The Seahawks no longer seem to be able to win football games while amassing a bunch of style points. But for now, at least, they continue to be able to win enough football games to remain in the playoff hunt into the final week of the regular season.
A 21-12 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday was far from pretty.
In fact, the Seahawks had more penalty yards than they did offensive yards. They became the first team since the 1966 Philadelphia Eagles to win a game while doing so. The Seahawks had just 136 yards of total offense and were flagged 11 times for 142 yards in the game.
However, Seattle's defense forced three turnovers from Dak Prescott and Dez Bryant and the Seahawks converted all three turnovers into touchdowns. It accomplished just enough for Seattle to get a victory to remain alive into Week 17.
It didn't hurt that Dan Bailey - one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history - missed a pair of field goals in the second half as well.
The Seahawks haven't played a meaningless game since the final week of the 2011 season. They've made the playoffs in five straight seasons and have a chance to sneak in next Sunday with a win over the Arizona Cardinals and an Atlanta Falcons loss to the Carolina Panthers. They'll have a chance to make it six straight seasons with a little help next weekend.
But first, here are five takeaways from Sunday's game in Dallas.
1. Russell Wilson is overly reliant on his athleticism right now.
Even with the victory Sunday in Dallas, Wilson is coming off perhaps the worst two-game stretch of the professional career.
Wilson completed 14 of 21 passes for just 93 yards against the Cowboys. Seattle's offense was limited to just 136 yards altogether despite Dallas being only the league's 18th ranked defense entering Sunday's game.
The offense was completely disjointed all game long. Wilson wouldn't throw the football in rhythm. He'd sit in the pocket too long, bail unnecessarily (at times) and then try to make something magical happen out of thin air.
More often than not it ended badly.
Wilson was sacked three times in the game and hit five times overall. While the line wasn't perfect, Wilson had time to throw on most of his dropbacks. However, he would constantly hold onto the ball too long.
Were receivers getting covered that well by Dallas defenders? Was Wilson unable to see his targets adequately enough to feel confident in getting rid of the ball? Is the trying to make the home run play too often instead of just taking what's available?
Likely, it's a combination of all three, but the end result is an offense that can no longer function with an already absent running game.
2. Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright help keep Seattle's defense patched together.
A Seattle defense that was gashed repeatedly by the Los Angeles Rams last week looked back to normal in Dallas on Sunday.
The return of K.J. Wright and a healthier Bobby Wagner made all the difference.
The Seahawks forced three turnovers that led to all three Seattle touchdowns. Wright and Justin Coleman intercepted Dak Prescott while Byron Maxwell forced a fumble from Dez Bryant.
Despite allowing 73 rushing yards to Ezekiel Elliott in the first half, Seattle's defense clamped down on the rushing game in the second half. Elliott would finish with just 24 yards after halftime and Dallas was limited to just 104 yards of offense in total in the second half.
Seattle's defense still isn't capable of playing to its peak ability due to the losses of Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril to injuries. However, Wagner and Wright are able to keep the group duct taped together well enough to function as a solid defense. The performance Sunday in Dallas amplified just how much the team missed their presence last week against the Rams.
3. Justin Coleman had a huge day.
In addition to his pick-six of Prescott, Coleman made several key plays for Seattle's defense. He had two pressures and a quarterback hit on Prescott on cornerback blitzes from the slot. He also made a terrific breakup of a pass for wide receiver Cole Beasley only to be saddled with a questionable pass interference penalty.
Acquired in a trade with New England right before the start of the season, Coleman has been a solid addition as a nickel back. He's intercepted two passes this season and returned both for touchdowns. A pick-six of Jacoby Brissett of the Indianapolis Colts in October helped Seattle begin to pull away in that game as well.
While the interception against the Colts was a great read by Coleman, the interception on Sunday was more a bad decision and throw by Prescott. Nevertheless, Coleman was in the right place to take advantage as Prescott's outlet pass for Elliott sailed high and into his hands for a 30-yard touchdown.
Coleman came unblocked twice for pressures on Prescott as defensive coordinator Kris Richard dialed up several blitzes with his cornerbacks on Sunday. Shaquill Griffin also had a sack of Prescott on a blitz as well.
Coleman has been quite effective this season when Richard has sent him as a blitzer and has taken two interceptions back for scores. His interception Sunday gave Seattle a 14-9 lead early in the third quarter and the Seahawks never relinquished the lead from that point forward.
4. Running game is still in shambles.
No rusher had more than 29 yards on the ground in Sunday's victory over the Cowboys. Once again, Seattle's leading rusher was Russell Wilson with 29 yards on nine carries.
Mike Davis had 25 yards on 15 carries. Thomas Rawls had 20 yards on five carries.
The Seahawks still have just one rushing touchdown from a running back all season. That touchdown came in Week 4 on a 30-yard run by J.D. McKissic.
Even with several consecutive weeks with a static offensive line of Duane Brown, Luke Joeckel, Justin Britt, Ethan Pocic and Germain Ifedi, the Seahawks are just not able to create effective running lanes for their running backs often enough.
While early in the season running backs missing holes was as much of a problem as a lack of holes to run through, Davis has been effective at times in avoiding defenders in the backfield when the line has been unable to stop penetration. However, that is not a recipe for success.
Jimmy Graham can't block any defenders on the line of scrimmage effectively in the running game. Seattle going without a fullback for the second half of the season is questionable as well as it's forced tight ends to cover those roles.
Even with the possible return of Chris Carson on the horizon, however unlikely it may still be, doesn't seem like it will do anything to shift the status quo at this point. It's a reality the team has to correct moving into 2018.
5. Earl Thomas tells Jason Garrett to "come get me."
After the game, Seahawks safety Earl Thomas ran into the Cowboys tunnel to say hello to Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant. In doing so he also caught up with head coach Jason Garrett.
Thomas told Garrett "If y'all ever have the chance to come get me, come get me."
Thomas has said before that he grew up a big Cowboys fan. It's certainly not a shocking revelation that Thomas could want to play for the Cowboys at some point in his future. However, lobbying the head coach of that team moments after the Seahawks earned a victory to keep their playoff hopes alive is far from normal.
Thomas addressed his comments to Garrett in the locker room after the game.
"The biggest thing when I say, ‘Come get me.’ I don’t literally mean, ‘Come get me now.’ I’m still in the prime of my career. I still want to be here. But when Seattle kicks me to the curb, ‘Please, the Cowboys come get me.’ That’s the only place I would rather be if I get kicked to the curb. So that’s what I meant by it.
"People take life too serious. That’s just who I am."
Thomas is under contract for the 2018 season and is scheduled to make $8.5 million in the final year of his contract. The Seahawks have looked to do extensions or their core players with a year remaining on their existing deals, which would put Thomas in line for contract talks this offseason.
Thomas said he isn't unhappy with Seattle. He also said it would be "great" if a contract presented itself with the Seahawks.
"I’m happy here," he said. "I love being here. This is where I started. I’ve built my résumé here. I’ve got Kam and Sherm, coach Richard. I don’t want to leave.
"I don’t want to get too deep into it. But it’s a business, and we have great young guys coming in, and I just, you never know."
Seattle S Earl Thomas also told Cowboys HC Jason Garrett to “if y’all have the chance come get me” pic.twitter.com/mYi6QICYaJ— Jane Slater (@SlaterNFL) December 25, 2017
Photo Credit: ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 24: Doug Baldwin #89 of the Seattle Seahawks makes a touchdown reception in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on December 24, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)