The victory keeps Seattle’s hopes for a wild-card playoff spot alive with a simple equation next week — a Seattle victory at home over Arizona and a win by Carolina at Atlanta.
ARLINGTON, Texas — A Seahawks team that through the years has often seemed to delight in finding the slightest of slights to rally around — sometimes even appearing to rely on imagined ones — didn’t have to look far to find doubts and questions aimed its way last week.
Everywhere they turned, in the wake of a uninspired home defeat against the Los Angeles Rams with the division title on the line, there was a story suggesting maybe the Seahawks’ run as one of the dominant clubs in the NFL was finished. That maybe it was time to blow it up and start over.
In the locker room, players passed around a quote attributed to an anonymous Rams player expressing surprise at how easily they had pushed Seattle around.
What needs to happen
To make the playoffs with the sixth and final seed in the NFC, the Seahawks (9-6) need to win against Arizona next week at home and Atlanta (9-6), facing Carolina at home, needs to lose.
And they heard about a bet Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott reportedly made with NFL Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson that if he got 200 yards in his first game back after a six-game suspension that Dickerson would have to give him an autographed jersey.
“We had a lot of people doubting us, a lot of people sleeping on us, and we love it,’’ said Seattle middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. “We love to silence the doubters.’’
And once again Sunday, the Seahawks did just that with a 21-12 victory over the host Dallas Cowboys that was as gritty as any they have had in years and also kept their playoff hopes alive.
Seattle still needs help to get to the postseason — a victory by Carolina over host Atlanta next Sunday. But if the Seahawks beat Arizona at home and get the victory from the Panthers, they will be the NFC’s No. 6 seed.
But Sunday was mostly about themselves and knowing that none of the rest of it mattered if they didn’t beat Dallas.
“This team is not going to lie down easily,’’ said linebacker K.J. Wright. “We could have easily taken the loss against the Rams, come back, pouted, moaned all through the week. But we are a group of guys that love to play ball and we know that we are a talented football team. So we came out and handled business today.’’
If somewhat unconventionally.
Seattle gained just 136 yards, its fewest since 2013, and moved into Dallas territory just three times on 10 full drives. The Seahawks gained fewer yards than they lost in penalties (142), which was reported to be the first time since 1966 a team won a game with more penalty yards than offense.
And early on, Elliott appeared ready to make good on his bet, gaining 51 yards on 11 carries in the first quarter.
But then the Seahawks of old — instead of merely looking like old Seahawks as they had the past two weeks — arose.
Seattle’s defense stopped Dallas every time the Cowboys neared the end zone and forced three turnovers, including an interception return for a touchdown by Justin Coleman early in the third quarter that gave the Seahawks the lead for good.
And the offense at least came through when it had to.
After Byron Maxwell forced a Dez Bryant fumble late in the second quarter to give Seattle the ball at the Dallas 43, the offense needed just five plays to score on a 3-yard Russell Wilson pass to Jimmy Graham.
And after Wright picked off a deflected pass late in the third quarter when Seattle was clinging to a 14-12 lead, Wilson led a 79-yard, 13-play drive culminating in a 6-yard touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin to give the Seahawks a 21-12 lead with 11:59 left that proved insurmountable.
And as the game wore on, it was Dallas and Elliott who wore down. Elliott had just 46 yards on 13 carries in the final three quarters to finish with 97 yards.
Few Seahawks needed to be reminded later that that was well short of Elliott’s reported goal.
“He had that bet and we wanted to make sure he didn’t win it,’’ Wagner said.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll had insisted all week that the return of Wright from a concussion that caused him to miss the Rams game, and the ability of Wagner to play closer to full speed with a nagging hamstring injury, would solve much of the Seahawks’ recent run-defending woes.
But a little extra prodding in the form of all the obits already being written didn’t hurt.
“They were ready to go,’’ Carroll said. “Based on coming back after last week and not liking what happened, there weren’t very many people who thought we had a chance to play like that.’’
Wright played despite contracting food poisoning Friday night that left him in bed all Saturday.
But the seven-year veteran already had left his mark on the game even before it started with an impassioned speech to teammates Wednesday about remembering who they are.
“I really challenged the guys on Wednesday that ‘Let’s just have a really good day today and let’s just focus on Wednesday and let’s get back to basics because we know we are a good football team and we know that the performance we put out last week was very uncharacteristic of us,’ ’’ Wright said. “We had a good week of practice and if you have a good week you have a good game, and we did that.’’
Still, if they knew they could still be a good team, the results against the Rams had shown them they are far from infallible.
Baldwin suggested that some of the newer players on the team had to understand better what it took to win meaningful games.
“We needed to grow up a little bit with a lot of the younger guys that we have who haven’t gone through this type of adversity before in the NFL,’’ Baldwin said. “I thought for a huge part tonight we did that.’’
In another corner of the happy locker room, defensive lineman Frank Clark talked of how eye-opening the Rams game had been.
“We felt like we had hit rock bottom last week,’’ he said. “The thing we challenged each other to this past week was prepare. Just everybody be accountable for your own preparation. … Anything that you can do. That’s what we challenged each other to do.’’
More challenges await. But that there remain more challenges in this season might have been the biggest victory of all Sunday.
|NFC playoff picture|
|Seattle needs help in its hopes of making the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season. The Falcons beat the Seahawks earlier this season and own the tiebreaker.|
|Philadelphia||12-2||1||vs. Raiders (6-8), vs. Cowboys (8-7)|
|Minnesota||12-3||2||vs. Bears (5-10)|
|L.A. Rams||11-4||3||vs. 49ers (5-10)|
|New Orleans||11-4||4||at Buccaneers (4-11)|
|Carolina||11-4||5||at Falcons (9-6)|
|Atlanta||9-6||6||vs. Panthers (11-4)|
|In the hunt|
|Seattle||9-6||7||vs. Cardinals (7-8)|