Cowboys eliminated from playoffs with loss to Seahawks
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Russell Wilson didn't have to do much to keep alive Seattle's hopes for a sixth straight trip to the playoffs, despite the return of star Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott from a six-game suspension.
Justin Coleman put the Seahawks in front for good with a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown , and Seattle beat the Cowboys 21-12 in a playoff elimination game Sunday.
Dak Prescott threw two interceptions and the Dallas offense didn't score a touchdown despite the reunion with his backfield mate, the one he shared a remarkable rookie season with a year ago when Cowboys had an NFC-best 13 wins.
Now Dallas (8-7) is eliminated from the postseason with the end of its three-game winning streak, and the Seahawks (9-6) still have life after Wilson threw for two touchdowns despite a career-low 93 yards passing.
"In these situations where it truly is a must-win game, we don't have to make anything up," receiver Doug Baldwin said. "We're well-prepared for it. The process that we've gone through the whole season really helped us today."
Coleman gave Seattle a 14-9 lead in the third quarter when he reached down to catch Prescott's badly overthrown pass to Elliott and ran untouched 30 yards for a touchdown.
It was the fourth pick-six of the season for Prescott, who threw just four interceptions last season when he was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He has 13 interceptions for the season.
The Seahawks were eliminated in the NFC West race by the Los Angeles Rams' 27-23 win at Tennessee. But they can still make the postseason with some help despite gaining just 136 total yards — their fewest since getting 135 in a 14-9 win over the St. Louis Rams in 2013.
Seattle's first two offensive touchdowns were set up by pass interference penalties in the end zone. The first was a 3-yarder to Jimmy Graham, the second a 6-yarder to Baldwin after running plays backed up the Seahawks both times.
The Cowboys, who lost their first three without Elliott before the winning streak, didn't take it easy on last year's NFL rushing leader after his six-week layoff, giving him 15 carries for 73 yards in the first half.
The longest carry was a 9-yarder as he averaged 4.7 per carry. Elliott, who was suspended on domestic violence allegations, finished with 97 yards on 24 carries.
But Dallas didn't give Elliott the ball with a first down at the Seattle 3 when trailing by nine points midway through the fourth quarter. After a Prescott run, a holding penalty on a pass play and the third sack of Prescott, Dan Bailey missed a 34-yarder.
Bailey, who had two 51-yarders among his four kicks, missed again in the closing seconds.
"It's hard to get over," said Prescott, who was 21 of 34 for 182 yards. "I'm sure I'll get over it at some point. But right now's not the time. Didn't play well enough for us to win. Simple as that."
Dallas receiver Dez Bryant dropped the first pass of the game and was caught on camera on the sideline yelling at former Cowboys receiver Miles Austin, now a staff member. Soon after, he fumbled after making a catch , setting up Wilson's scoring toss to Graham.
Wilson saved that scoring chance by recovering a fumble on a bad handoff on the previous play.
"I didn't have time to sense anything," Wilson said. "The year on the line right there, with the ball on the ground. Whoever takes it, so I just leaped to get that ball."
Bryant had another ball go off his hands on a throw behind him, and the tipped ball was intercepted by K.J. Wright to wipe out one of several promising Dallas scoring chances.
"I'm a little numb because the way we started, the good feeling, the uptick we had with Zeke coming back," owner Jerry Jones said. "All of that, I thought that would rule the day today."
Coleman repeated an Elliott antic from last season, when the Dallas running back jumped into a jumbo Salvation Army red kettle after a touchdown on Thanksgiving. Coleman got the same penalty, too — a 15-yarder for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The Seahawks had 2 yards passing at halftime thanks in part to DeMarcus Lawrence's 22-yard sack of Wilson in the first half. Lawrence overpowered Germain Ifedi, forced Wilson to backtrack after he tried scrambling to his right and tackled Wilson as he tried to run away from him at the Seattle 8.
Graham's second-quarter touchdown made him the first NFL tight end with at least 10 scoring catches in a season for two franchises. He did it three times with New Orleans and has 69 career TDs.
