ARLINGTON, Texas—The Seahawks kept their playoff hopes alive Sunday thanks to a big performance by their defense, which had three takeaways in a 21-12 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.
The Seahawks got some of the postseason-help they needed on Sunday from other teams as well, with Cincinnati beating Detroit and New Orleans beating Atlanta. But Seattle still needs a win next week and a Carolina win over Atlanta to secure a Wild Card playoff berth (the Los Angeles Rams' win Sunday earned them the title of NFC West champions).
Here are five rapid reactions to the Seahawks' Week 16 win, which improved their record to 9-6.
1. Turnovers made all the difference.
The Seahawks were outgained 179 to 44 in the first half, yet only trailed 9-7 at halftime. The Cowboys also outgained Seattle 183 to 136 for the game, yet Seattle emerged with a nine-point win. What made that possible for the Seahawks was a 3-0 advantage in the turnover department.
Byron Maxwell got things started for Seattle with a vintage Maxwell punch to force a Dez Bryant fumble, which K.J. Wright recovered to give the offense a short field, which it turned into a touchdown. Justin Coleman gave the Seahawks a third-quarter lead with his second pick-six of the season, then Wright intercepted Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott deep in Seattle territory, his first interception since 2012 and the second of his career. The Seahawks went on to score after that interception, meaning they turned three turnovers into 21 points, while also preventing a likely Cowboys score with Wright's interception.
2. Justin Coleman was a very good acquisition.
When the Seahawks sent a seventh-round pick to New England for Coleman just before the start of the season, it didn't necessarily seem like a huge move at the time, but Coleman has turned out to be a huge part of Seattle's defense this season.
Coleman, who took over the nickel role early in the season, made one of the biggest plays of the game, intercepting Prescott in the third quarter and returning it 30 yards for a touchdown, a score he punctuated by hopping in one of the giant Salvation Army buckets behind the end zone. Coleman now has two interceptions this season, both of which he returned for a score. Coleman also was effective blitzing on third down, twice pressuring Prescott into throwaways that led to Dallas punts.
3. Seattle's defense responded well to a tough outing against the Rams.
In a 42-7 loss to the Rams last week, the Seahawks surrendered 244 rushing yards, which, combined with poor play from the offense and special teams, combined to produce a very uncharacteristic blowout loss. On Sunday, facing another of the league's top running backs the Seahawks defense responded in a big way.
Ezekiel Elliott still managed to gain 97 yards on 24 carries, but the Seahawks made him earn it, and thanks to those turnovers and strong play in the red zone, Seattle kept the Cowboys out of the end zone.
One obvious factor was the return of K.J. Wright, who made big plays all over the field, as well as the noticeably improved health of Bobby Wagner.
Also deserving of a mention is defensive coordinator Kris Richard, who dialed up some very successful third-down pressures to either sack Prescott or force him into bad throws.
4. The offense struggled, but put together a big drive when needed.
Overall, it was a tough game for Seattle's offense, which was held to its lowest yardage total since a 2013 win over the Rams, but as they so often do, Russell Wilson and his playmakers came through with enough big plays and one very important 79-yard touchdown drive. Following Wright's interception, the Seahawks went 79 yards on 13 plays, taking 6:25 off the clock before Wilson hit Doug Baldwin for a 6-yard score.
5. The Seahawks won in the red zone.
While the Seahawks didn't get a lot going on offense, they did take advantage of their scoring chances, going two-for-two in the red zone with Wilson throwing touchdown passes to Baldwin and Jimmy Graham. The Cowboys, meanwhile, managed just one field goal on two trips to the red zone. Overall, Dallas had seven drives deep into Seahawks territory and had four field goals, turned the ball over once and missed two field goals.
While it was a quiet day overall for Graham, he did have his 10th touchdown of the season, all of which have come in the red zone. Graham's touchdown catch was his 167th as a Seahawk, the most in franchise history by a tight end.
Fan photos from the Seahawks' Christmas Eve road game in Week 16 against the Dallas Cowboys.