Sunday's NFL: Dallas defense earns trip to L.A. to face Rams
Arlington, Texas — The young Dallas defense stuffed the NFL’s No. 1 rushing offense in a wild-card win over the Seattle Seahawks.
Now it’s time for the Cowboys to take on this year’s fifth-best passing offense in Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams. The divisional round game will be next Saturday.
A group now led by playmaking linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, rather than 2016 All-Pro Sean Lee, has been up to the challenge all season. And that included a 13-10 win over Brees that ended the Saints’ 10-game winning streak.
“We’ve got to take the same mindset next week … and not get too far ahead of ourselves,” Vander Esch said. “We can be confident, but there’s a difference between being confident and being overly, maybe I should say cocky, if you want to use that word. We do a pretty good job of bringing ourselves back down.”
In a 24-22 win that ended what the Elias Sports Bureau said was the Seahawks’ record streak of nine straight victories in playoff openers, the Cowboys held Seattle nearly 100 yards below its league-leading average of 160 yards Saturday night.
Chris Carson, who had his first career 100-yard game in a Week 3 win over Dallas that turned Seattle’s season, was limited to a season-low 20 yards on 13 carries. The Seahawks finished with 73 yards rushing, and quarterback Russell Wilson’s legs weren’t the factor they often are.
“We take great pride in stopping the run, too,” coach Jason Garrett said. “It’s about discipline. It’s about winning your gap. It’s about setting the edge. It’s about tackling. But it’s also about physical and mental toughness. That’s a really important part of our football team.”
The Cowboys believe that applies to defending the pass as well. Although they sacked Brees just twice, there were five quarterback hits in one of his worst games of the season. Dallas has been a top-10 defense most of the season.
“The confidence is there, but it’s all about being patient and executing,” said defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who led the team in sacks for the second straight year with 10½ and made his second consecutive Pro Bowl. “It doesn’t matter about your confidence.”
Browns talk to Eberflus
The Browns interviewed Indianapolis defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, who padded his coaching resume Saturday with an impressive playoff performance.
Eberflus met with Cleveland general manager John Dorsey and other members of the Browns front office one day after his defense bottled up Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson in the Colts’ 21-7 wild-card win. The Colts sacked Watson three times, harassed him all game and intercepted him once to advance.
Eberflus is in his first season with the Colts. He spent the past seven as the Cowboys linebackers coach.
Eberflus, 48, who is from Toledo, Ohio, previously worked with the Browns as their linebackers coach in 2009-10.
Dorsey has now met with six candidates in his first coaching search as Cleveland’s GM. The Browns went 7-8-1 this season after becoming the second team in NFL history to go 0-16.
Eberflus is the second defensive coordinator to meet with Dorsey.
Cowboys interview Richard
Cowboys secondary coach Kris Richard is the fourth candidate to interview for the Dolphins’ coaching job.
Fresh off his team’s wild-card playoff win over Seattle, Richard met Sunday with the Dolphins.
Former Cardinal Lassiter dies
Kwamie Lassiter, the former Arizona safety who had four interceptions in the Cardinals’ season-ending victory that clinched a playoff berth in 1998, died Sunday. He was 49.
The Cardinals announced Lassiter’s death without providing details. Arizona Sports, the website of the team’s flagship radio station, said Lassiter had a heart attack while working out.
Indianapolis at Kansas City, 4:35 p.m. (NBC)
Dallas at L.A. Rams, 8:15 p.m. (Fox)
Los Angeles Chargers at New England, 1:05 p.m. (CBS)
Philadelphia at New Orleans, 4:40 p.m. (Fox)