ARLINGTON, Tex. — Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott saw an opening up the middle, then three defenders between him and the first down.
He found a way to get there, and to get his first playoff victory two years after his sensational rookie season ended in postseason disappointment.
Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 137 yards and the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, Prescott scored on a sneak after his dazzling head-over-heels run, and the Cowboys hung on for a 24-22 wild-card win over the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday night.
The win was the first for Elliott and Prescott after losing a divisional game to Green Bay as rookie stars two years ago. Dallas will play either the New Orleans Saints or the Los Angeles Rams in the divisional round next weekend.
The loss ended a run of nine straight victories in playoff openers for the Seahawks. The Elias Sports Bureau says it was the longest such streak in N.F.L. history.
Leading by 17-14, Prescott faced third-and-14 from the Seattle 17 with the two-minute warning approaching. He took off up the middle on a draw, barged through a trio of defenders six yards short of the first down and went down at the 1 when he was flipped headfirst by safety Tedric Thompson.
Prescott scored on the next play.
“He’s just a rare guy,” Dallas Coach Jason Garrett said. “His leadership, his toughness, just his way, his spirit. It’s like none other. Somehow, some way, he’s going to figure this thing out for us.”
The Dallas defense, ranked in the top 10 most of the season, stifled the N.F.L.’s No. 1 rushing offense and largely kept quarterback Russell Wilson under control while handing him his first loss in four wild-card games.
“Our defense was great,” Prescott said. “They keep us in every game.”
It was the eighth win in nine games for the Cowboys.
Prescott threw for 226 yards on 22-of-33 passing. His sneak with 2 minutes 8 seconds left appeared to be a clinching score, giving Dallas a 24-14 lead at the end of a drive that burned more than five minutes.
But a 53-yard catch by Tyler Lockett set up a quick Seattle touchdown — Wilson’s 7-yard scoring pass to J.D. McKissic. Chris Carson rushed for the 2-point conversion, the Seahawks’ second of the game, making the score 24-22. The Seahawks’ options were limited because they were missing kicker Sebastian Janikowski, who got hurt on a wide 57-yard field-goal attempt at the end of the first half.
With just 1:18 to go in the game and no timeouts left, Seattle had to attempt an onside kick. Punter Michael Dickson’s drop kick was caught by Cole Beasley at the Dallas 31, sealing the first playoff win for the Cowboys since they beat Detroit in the wild-card round in the 2014 season.
Seattle took a 14-10 lead late in the third quarter after Wilson ran for 4 yards for a touchdown and Mike Davis delivered a 2-point conversion run. Then Prescott led a 67-yard drive to put the Cowboys back in front for good, 17-14.
A 34-yard pass to Amari Cooper, who had seven catches for 106 yards, led to Elliott’s 1-yard plunge after an apparent touchdown by the quarterback was overturned on replay.
On the next Dallas possession, Prescott had a chance to give the Cowboys a 10-point lead, but K.J. Wright made a juggling interception in the end zone.
The Dallas defense came through again, though, forcing a punt. On the Dallas drive, Elliott, the N.F.L. rushing leader, stiff-armed Shaquill Griffin on a 17-yard run to get inside the 20 and help set up Prescott’s big draw play.
The Seahawks took their first lead of the game in part because they had lost the 40-year-old Janikowski.
Facing fourth-and-5 (in Janikowski’s range) from the Dallas 39, Doug Baldwin made a toe-dragging catch on the sideline for 22 yards. That helped set up Wilson’s touchdown run.
But the Cowboys never did lose control of the Seattle running game after allowing Chris Carson’s first career 100-yard game in a Week 3 loss to the Seahawks.
Carson had just 20 yards on 13 carries. Wilson was 18 of 27 for 233 yards, with Lockett getting four catches for 120 yards. The Seahawks had 73 yards rushing after averaging 160 during the season. Dallas went into the game with the No. 5 rushing defense.
Cowboys receiver Allen Hurns appeared to suffer a severe lower left leg injury in the first quarter. Hurns was being dragged down by Seahawks safety Bradley McDougald at the end of a 14-yard catch for a first down when his lower left leg appeared to buckle. The injury was announced as an ankle injury.