Dallas' Franchise Foundation Is Set as New Triplets Prove Their Playoff Mettle

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterJanuary 6, 2019

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - JANUARY 05: Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys gestures for a first down in the second quarter against the  Seattle Seahawks during the Wild Card Round at AT&T Stadium on January 05, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Late in the fourth quarter of the Cowboys' 24-22 NFC Wild Card win over the Seahawks, Ezekiel Elliott bounced outside to the right, stiff-armed a Seattle defender and then, knowing the clock was a factor, darted back inside to make sure he avoided the sideline.

Not long after that play, Dak Prescott ran a quarterback draw, was flipped upside down and held onto the ball for a 16-yard gain on 3rd-and-14. On the next play, Prescott ran it in for the score and what would be an insurmountable Dallas lead.

And then there was wide receiver Amari Cooper, who blistered the Seahawks defense for 106 yards on six catches, including a crucial 34-yard reception on a drive that gave Dallas the lead early in the fourth quarter.

This Wild Card win was, without question, the Cowboys' New Triplets putting their collective footprint on the playoffs with a gigantic boot up the Seahawks' backside.

It may be ridiculous to call this group the New Triplets. After all, the original Dallas Three Amigos of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin won three Super Bowls and made the Hall of Fame. They are among the most iconic group of players in NFL history.

So, yes, it may be premature. And it's only one playoff game, a two-point win over a stubborn Seahawks team. Nonetheless, it was still impressive, and it marked the Cowboys as a team that will be a brutal out in the postseason because it's the NFL's version of King Ghidorah.

The New Triplets were a force on Saturday night. Prescott finished 22-of-33 for 226 yards, with one touchdown through the air and another on the ground. He was both a marvelous touch passer and a solid runner.

"He's a grown-ass man," Elliott said of Prescott when speaking to Fox Sports' Erin Andrews after the game.

Elliott himself was deadly, posting big gains throughout the night at exactly the wrong time for Seattle, like his 44-yard run on a 3rd-and-1 in the second quarter to set up the Cowboys' first touchdown. He finished with 137 yards rushing and a score. In the first half alone, he accounted for 123 total yards, the most he's ever had in the first half of a game (including the postseason), according to ESPN Stats & Info.

When Elliott rushes for at least 100 yards, the Cowboys are 17-4 (including playoffs), per Matt McClearin of ESPN Dallas. 

Then there was Cooper, whose midseason trade to Dallas from Oakland transformed the Cowboys offense. (Dallas should have a sponsorship tagline that reads: "This Cowboys Playoff Win Brought to You by Jon Gruden.") While Prescott is talented and Elliott is one of the top players in the NFL, Cooper's route-running is what has gotten the team's offense in sync.

Elliott is the warp core, but Cooper is a shot of adrenaline. He can't be single-covered, and when the Seahawks ran a zone, Cooper was excellent at finding holes in it.

It wasn't all the New Triplets on Saturday. Once again, the Dallas defense was excellent, holding Russell Wilson to only 233 yards passing and Seattle as a whole to 73 yards rushing. Largely stymied, the Seahawks had to rely on huge passing plays—instead of the steady running game they love—to stay close. But stay close they did.

Amari Cooper didn't score against the Seahawks, but he kept the Cowboys offense moving throughout much of the game.
Amari Cooper didn't score against the Seahawks, but he kept the Cowboys offense moving throughout much of the game.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Before the arrival of the New Triplets, Dallas' defense often played well while the offense floundered, leaving many a game in jeopardy. What Dallas now has is a multifaceted offense to go along with that defense.

When the Cowboys brought Cooper to Dallas for a first-round pick, it was roundly criticized by those of us who cover the NFL, and by many teams themselves. Cooper was seen as a bust in Oakland, and the belief was he'd be the same in Dallas.

That hasn't happened. The win over the Seahawks showed just how well this Cowboys team can function when the New Triplets are rolling like this.

Is this Smith setting the all-time rushing mark? Is it Irvin breaking ankles? Is it Aikman throwing darts from the pocket?

No, not yet. Not even close.

It's a start, though. And it was a damn good one.

     

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter:@mikefreemanNFL

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