There will be coal in the Cowboys' stockings this Christmas.
For Dallas, the playoffs essentially started back in Week 13, the team needing to win its remaining five games to have any hope of reaching the postseason.
But despite reeling off three straight victories, those hopes were dashed on Christmas Eve, as a 21-12 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in front of 92,150 festive fans ended any tournament chances for the Cowboys.
Turnovers played the part of Scrooge in this one as all three of Seattle's touchdowns came after the Cowboys coughed up the ball. Quarterback Dak Prescott completed 61.8 percent of his attempts, but finished with only 182 passing yards and a 51.3 quarterback rating as Dallas failed to get into the end zone.
The Cowboys did receive the gift of Ezekiel Elliott, the All-Pro running back returning after serving his six-game suspension. However, the expected boost in offense just never happened.
Dallas didn't waste any time getting Elliott involved as he rushed 11 times for 51 yards in the first quarter alone. But he would add only 46 more rushing yards over the remainder of the game, finishing just below the century mark with 97.
While the offense struggled, the Dallas defense did its part. The unit allowed Seattle to gain only 136 total yards of offense. Quarterback Russell Wilson, who has been in the conversation for league MVP this year, threw for just 93 yards, although he did have two touchdown tosses and a 107.8 rating. Wilson was also the Seahawks' leading rusher, but that was for a mere 29 yards.
Really, aside from about a two-and-a-half minute stretch in the second quarter, the Cowboys largely dominated the first half, finishing the break with a healthy edge in total yards, 179-44, and time of possession, 18:20 to 11:40.
But the team could only turn all that work into three Dan Bailey field goals. The kicker split the uprights from 34 yards out and then later was good on a pair of 51 yarders, all of which came in the second quarter.
Still, the Cowboys entered the break with only a narrow 9-7 advantage. That's because on Dallas' fifth possession of the game, Prescott connected with Dez Bryant along the right sideline, but the receiver had the ball stripped away with Seattle recovering the fumble at the Cowboys' 43-yard line.
Given the great field position, the Seahawks then needed just five plays to reach the end zone. They were helped when 5-foot-10 cornerback Jourdan Lewis was called for pass interference in the end zone when trying to cover6-foot-7 tight end Jimmy Graham. That gave Seattle the ball on the 1-yard line, and soon enough, Wilson went back to Graham, with Lewis covering again, for the game's first touchdown.
Unfortunately, the game's second touchdown was earned by the Seahawks as well, and it again came courtesy of a turnover. While the visitors got the ball to start the half, the Dallas defense did its job, forcing a punt. But on the Cowboys' second play of their possession, Prescott tried to check down to Elliott, only to have the pass sail on him, the errant throw picked off by cornerback Justin Coleman and returned 30 yards for the touchdown.
The pick-six, which was Prescott's fourth this season, gave the Seahawks their first lead of the game, 14-9.
Bailey did his part to keep it close, adding another field goal from 39 yards, the first time this season he's kicked four field goals in a game. And the Cowboys appeared headed to more points on their next series, marching 44 yards to the Seattle 25-yard line.
The big play on that series came thanks to a 33-yard connection that saw Prescott escape the pressure and then throw on the run down the left sideline to Bryant, who made a nice grab inbounds at the Seahawks' 23-yard line. Just two plays later, though, Prescott tried to go underneath to Bryant who was camped in the middle of the field, but the pass, thrown slightly behind the target, went off Bryant's hands, popped up into the air and was corralled by Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright.
That turnover resulted in the Seahawks' third touchdown of the game, as the team marched right back down the field, moving 79 yards in 13 plays as the clock ticked over into the fourth quarter. The drive ended when Wilson found receiver Doug Baldwin alone in the back left corner of the end zone for the score, Seattle extending its lead to a two-possession game, 21-12.
Finally, Dallas appeared set to the reach the end zone, as on the Cowboys' next possession, they were facing a first-and-goal at the Seattle 3-yard line. But instead of handing the ball off to Elliott, their All-Pro rusher, they tried two straight pass attempts, the second of which saw a holding penalty push the team back 10 yards. Another pass failed to reach the end zone and out came Bailey for another try.
This time the kickers' 34-yard attempt sailed wide right, and with that opportunity lost, the Cowboys' day was all but done. Dallas got one more opportunity with the ball, and gave Bailey another chance to add three points to the tally, but remarkably, he pushed his kick wide right again, this time from 48 yards out.
And that was that. Two kneel-downs later by Wilson and the Cowboys' hopes for the playoffs were officially dead. They'll now finish out the season next Sunday in a noon game at Philadelphia, hoping to salvage at least a winning season.