The Seahawks used a trio of turnovers to keep their season alive and eliminate the Cowboys from the NFC playoff race.
ARLINGTON, Texas – Call it a Christmas miracle. The Seahawks rolled into Dallas with their backs against the wall, and their playoff hopes hanging in the balance.
But somehow, someway, despite a shaky game from the offense, the Seahawks did just enough to come up with the win, beating Dallas 21-12 to go into the final week of the regular season still in the playoff hunt.
Here are three impressions from the game.
1. Defense comes up big
A week after they gave up 42 points against the Rams, the Seahawks defense came through in a big way in a game Seattle had to win to keep its playoff hopes alive.
The Seahawks held the Cowboys to field goals instead of touchdowns on four scoring drives, and also forced three turnovers that led to 21 points and helped pull their struggling offense into the win column.
It’s worth noting that K.J. Wright – who missed last week’s game against Los Angeles with a concussion – was a central figure in two of Seattle’s three forced turnovers.
In the second quarter, Byron Maxwell knocked the ball out of Dez Bryant’s hands to force a turnover that K.J. Wright recovered at the Dallas 43. On the Seahawks’ ensuing possession, the offense sputtered its way downfield and, aided by a defensive pass interference penalty by Cowboys defensive back Jourdan Lewis, the Seahawks finally got on the scoreboard with a 3-yard touchdown from Russell Wilson to Jimmy Graham that gave Seattle its first lead of the game.
Absurdly, Seattle led the Cowboys at that point despite generating 46 offensive yards to Dallas’ 135.
Dallas got the ball back with 1:38 left and drove to the Seahawks 32, but the drive stalled there when Jason Witten failed to get both feet in on a third down catch that would gone for a first down. So, once again, like they did four times on Sunday night, the Cowboys settled for a field goal from Dan Bailey. Bailey converted the second of two 51-yarders to give Dallas a slim 9-7 lead going into the locker room.
(He would, however, miss his final two field goal attempts in the second half.)
On Dallas’ first possession after halftime, Justin Coleman picked off Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott on a pass meant for Ezekiel Elliott and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown. Prescott’s pick-six was his fourth of the season, most in the NFL.
Coleman celebrated by leaping into the oversized Salvation Army pot in the back of the end zone, which drew a penalty for excessive celebration. Bu,t well, he got Seattle points and a 14-9 lead, and the tide seemed to be turning in Seattle’s favor.
Once again, Dallas kept it close by getting close enough for a Bailey field goal on their next drive.
But late in the third quarter, K.J. Wright picked off Prescott again. This time, the Seahawks capitalized on the turnover to mount their best offensive drive of the evening, going 79 yards in 13 plays to score on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to Doug Baldwin.
2. The win keeps Seattle firmly in the playoff hunt
The Rams clinched the NFC West by beating Tennessee on Sunday, but that didn’t have any bearing on Seattle’s wild card chances.
The Seahawks’ (9-6) win over Dallas (8-7), combined with Atlanta (9-6) and Detroit (8-7) both losing means the Seahawks are still in the playoff equation.
They need Carolina (11-4) to beat Atlanta next week if they want to punch a ticket to the playoffs.
3. Where exactly was Seattle’s offense?
The Seahawks’ 136 offensive yards were a season-low, and the lowest since 2013. Russell Wilson’s 93 passing yards were the lowest of his career, and the Seahawks also averaged 2.8 yards per rush, and managed only four of 11 third down conversions.
At halftime, Seattle had generated 44 offensive yards was averaging 1.8 yards per play, and had converted only one of five third downs.
Yet, while Seattle’s offense didn’t exactly show up, it did just enough to capitalize on opportunities from the defense.
Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott was coolly efficient in the first half of his first game back from serving a six-game suspension, piling up 73 yards on 15 carries in the first half, while Prescott went 10 of 18 for 76 yards and evaded the Seahawks pass rush, which had no sacks until after half time.
But thereafter, Dallas’ turnovers cost them dearly, and the Cowboys were held scoreless in the fourth quarter.