By Chad Conine, The Sports Xchange
ARLINGTON, Texas — The Seahawks played the role of the Grinch as Seattle went into Dallas and stole Christmas.
The Seahawks came up with three takeaways and turned them all into touchdowns to claim a 21-12 victory over the Cowboys on Sunday afternoon at AT&T Stadium.
Seattle’s defense also kept the Cowboys out of the end zone, thus keeping the Seahawks’ playoff hopes alive and eliminating Dallas from contention.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson passed for just 93 yards, but he threw a pair of short touchdown passes that proved vital to Seattle’s playoff push. With the Atlanta Falcons (9-6) and Detroit Lions (8-7) both losing on Sunday, the Seahawks (9-6) are still in the hunt for an NFC wild-card berth.
“We want to be able to play that way,” Wilson said. “That was great football today. It was physical and it was tough. We came up with some huge plays on offense on third downs.”
For Seattle to claim a playoff spot, the Seahawks must beat the visiting Arizona Cardinals next week and have the Falcons lost to the visiting Panthers.
The Cowboys (8-7) squandered Ezekiel Elliott’s return by losing the turnover battle 3-0. Elliott rushed for 97 yards on 24 carries as he came back after serving a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal-conduct policy.
“It’s frustrating,” Elliott said. “We came out moving in the first half, but we weren’t able to get the ball in the end zone. We suffered from that later in the game. It’s hard to get a win in this league when you have three turnovers. We just have to execute better.”
Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott completed 21 of 34 passes for 182 yards with a pair of interceptions and no touchdowns.
The Seahawks scored 14 points off the Prescott interceptions, both of which came in the third quarter.
“The way the defense played all day long, to not let them in the end zone at any time, it was fantastic football,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “When you get three turnovers, you’re supposed to win. We know that, and we always do.”
Seattle went ahead early in the third when cornerback Justin Coleman grabbed an errant, floating Prescott pass and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown and a 14-9 lead.
The Seahawks then stopped a Dallas drive late in the third quarter when a Prescott pass bounced high off of wide receiver Dez Bryant’s hands. Linebacker K.J. Wright ran under it for the pick that gave Seattle the ball at its own 21.
Wilson made the second interception count by directing a 13-play, 79-yard touchdown drive. The QB tossed a 6-yard touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin to give the Seahawks a 21-12 lead with 12:05 remaining.
“Whenever we get a turnover, we want to be able to capitalize and use that momentum to really shift the momentum of the game,” Wilson said. “That’s what we were able to do today.”
In the week leading up to the game, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was evasive about how Elliott would be used in his return. Elliott ran early and often as he took the ball on Dallas’ first 14 designed rushing plays by the middle of the second quarter.
However, Elliott got just one carry in the red zone all day.
“I thought in a lot of ways we controlled the game offensively,” Garrett said. “We just didn’t cash in once we got down in there close. Ultimately, those are the things that are the difference between winning and losing ballgames.”
Elliott gained 51 yards on 11 carries in the first quarter. He powered the Cowboys’ first scoring drive, rushing for 26 yards on five totes to set up kicker Dan Bailey’s 34-yard field goal on the third play of the second quarter.
Bailey added a 51-yarder that gave Dallas a 6-0 lead with 5:53 left before halftime.
However, Seattle squashed the Cowboys’ first-half momentum when Wright recovered Bryant’s fumble at the Dallas 43. Seattle cornerback Byron Maxwell punched the ball loose from Bryant’s grasp, setting up Wright’s recovery and the Seahawks’ first scoring drive.
“The knockout by (Maxwell) was a beautiful play, a picture-perfect play,” Carroll said.
The Seahawks moved in for the go-ahead score as Wilson picked apart the Cowboys’ defense. He hit running back Mike Davis for a 12-yard gain to start the drive, scrambled for 14 yards and induced a pass-interference penalty on a toss to tight end Jimmy Graham in the end zone.
Wilson capped the 43-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Graham for a 7-6 lead with 1:38 left in the second quarter.
Prescott responded by directing a quick eight-play, 49-yard drive that allowed Bailey to give the Cowboys a 9-7 halftime lead with another 51-yard field goal.