Being dead is no way to go through football life. After six days of that, the Seahawks stuck a hand up from the grave Sunday in Dallas and grabbed them some Cowboys. As with any zombie film, what it lacked in elegance it made up for in preposterousness.
If you had the courage to peek through your fingers, you saw a game that will be talked about in Seattle bars and coffee houses whenever the subject turns to two-headed calves, Salvador Dali paintings and Dr. Seuss books.
One of the wacky afternoon’s co-authors, coach Pete Carroll, offered an eloquent observation.
“There’s no stats for us on this day but the scoreboard,” he said. “That’s enough.”
The 21-12 triumph that ended the Cowboys’ playoff hopes and resuscitated the Seahawks’ flickering aspirations was more about what wasn’t, rather than what was. It wasn’t a continuance of seasonal free-fall, it wasn’t the end of the Carroll-era run, and it wasn’t the long-awaited offensive revival.
What it was, was one game’s survival. But after the 42-7 evisceration by the Rams in Seattle last week, survival counts as a magnum feat. Deck the freakin’ halls.
“To come in here Christmas week, it’s a nice present for everybody at home,” Carroll said. “Makes opening those packages a little sweeter.”
Most astonishing was the denial of a touchdown to the Cowboys, whom Carroll described as having “all the kind of firepower you want.” Six Cowboys possessions ended in field goal attempts (four made), three ended in turnovers. RB Ezekiel Elliott, the NFL’s rushing leader in 2016 who was presumed to be returning after a six-game suspension with a mad-on, had 97 yards on 24 carries, but only 24 on nine in the second half.
Apparently, two matters were responsible: The healthy returns of LBs Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, and a teensy adjustment on the defensive line.
“We were a little high at the line of scrimmage,” Carroll said of the linemen’s crouches. “We were getting knocked around a little bit because we were up. We needed to get our pad levels down, going back to fundamentals.
“Coaches were on it, and the players responded. (The Cowboys) went from gains of five and six (yards) to three and four.”
Then Carroll gushed about the work of his veteran linebackers.
“For Bobby to being playing today is a heroic thing,” he said. “He’s had to adapt his play because of his hamstring. The last two weeks have been heroic, and emblematic of what he’s done for years.
“K.J. was sick all weekend. He didn’t get out of bed all day (Saturday). Those guys played like crazy.”
Aiding the defense immeasurably were key plays from lesser lights. CB Byron Maxwell has a maneuver that is his mark of Zorro — a short, powerful punch at the football in the possession of a receiver.
In the second quarter, after an eight-yard completion to volatile WR Dez Bryant, Maxwell’s stand-up blow separated Bryant from the ball. Wright recovered and the Seahawks’ feeble offense moved 43 yards in five plays, scoring on a three-yard pass to TE Jimmy Graham for a 7-6 lead.
The second touchdown came from CB Justin Coleman, who, amid some criticism over GM John Schneider’s personnel decisions over the past few years, has been a standout among the newbies, arriving from New England for a seventh-round draft pick.
He made a knee-high interception of a pressured pass by QB Dak Prescott and returned it 30 yards for a score, his second pick-six of the season.
Said Carroll: “He’s been terrific for us all year.”
Later in the third, a Wright interception of a tipped ball set up the Seahawks for their only big drive of the game — 79 yards in 13 plays over 6½ minutes. For the touchdown and a 21-12 lead, Wilson tossed a six-yard pass to WR Doug Baldwin, whose burst off the line of scrimmage to get open left only a Roadrunner-shaped dust cloud in front of the helpless defensive back.
An enduring legacy of the game will be one of mockery — the Seahawks had 142 yards in penalties and 136 yards of total offense. Not since 1966 has the NFL seen a team win a game with fewer offensive yards than penalties.
It is not the sort of deed upon which a Super Bowl run is built. But it didn’t prevent the Seahawks from making next week’s game against 7-8 Arizona relevant.
Late Sunday night, the start of Carolina’s game at Atlanta was flexed by the NFL to coincide with the Seahawks’ 1:25 p.m. PT home start against Arizona. The games will decide the NFC’s sixth and final playoff seed.
Seattle, a seven-point favorite to beat Arizona, hopes the Panthers, a three-point favorite, beat Atlanta. Carolina can be seeded anywhere from second to fifth based on Sunday’s outcomes, so they have high stakes as well.
If those two outcomes occur, the Seahawks will get the final wild card spot. If one or one none happen, Seattle is done.
Having hit a half-court heave in Dallas, the Seahawks know what long shots look like. Neither outcome next Sunday is a long shot, and both will play out simultaneously.
For a weekend that looked for 12s to be football-dreary a week ago, New Year’s Eve will be an entertainment unique in the Carroll era. This time, winning one scoreboard won’t be enough.
Thomas says to Cowboys coach, “come get me” (just not right now)
FS Earl Thomas offered up another of his odd buzz-kills post-game, suggesting to Cowboys coach Jason Garrett that the Cowboys “come get me” if the Seahawks’ Pro Bowl free safety were to become available.
Cameras caught Thomas running after Garrett and saying to him, “If y’all have the chance, come get me.”
Thomas is a native of Texas and grew up a Cowboys fan, but in the locker room afterward tried to walk back his remark, which he didn’t deny making.
“We had a great win,” Thomas told reporters. “I feel like we played lights out. Just emotional. I went to the locker room to talk to (Cowboys WR Dez Bryant) and I saw coach Garrett. I’ve always been a Cowboys fan growing up. But the biggest thing when I say ‘come get me’ is, I don’t literally mean like, ‘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.”
It is true that is who Thomas is. He tends to blurt when others would be cautious. Remember after he broke his leg last year, he tweeted about retirement? Thomas lives in a world with few filters, which on one hand, is refreshing. On the other hand, his curious blurts leave coaches, teammates, friends and family puzzled and apprehensive.
A former No. 1 draft pick in 2010, Thomas, 28, appears to be angling for a contract extension from Seattle. He signed a $40 million, four-year deal that runs out after 2018. Speculation has been rampant that the Seahawks will have to re-tool the Legion of Boom because of age, injuries and salary-cap problems. Whether they can afford to extend Thomas is an unresolved question.
Asked if he felt unwanted in Seattle, Thomas said, laughing, “I don’t know. But if they don’t, you know, please come get me.
“I’m happy here. I love being here. This is where I started. I built my résumé here. I don’t want to leave.”