John McGrath

Hey, I know you. You’re the old, swaggering Seattle defense.

They couldn’t run. They couldn’t pass. They couldn’t figure out a way to avoid third-down-and-long plays that doom teams that can’t run or pass.

Fox broadcast analyst Troy Aikman wasn’t pulling any punches.

“If the Seahawks hold on,” Aikman said, “it will be the worst offensive performance I’ve ever seen for a team to win a football game.”

The Seahawks held on for a 21-12 victory that resembled a beautiful slog.

A week after they were embarrassed to the point of humiliation, with their playoff hopes reduced to life-support, the Seahawks took out their anger on the Dallas Cowboys. The Worst Offense To Win A Game In Troy Aikman’s Lifetime never really got rolling, and it didn’t matter because it took care of the ball and put the game in the hands of a defense that rediscovered its attitude.

Defensive back Byron Maxwell set up one touchdown by forcing a fumble recovered by linebacker K.J. Wright. 21. Jordan Coleman scored another touchdown on a Dak Prescott pass so inaccurate it appeared to be tipped at the line of scrimmage. The ball wasn’t tipped. It just kind of floated to Coleman at the Dallas 32-yard line, freeing Coleman for a pick-six destined to be recalled for the cornersback’s temporary disappearance into a giant Salvation Army bucket.

The celebration drew a 15-yard penalty and eternal life on You Tube, but the Cowboys were too unraveled to take advantage of their favorable field position on the ensuing kickoff. Nothing went right for Dallas, just as nothing went right for the Seahawks against the Rams.

A first-and-goal possession at the Seattle 3-yard line revealed how discombobulated the Cowboys were. In the first half, running back Ezekiel Elliott had shown himself to be every bit the load the Rams’ Todd Gurley was last week. Elliott didn’t produce any gains longer than 10 yards, long, but he required a group effort to bring him down whenever he touched the ball.

And yet the Cowboys didn’t call Elliott’s number on first down, nor on second down at the 2-yard line. A holding penalty pushed the offense back 10 yards, and then bull-rushing defensive end Frank Clark sacked Prescott. A virtually certain Dallas touchdown turned into a 34-yard field goal attempt by the typically accurate Dan Bailey.

It sailed wide to the right. Some days are like that, eh?

While the Cowboys were left to wonder about dubious their strategic decisions in what amounted to an elimination game, the Seahawks walked off the field sensing they had salvaged the pride lost last week.

“No question, we were all in the same boat on that one,” Seahawks coach Pete Carrroll said afterward. “They responded beautifully. There were no stats for us on this day, but there’s the scoreboard and that’s enough.”

Carroll specifically identified the ailing linebacker duo of Bobby Wagner and Wright as difference-makers. Wagner isn’t fully recovered from a hamstring injury and Wright, who sat out the Rams game with a concussion, was ill.

“For Bobby to be playing was a heroic thing,” said Carroll. “He’s still having to adapt his play because of his hamstring. The last two weeks have just been heroic for him, and emblematic of what these guys have done for years. and the way they responded, to go out and do something like this., K.J. was sick all weekend. He was in bed all day Saturday. Those guys played like crazy to hold that team down.”

Suddenly, all those complex playoff scenarios have been reduced to a simplicity: Beat the Cardinals in the season finale, and hope that the Panthers can take care of business at Atlanta. And while it’s quite possible the Seahawks could be denied a wild-card berth despite 10 victories, they regained something that will linger long into the winter.

“These past two games, we lost them and now we’ve got that swagger back,” Wright said. “It feels good to come back against the Cardinals and finish strong.”

A week removed from what might have been the worst coaching effort of Carroll’s Seattle career, he and the staff turned in a gem rooted in a no-nonsense practice week rife with holiday-season distractions.

“To come in here Christmas week, it’s a nice present for everybody at home,” Carroll said. “I hope you enjoyed it. It makes opening those packages a little bit sweeter for the people back in the Northwest.”

Related stories from Tacoma News Tribune