SEATTLE (AP) — All the built-in excuses were there for the Seattle Seahawks if they fell short.
Too many injuries.
Too much inconsistency.
Those factors still may end up being the story of Seattle’s season if it’s unable to find a way into the playoffs for a sixth straight year.
But the chances at the postseason were extended into Week 17 by winning at Dallas on Sunday. And while it wasn’t pretty, the 21-12 win over the Cowboys may be one of the more gratifying wins of Pete Carroll’s tenure after the Seahawks lost two straight, including a 35-point whipping by the Rams a week earlier.
If there was a question about Seattle’s resolve, it seemed to be answered in Dallas.
“I thought it couldn’t have been more obvious,” Carroll said during his weekly radio show on KIRO-AM on Tuesday. “They were really disappointed in what had shown the last couple of weeks.”
Seattle (9-6) still needs help to find its way into the playoffs. The Seahawks must beat or tie Arizona at home on Sunday and have Atlanta lose at home to Carolina for Seattle to squeak into the playoffs. Atlanta has the tiebreaker over Seattle because of a head-to-head victory in November.
Even if Seattle doesn’t end up getting the help it needs, the win in Dallas at least made Week 17 relevant and continued a streak during Carroll’s tenure of every home game since 2010 having some significance.
Whether it was early or late in the season, the Seahawks have never played a game at CenturyLink Field since 2010 that did not carry some weight to it.
Even the first year when Seattle went 7-9, the Week 17 home finale decided the division title.
Or the 2011 season when Seattle still had playoff hopes before losing 19-17 to eventual NFC champion San Francisco at home in Week 16.
Or all the years since when Seattle made the postseason but even those late home games carried significance for seeding or home-field advantage.
A loss to Dallas would have made the Week 17 finale against Arizona an odd and unfamiliar situation for Seattle.
“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,” linebacker K.J. Wright said after the win. “But we are a group of guys that love to play ball and we know that we are a talented football team.”
The win over the Cowboys highlighted the importance of Wright and fellow linebacker Bobby Wagner. Wright missed the loss against the Rams because of a concussion while Wagner was limited by a hamstring injury.
Wagner wasn’t back to full health but was moving better against the Cowboys and teaming with Wright allowed Seattle to be solid against Ezekiel Elliott and Dallas’ run game.
Elliott finished with 97 yards rushing and the Cowboys had 128 yards rushing as a team, but those were vast improvements over the previous two weeks when the Jaguars and Rams ran wild against Seattle.
With Seattle missing so many key pieces on defense, the importance of Wright and Wagner hasn’t been lost on Carroll.
“Now more than ever because of the other guys that aren’t around, those guys are more significant because their presence and their leadership and their consistency is just something we can bank on even more and they’re better now than they’ve ever been,” Carroll said on Tuesday.
VISIT WITH EARL
Carroll said he spoke with safety Earl Thomas about his decision to visit the Cowboys locker room after the victory and his comment made to Dallas coach Jason Garrett, “If they kick me to the curb, come get me.” Carroll said Thomas was concerned with the impression it left with Seattle’s fans.
“He didn’t think he did anything wrong at all. He didn’t know,” Carroll said. “He was just having fun, and he was excited about the game and maybe rub it in a little bit and have a good time with it. He just said something into the future and it comes across, when you read it, it comes across bad. But if he had another chance he wouldn’t say that.”
Carroll said RB Chris Carson would not practice this week. There was optimism a few weeks ago Carson could return before the end of the regular season from his ankle injury that required surgery. Left guard Luke Joeckel also suffered a foot injury in the win over the Cowboys, but Carroll did not indicate the severity.