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Gritty Seahawks keep playoff hopes alive, eliminate Cowboys

December 25, 2017

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) defends as Seattle Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright (50) intercepts a pass intended for Bryant in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

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.

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