Cowboys: Five-time Pro Bowl LT Tyron Smith started despite a right knee injury that kept him out of practice most of the week. He came out after the first series, replaced by Byron Bell.
Seahawks: Home against Arizona next Sunday.
Cowboys: At Philadelphia next Sunday.
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Already missing two of their defensive stars for the season, the Seattle Seahawks were coming off their most-lopsided loss under coach Pete Carroll and facing Ezekiel Elliott in his return to the Dallas Cowboys after two of their worst showings against the run this year.
The Seahawks are still fighting for their sixth straight trip to the playoffs after a 21-12 victory Sunday. The Cowboys are out.
"We've been doing this since I've been here the past seven years," said linebacker K.J. Wright, who had one of two interceptions against Dak Prescott, the other returned for a touchdown by Justin Coleman.
"Whenever our backs are against the wall, we just find a way to bounce back. We could have easily taken the loss against the Rams, come back, pouted and moaned all throughout the week."
Instead they won despite a career-low 93 yards passing from Russell Wilson, who threw two touchdown passes to get to 32 for the season, within two of his career high.
The Seahawks won despite just 136 yards total offense — fewest since beating the then-St. Louis Rams in 2013 — because that defense missing safety Kam Chancellor and cornerback Richard Sherman, not to mention end Cliff Avril, forced three turnovers. Each led to one of the touchdowns, highlighted by Coleman's 30-yard return to put Seattle in front for good in the third quarter.
Seattle (9-6) was eliminated in the NFC West race because the Los Angeles Rams beat Jacksonville 27-23 a week after a 42-7 blowout of the Seahawks. But Seattle still has a shot at the postseason with a win at home against Arizona and an Atlanta loss to Carolina next Sunday.
"Adversity to me is all the same," said receiver Doug Baldwin, who had one of the touchdown catches on a 6-yarder for the final margin. "It's another mountain that you have to climb. So a lot of the guys in this room look toward things we've had to overcome as motivation that we can win with the struggles we're facing now."
Things to consider after the Seahawks avoided a third straight December loss for the first time since 2010 — another time they bounced back because they made the playoffs at 7-9 and won a wild-card game at home:
ELLIOTT'S RETURN: The Cowboys (8-7) didn't look much better offensively with last year's NFL rushing leader back after the ban over domestic violence allegations. If they are to contend in 2018 after missing the playoffs following a 13-3 season in the debuts of Prescott and Elliott, the passing game will have to get back on track.
Prescott had four interceptions last year while setting a rookie record for passer rating. He has four pick-sixes this season and 13 interceptions overall, the most for a Dallas quarterback since Tony Romo matched his career high with 19 in 2012. Elliott's 97 yards on 24 carries didn't make much difference.
"This year was tough," Prescott said. "We know we are not making the postseason, but hopefully it will motivate us."
LOOKING AHEAD: Seattle safety Earl Thomas, going into the last year of his contract and a candidate for salary cap savings if he is cut, visited receiver Dez Bryant in the Cowboys locker room after the game and told Dallas coach Jason Garrett, "If they kick me to the curb, come get me."
"When I say 'Come get me,' I don't mean now," said Thomas, who has made offseason appearances with Bryant. "But when Seattle kicks me to the curb, please, the Cowboys come get me. That's the only place I'd rather be."
SPEAKING OF CONTRACTS: Bryant has two years left on the $70 million, five-year deal he signed after his All-Pro season in 2014. He's a game away from going all 16 without a 100-yard game for the first time in his career. He's been prone to drops and had another sideline tantrum before a fumble that turned the game in Seattle's favor.
"We have a lot of respect for all the good things that Dez brings," owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. "He's come a long way and made some serious positive contributions to the team. I wouldn't today get into any prognosis or evaluation or prediction about what we're doing with a player."
SPEAKING OF RESILIENT: Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner played through a lingering hamstring injury for the second straight week, and Carroll said Wright was sick all weekend. There figures to be little question about whether Wagner plays against the Cardinals. "Those guys played like crazy to hold these guys down," Carroll said.