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Not done yet: Seahawks beat Cowboys 21-12 to keep playoff hopes alive

Doug Baldwin scored the third and final touchdown of the day for the Seahawks. (AP)

It won’t be a blue Christmas for the Seattle Seahawks. They’re still in the playoff hunt with a week to go in the season.

Three takeaways by Seattle’s defense, including a pick-sick by Justin Coleman, helped the Seahawks blow past the Cowboys 21-12 at AT&T Stadium in a game that each team needed to win to stay in the postseason mix in the NFC.

Improbable, important win | Thomas makes a stir | 710 reaction | Photos

Dallas was held out of the end zone entirely by Seattle, scoring its 12 points on four Dan Bailey field goals.

Russell Wilson threw short touchdown passes to Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham (his Seahawks-record 10th TD reception in a season for a tight end), and K.J. Wright had a fumble recovery and interception to help Seattle improve to 9-6.

To make the playoffs, the Seahawks still must win next week at home against Arizona, plus they will need the Panthers to beat the Falcons.

Here’s a breakdown of each quarter of Seattle’s win over Dallas.

FIRST QUARTER

Seahawks 0, Cowboys 0

The first quarter was simply a battle of field position as neither team put any points on the board, but a battle that the Cowboys nonetheless were winning after 15 minutes. Dallas relied on star running back Ezekiel Elliott, who returned from a suspension for the game and rushed for 51 yards on 11 attempts in the quarter. The frame ended with the Cowboys in the red zone threatening to break the scoreless tie (which they did with a field goal early in the second quarter). Seattle, meanwhile, didn’t have nearly the same kind of success on offense, especially on the ground as it had just 8 yards rushing on three carries. Russell Wilson, who hadn’t performed as well in Seattle’s two straight losses entering the game as he did earlier in the season when he established himself as an MVP candidate, completed just 2 of 7 passes for 18 yards. He also was sacked once for a 4-yard loss. Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott was 3 for 8 for 27 yards passing.

SECOND QUARTER

Cowboys 9, Seahawks 7

The first half was primarily a struggle for the Seahawks, but they did score the only touchdown of the first two quarters after they were injected with some energy thanks to a vintage Byron Maxwell forced fumble. The veteran cornerback made the biggest play of his second tour of duty with Seattle, literally punching the ball loose from Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant’s hands on the first play of a Dallas drive. K.J. Wright made the recovery, and the Seahawks’ offense went to work and was at the Dallas 1 in short order thanks in part to a pass interference call on the Cowboys. Seattle had to avert disaster, though, as it fumbled in the backfield on the next play, but Wilson jumped on the ball, and following a timeout he found Jimmy Graham for a 3-yard touchdown pass. That touchdown was Graham’s 10th of the year, which set a new Seahawks record for most touchdown receptions by a tight end in a season. Seattle’s score came after a pretty customary slow start, as it fell behind 6-0 after the Cowboys scored on a pair of field goals – a 34-yard chip shot and a much more difficult 51-yarder by Dan Bailey. Seattle’s defense couldn’t keep Dallas out of field goal range after the Graham score, though, and Bailey was good again from 51 yards to put the Cowboys back ahead 9-7. A storyline that developed was the time that Seattle’s defense was spending on the field, as the combination of the tough Dallas running game and Seattle’s early issues on offense resulted in the Seahawks’ defenders had to play 18:20 of the first half compared to 11:40 for the Cowboys’ D.

Notable: Wilson is well-known for his ability to scramble and make something out of nothing. The Cowboys’ defense was having none of it, however, on a third-and-5 play from Seattle’s 30, chasing Wilson all the way back to the 8 before DeMarcus Lawrence brought him down for a drive-killing sack with about five minutes left.

DAL – Dan Bailey 34 FG, 14:11 (3-0 DAL)
DAL – Bailey 51 FG, 5:48 (6-0 DAL)
SEA – Jimmy Graham 3 pass from Russell Wilson, 1:38 (Blair Walsh kick, 7-6 SEA)
DAL – Bailey 51 FG, 0:03 (9-7 DAL)

THIRD QUARTER

Seahawks 14, Cowboys 12

Maybe it’s time for a new nickname for the Seahawks’ defense: Santa Claus. Or perhaps it’s Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott that should get the moniker, considering he gave Seattle not just one but two early Christmas presents, gift-wrapping a pair of interceptions in the third quarter for the offensively-challenged Seahawks. The first of Prescott’s turnovers was a pass that went right to Seattle cornerback Justin Coleman, who then ran 30 yards to the end zone to put the Seahawks ahead 14-9. Seattle had scored the only touchdowns of the game at that point, and both came with significant help from the defense. Coleman’s, of course, involved no input from the offense, and Jimmy Graham’s 3-yard score in the second quarter came after a fumble forced by Byron Maxwell gave Russell Wilson and company the ball at the Dallas 43. Later in the frame it was K.J. Wright who hauled in a pick of Prescott, adding the interception to a fumble recovery he made before halftime. Thanks to Wright’s pick, Seattle was driving in Dallas territory as the quarter ended, threatening to add to its lead. Wright’s play really bailed out Seattle’s defense, which was in need of a breather after giving up a 33-yard reception to Dez Bryant. Even with how much time the Seahawks had spent on the field playing defense, it still kept Dallas out of the end zone for another quarter – and that was with a questionable pass interference call on Coleman, no less. The Cowboys had to settle for a 39-yard field goal on their one successful drive of the third. It was the fourth 3-pointer on the day for Dan Bailey, getting Dallas back within two points of the Seahawks’ lead.

Notable: Pro Bowl free safety Earl Thomas spent some time on the sideline but returned after getting an IV. Tedric Thompson took his place in the Seahawks’ defense.

SEA – Justin Coleman 30 interception return, 11:19 (Walsh kick, 14-9 SEA)
DAL – Bailey 39 FG, 8:36 (14-12 SEA)

FOURTH QUARTER

Seahawks, Cowboys

Seattle was able to tick off three minutes of clock before Wilson connected with Doug Baldwin on a 6-yard touchdown pass, pushing the Seahawks’ lead to nine points and giving Dallas less time to get the two scores it would need to somehow win the game. The Cowboys’ window closed even more when they took 6:20 trying to find the end zone on their first series of the fourth quarter, especially considering they had to settle for a 34-yard field goal attempt that Bailey missed to the right. On the next Seattle series, Paul Richardson provided perhaps a biggest play of the game that wasn’t a touchdown or turnover, making a 10-yard catch on third-and-9 with 4:15 to go that stood up after a Dallas challenge. So even though the Seahawks had to punt three plays later, the Cowboys had used up all of their timeouts by the time Jon Ryan took the field. The end for Dallas came with one minute exactly left, as it sent Bailey back out for a 48-yard field goal try on a first down, and he once again missed the mark. Wilson then took a pair of knees to run out the clock.

SEA – Doug Baldwin 6 pass, 11:59 (Walsh kick, SEA 21-12)