing attack from their RBs as well. Their biggest rusher, Mike Davis only had 25 yards on 15 carries (1.7 yards per carry). Lee was all over the place. He finished with 14 total tackles and three of them were behind the line of scrimmage.
The Seahawks ended up with 21 points, but that's not a reflection of how the defense played. All of those points came off of turnovers, including a pick-six interception return from Seahawks defensive back Justin Coleman.
The defense played well. It was a collective effort across the board. Some will point fingers at a couple plays here and there where the defense got beat, but it's a 60-minute game for crying out loud. That's going to happen. It was still impressive to see this unit show up in a big game.
Last week, the Seahawks offense was held to their worst offensive output of the year, having only 149 total yards against the Los Angeles Rams. They lost 42-7. On Sunday, the Cowboys defense clamped down even more, only allowing 136 total yards. But for some reason, unbeknownst to many of us, it just wasn't enough.
Dak and Dez
The Cowboys offense moved the ball okay against the Seahawks. They ran the ball effectively, moved the chains. They crossed into Seahawk territory on eight of their 11 drives. But the Cowboys kept stalling. They did not score a touchdown in this game. A lot of the problems were from the performances of Dak Prescott and Dez Bryant. Between these two stars, they had three turnovers.
Late in the first half, Bryant fumbled after not properly securing the ball and allowing the Seahawks defender to punch it out. Then, in the Cowboys first possession of the second half, Prescott sailed a pass over the head of Elliott, resulting in a pick six. The two hooked up again later in the quarter when the Cowboys moved the ball down to the Seahawks 25-yard line, but the pass went off of Bryant's hands and was picked off.
These mistakes were detrimental to the Cowboys. Not only did the offense do very little to give themselves points, they handed the Seahawks just enough gifts to allow them to win the game.
While the Cowboys kicker accounted for all 12 of the team's points by kicking four field goals, he should've had more. Dan Bailey missed two easy field goals that completely let the air out of any chance the Cowboys had to get back in the game. With 5:43 left in the game, Baily missed a 34-yard field goal that capped off a complete collapse when the offense drove down to the three-yard line only to come away with nothing.
Bailey missed a 48-yard field goal with just over a minute left in the goal that closed the door on the Cowboys season. The coaching staff needed two scores and opted to knock the field goal out of the way first. It demonstrated the confidence they have in Bailey, but unfortunately – he just couldn't connect.
When the Cowboys drove down to the three-yard line with just under eight minutes in the games, fans were feeling excited about their chances to pull off the comeback. With the Seahawks offense struggling, a Cowboys touchdown at that point would put them in great shape. Unfortunately, what happened next isn't for the faint of heart.
The Cowboys finally had Zeke back on the field after returning from his six-game suspension, but for some reason they chose not to use him. Offensive coordinator, Scott Linehan did not power the ball in with Elliott. Instead, Dallas passed the ball unsuccessfully and got called for holding penalty that took them out of their goal line offense.
If the Cowboys punched it in there, it's very possible their season still has meaning right now. That decision will be haunting them for some time.
With the Cowboys eliminated from playoff contention, do you believe they are still headed in the right direction? Or are changes needed in Big D? Share your answer with Dan on Twitter @DannyPhantom24.