The Cowboys Report

Cowboys beat the Seahawks; Rams up next

Cowboys beat the Seahawks; Rams up next
Zeke Elliot keeps rolling. Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys (11-6) won their first playoff game since 2014 when they defeated the Seattle Seahawks (10-7) by the score of 24-22 on Saturday night. Don't let the score fool you; the game wasn't as close as the score indicates. Dallas played their best game since late November when they beat the No. 1 seed New Orleans Saints.

The Cowboys were prepared and played great on both sides of the ball. The Dallas offense got the ball first and drove down the field to take a three point lead on their opening possession. The coaching staff called great plays and they got the ball to their best players early and often. The defense was swarming around the ball all game and caused Seattle to go three and out on their first three possessions. They didn't allow Seattle to score until midway through the second quarter and only allowed 11 first downs the entire game.

Quarterback Dak Prescott was 22 of 33 for 226 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. He was able to utilize his running skills and scored the game sealing touchdown on a 1 yard run with a little over two minutes left in the game that put the Cowboys up 24-14. He ended up with six carries for 29 yards and was only sacked once. He completed passes to eight different players and got the ball to super star receiver Amari Cooper 7 times for 106 yards.

Pro Bowl running Ezekiel Elliott touched the ball 30 times and surprise surprise, it led to a Cowboys' victory. He carried the ball 26 times for 137 yards and one touchdown; he also caught four passes for 32 yards. It's no secret that he is the main factor on whether Dallas wins or loses and he needs to get the ball as much as possible.

On the defensive side, stud linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith combined for 17 total tackles, nine were solo (Esch 6, Smith 3). They clamped down on the Seattle running game and held them to 73 yards total. Their leading rusher was held to 29 yards and it wasn't their starting RB. They forced the Seahawks to beat them through the air and they couldn't get it done.

The Cowboys will now be heading to Los Angeles to play the No. 2 seed Rams this weekend. If they win, they could possibly host the next game if the Philadelphia Eagles are able to pull off another upset against the New Orleans Saints.

3 Players to Watch

1.Ezekiel Elliott (running back): Will be going against the 23rd ranked rushing defense in the league and should be able to take full advantage of this matchup. Zeke should get another 30 touches and I can see him going for over 150 yards against the Rams.

2.Leighton Vander Esch (linebacker): Is going to need to have another big game as he will be going against super star running back Todd Gurley and the No. 3 rushing offense in the league. The Rams also have the No. 5 passing offense in the league and he will probably have to cover Gurley when he comes out of the backfield.

3.Dak Prescott (quarterback): Will be going against the NFL's leader in sacks (Aaron Donald with 20.5) and is going to have to make good decisions while not turning the ball over. If he can do that, he might be able to get the ball down field to playmakers Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup as the Rams are the No. 14 passing defense and are No. 25 in passing touchdowns allowed. Hopefully he can take advantage on some play action plays while the defense keys on Zeke.

The Dallas Cowboys (11-6) will be playing the Los Angeles Rams (13-3) on Saturday at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. Kickoff is set for 7:15 Central time. Dallas will be looking to advance to their first conference championship game since 1996. If they continue to get the ball to their athletes on good play calls, they should have a real good chance at beating the Rams.

For you gamblers out there, the Cowboys are +7 and the over/under is 49.5.The Cowboys are not as good on the road as they are at home but I think the play is Dallas at any number 7 or higher and I think the under is a good play as well.

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Astros on the hunt. Composite Getty Image.

With the Astros' surge from 10 games out of first place to within two games of Seattle, catching and going past the Mariners has naturally become the top objective. It's no given to happen but it's right there. In the final series ahead of the All-Star break, while the Mariners are in the midst of four games with the lowly Angels, the last two World Series champions renew (un)pleasantries at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros enter the weekend five games ahead of the Rangers. They lead the season series with the reigning champs four wins to three. While the Astros can't quite finish off the Arlingtonians by sweeping them in this three game set, shoving them eight games back (even further back of Seattle and the current Wild Card teams) and clinching the tiebreaker would seem close to a death blow. Taking two out of three would be fine for the Astros. If the Rangers win the series, they are clearly still in the American League West and Wild Card races coming out of the All-Star break.

