ARLINGTON, Texas—The night before Seattle played Dallas in a game that would end one of the two teams' playoff hopes, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll talked to his team about trying to recapture the level of play it had shown in a Week 13 win over Philadelphia.
Since that victory over the Eagles, which was arguably Seattle's best performance of the season, the Seahawks lost at Jacksonville and were blown out at home by the Los Angeles Rams, putting at risk a streak of five straight seasons of winning 10 or more games and making the postseason.
And with their backs against the wall, the Seahawks showed, as they have so many times under Carroll, that they're nothing if not resilient. Led by a defense that forced three turnovers and did not surrender a touchdown, the Seahawks kept their playoff hopes alive with a 21-12 victory over the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.
"Every time we get an opportunity, we want to play great defense like that, just like we did against Philly," safety Earl Thomas said. "Coach Carroll challenged us last night, he was talking about two weeks ago, and we recreated that."
The Seahawks still need a win next week as well as a little bit of help to make the playoffs—a 10-6 record gets Seattle a Wild Card berth if Carolina wins at Atlanta—but regardless of what happens next Sunday, the Seahawks at least were able to show they have fight left in them, even after back-to-back losses, the second of which was one of the worst of the Carroll era.
"We've been doing this since I've been here the past seven years," linebacker K.J. Wright said. "Whenever our backs are against the wall, we just find a way to bounce back. This team is not going to lie down easily. We could have easily taken the loss against the Rams, come back, pouted and moaned all throughout 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."
Carroll noted after the game that his players "responded beautifully" to challenges of this week, be it bouncing back from a bad loss or just the challenges presented by a very talented opponent.
"I'm really proud of that win," Carroll said. "Based on coming back from last week and not liking what happened, there weren't very many people who thought we had a chance to play like that, so it was a really good football game. Dallas had everything to play for. They had all their guys. They were ready to go and jacked up, and we felt the same way on our end, so it was a real battle. The way the defense played all day long, not letting them in the end zone at any time—they were in the red zone a number of times—it was fantastic football."
The defense did a lot of things well, from making adjustments to slow Ezekiel Elliot after he got off to a hot start—Elliott finished with 97 yards on 24 carries, but 51 of those yards came in the first quarter—to being stingy in the red zone to pressuring Dak Prescott. But nothing made a bigger difference than the defense's ability to create three turnovers: a Byron Maxwell forced fumble that set up Seattle's first score, a Justin Coleman pick-six, and a K.J. Wright interception that the offense turned into another touchdown.
"A huge day turning the football over," Carroll said. "When you get three turnovers you're supposed to win. We know that, we always do. The turnovers were great. The knockout by Maxie was a beautiful play, just a picture-perfect play. The pick in the end zone by Justin Coleman, a great response to an opportunity, and then K.J.'s catch on the interception too, so all of those plays were huge."
And while the defense was on top of its game throughout the afternoon, the offense was opportunistic on a day when yards and sustained drives were hard to come by. The Seahawks finished the game with just 136 yards, their lowest total since a 2013 win over the St. Louis Rams, but they did manage to convert two turnovers into touchdowns, including a 13-play, 79-yard drive that took more than six minutes off the clock.
"We just capitalized on those opportunities," said receiver Doug Baldwin, who had one of Seattle's two touchdown receptions.
Baldwin had talked earlier in the week about his team responding to adversity, noting that what they were facing this week was a bit different than what they have gone through in past seasons, and he liked what he saw out of the team on Sunday.
"I thought we did extremely well," Baldwin said. "We struggled out of the gate, but the resilience, the demeanor, the mindset, the vibe in the locker room, on the sideline, was that we were never out of it. A lot of young guys stepped up today. I thought the whole process for the past two weeks leading up to this game, we needed to grow up a little bit with a lot of the young guys we have who haven't gone through this type of adversity before in the NFL. We needed to grow up and I thought for a huge part tonight we did that."
Asked what the team showed Sunday, Baldwin added, "We're going to continue to fight and not give up, and I can't be more proud of that."
The Seahawks come away victorious 21-12 against the Cowboys in Week 16 at AT&T Stadium.