The Seattle Seahawks (9-6) converted a trio of turnovers into touchdowns, keeping their playoff hopes alive while ending the Dallas Cowboys‘ (8-7) postseason dream in Week 16. Here’s what we learned in Seattle’s 21-12 victory over Dallas:
1. Early afternoon losses by the Falcons and Lions created a prime opportunity for the winner of this contest. Five minutes into the festivities, Dallas lost All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith to an aggravated knee injury while Seattle received a boost when Defensive Player of the Year candidate Bobby Wagner began channeling pre-injury form. While the Cowboys defense did its part in harassing Russell Wilson and shutting down the Seahawks‘ rushing attack, Dez Bryant‘s fumble and a pair of Dak Prescott interceptions turned out to be the difference on a day when scoring drives were elusive.
2. Due to a Week 11 loss to Atlanta, the Seahawks need a win versus the Cardinals as well as a Panthers victory over the Falcons next week to secure the No. 6 seed. Even if Seattle manages to sneak into the tournament, it’s fair to wonder if the offense is broken. On the heels of disastrous first halves versus the Jaguars and Rams the past two weeks, Wilson’s aerial attack entered Sunday’s halftime with a paltry two passing yards. An organization that has invested heavily in the offensive line can’t keep Wilson in the pocket. To be fair to the blockers, the recent struggles are the result of a complex confluence of factors, including the quarterback’s improvisational-but-random style and a penchant for holding the ball and inviting pressure. This is a passing game sorely lacking in timing and rhythm throws.
3. Ezekiel Elliott‘s long-awaited return was ultimately anti-climactic, through little fault of his own. Taking advantage of the featured back’s chain-moving rushing style, the Cowboys dominated yardage and time of possession early on while Elliott entered halftime on pace for more than 150 yards. Between the turnovers and questionable play-calling, though, Elliott was an afterthought in the final two quarters. Head coach Jason Garrett and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will enter the spotlight this week after failing to put the ball in Elliott’s hands on back-to-back plays inside the 3-yard line at a crucial point in the fourth quarter. Owner Jerry Jones rightly called his team’s performance “an extreme, extreme disappointment.”
4. A healthy Tyron Smith and an available Elliott may solve many of the issues in 2018, but the team’s brass has to be concerned about Prescott tripling his interception total from four to 12 this season. Are future Hall of Famer Jason Witten‘s days as a weekly weapon over? Can Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley bounce back from disappointing seasons? Is Brice Butler deserving of a bigger role? As is the case with Seattle’s offense entering January, Dallas’ passing attack will enter the offseason under the microscope.