The Seattle Seahawks have won their past three games against the Dallas Cowboys.
That includes a 24-13 win earlier this season at CenturyLink Field and a 21-12 victory on the road in 2017.
But coaches and players say those matchups have little bearing on Saturday’s Wild Card playoff showdown, which kicks off in Arlington, Texas, at 5:15 p.m. Pregame coverage starts at 2 p.m. on Q13 FOX.
“I think we both were at different places in our growth for the season,” Seahawks defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said this week. “I think we’re both two different teams right now.”
Seattle dominated the game in September, pounding away on the ground on offense and suffocating the Cowboys defensively.
Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott threw the ball 34 times for just 168 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He was sacked five times.
There’s little doubt both teams have improved significantly since then.
“I just think we’ve probably grown over the course of the season,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “We have a lot of young guys on our team who are playing significant roles and I think as much as anything else, they just needed to play.”
Dallas also brought in some help on offense, with the acquisition of wide receiver Amari Cooper from Oakland.
Since debuting with the Cowboys in Week 9, Cooper has caught 53 passes for 725 yards and six touchdowns and Dallas has won seven of nine games.
“He’s a terrific player,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said this week of Cooper. “He’s an explosive, dynamic football player, can catch everything – all the routes, all the concepts.”
Seattle’s transformation was a bit more subtle. Instead of a big-name pickup, it came with a refocused philosophy that started in the Week 3 win over Dallas.
After handing the ball to Chris Carson just 13 times in the first two games combined, the Seahawks fed him 32 carries against the Cowboys.
Carson responded with 102 yards and a touchdown. Seattle ran for 113 yards overall.
“We didn’t’ really kill it that day,” Carroll said “We had a hard game against those guys … but it was a step in the right direction.”
Seahawks offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer agreed that it wasn’t necessarily a breakthrough for Seattle as much as a starting point.
“I think of it more just, we played well in that game against a really good team,” he said. “… It was the first game of the year that I thought we played a really good, solid football game.”
The momentum carried over for the Seahawks.
The next week Seattle ran for 171 yards in Arizona. That would be the start of seven-game stretch in which the Seahawks ran for 150 or more yards, a franchise record.
“We were just getting started,” Carroll said.
After that streak got snapped in Carolina, Seattle started a new one in the final five games of the season en route to a 10-6 record and the league’s top rushing offense.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys won seven of their final eight games to clinch the NFC East and earn a home playoff game.
Now the two teams will face off again.
“It’s going to be a battle,” Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said. “You don’t get this far for no reason.”
But don’t look to the past to try to predict the future, he said.
So much has changed.
“They were really, really good when we played them the first time and we found a way to win,” Wilson said. “They’ve really improved in a big way, just like we have.”