Last year the Rangers had the best offense in the AL. So far in 2024 they rank a mediocre eighth in runs per game. Nathaniel Lowe is the lone Ranger (get it?!?) regular playing as well as he did last season. Corey Seager has been fine but not at the MVP runner-up level of last year. Marcus Semien is notably down, as is 2023 ALCS Astros-obliterater Adolis Garcia. Stud 2023 rookie Josh Jung has been out with a broken wrist since ex-Astro Phil Maton hit him with a pitch in the fourth game of this season, though fill-in third baseman Josh Smith has been the Rangers' best player. 21-year-old late season phenom Evan Carter largely stunk the first two months this season and has been out since late May with a back injury. Repeating is hard, never harder than it is now. Hence no Major League Baseball has done it since the Yankees won three straight World Series 1998-2000.

Chasing down the Division at a crazy clip

From the abyss of their 7-19 start, the Astros sweep over the Marlins clinched a winning record at the break with them at 49-44. Heading into the Texas matchup the Astros have won at a .627 clip since they were 7-19. A full season of .627 ball wins 101 games. If the Astros win at a .627 rate the rest of the way they'll finish with 92 wins, almost certainly enough to secure a postseason slot and likely enough to win the West. Expecting .627 the rest of the way is ambitious.

With it fairly clear that Lance McCullers is highly unlikely to contribute anything after his latest recovery setback, and Luis Garcia a major question mark, what Justin Verlander has left in 2024 grows more important. With the way the Astros often dissemble or poorly forecast when discussing injuries, for all we know Verlander could be cooked. Inside three weeks to the trade deadline, General Manager Dana Brown can't be thinking a back end of the rotation comprised of Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss should be good enough. The Astros have 66 games to play after the All-Star break, including separate stretches with games on 18 and 16 consecutive days.

All-Star MIAs

Viewership for Tuesday's All-Star game at Globe Life Field in Arlington will be pretty, pretty, pretty low in Houston. One, All-Star Game ratings are pitiful every year compared to where they used to be. Two, the Astros could be down to zero representatives at Tuesday's showcase. Kyle Tucker was rightfully named a reserve but had no shot at playing as he continues the loooong recovery from a bone bruise (or worse) suffered June 3. Being named an All-Star for a ninth time was enough for Jose Altuve. He opts out of spending unnecessary time in Texas Rangers territory citing a sore wrist. This despite Altuve playing four games in a row since sitting out the day after he was plunked and highly likely to play in all three games versus the Rangers this weekend. Yordan Alvarez exiting Wednesday's rout of the Marlins with hip discomfort and then missing Thursday's game seem clear reasons for him to skip, though he has indicated thus far he intends to take part. Yordan is the most essential lineup component to the Astros' hopes of making an eighth straight playoff appearance.

Ronel Blanco should have made the American League squad on performance, but pretty obviously his 10 game illegal substance use suspension was held against him. As it works out, Blanco will pitch Sunday in the last game before the break which would render him unavailable for the All-Star Game anyway. Blanco is eligible to pitch, but given the career high-shattering innings workload Blanco is headed for, no way the Astros want him on the mound Tuesday. Just last year the Astros kept Framber Valdez from pitching in the game.

While waiting, and waiting, and waiting on Tucker's return, the Astros have also been waiting on Chas McCormick to get back to something even faintly resembling the hitter he was last year. McCormick routinely looks lost at the plate. He has four hits (all singles) in his last 32 at bats with his season OPS pitiful at .572. During the break the Astros should seriously weigh sending McCormick to AAA Sugar Land and giving Pedro Leon a try in a job share with Joey Loperfido.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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