Byron Bell

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Seahawks beat Cowboys 21-12 in playoff elimination game

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ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Russell Wilson didn’t have to do much to keep alive Seattle’s hopes for a sixth straight trip to the playoffs, despite the return of star Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott from a six-game suspension.

Justin Coleman put the Seahawks in front for good with a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown , and Seattle beat the Cowboys 21-12 in a playoff elimination game Sunday.

Dak Prescott threw two interceptions and the Dallas offense didn’t score a touchdown despite the reunion with his backfield mate, the one he shared a remarkable rookie season with a year ago when Cowboys had an NFC-best 13 wins.

Now Dallas (8-7) is eliminated from the postseason with the end of its three-game winning streak, and the Seahawks (9-6) still have life after Wilson threw for two touchdowns despite a career-low 93 yards passing.

“In these situations where it truly is a must-win game, we don’t have to make anything up,” receiver Doug Baldwin said. “We’re well-prepared for it. The process that we’ve gone through the whole season really helped us today.”

Coleman gave Seattle a 14-9 lead in the third quarter when he reached down to catch Prescott’s badly overthrown pass to Elliott and ran untouched 30 yards for a touchdown.

It was the fourth pick-six of the season for Prescott, who threw just four interceptions last season when he was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He has 13 interceptions for the season.

The Seahawks were eliminated in the NFC West race by the Los Angeles Rams’ 27-23 win at Tennessee. But they can still make the postseason with some help despite gaining just 136 total yards – their fewest since getting 135 in a 14-9 win over the St. Louis Rams in 2013.

Seattle’s first two offensive touchdowns were set up by pass interference penalties in the end zone. The first was a 3-yarder to Jimmy Graham, the second a 6-yarder to Baldwin after running plays backed up the Seahawks both times.

The Cowboys, who lost their first three without Elliott before the winning streak, didn’t take it easy on last year’s NFL rushing leader after his six-week layoff, giving him 15 carries for 73 yards in the first half.

The longest carry was a 9-yarder as he averaged 4.7 per carry. Elliott, who was suspended on domestic violence allegations, finished with 97 yards on 24 carries.

But Dallas didn’t give Elliott the ball with a first down at the Seattle 3 when trailing by nine points midway through the fourth quarter. After a Prescott run, a holding penalty on a pass play and the third sack of Prescott, Dan Bailey missed a 34-yarder.

Bailey, who had two 51-yarders among his four kicks, missed again in the closing seconds.

“It’s hard to get over,” said Prescott, who was 21 of 34 for 182 yards. “I’m sure I’ll get over it at some point. But right now’s not the time. Didn’t play well enough for us to win. Simple as that.”

Dallas receiver Dez Bryant dropped the first pass of the game and was caught on camera on the sideline yelling at former Cowboys receiver Miles Austin, now a staff member. Soon after, he fumbled after making a catch , setting up Wilson’s scoring toss to Graham.

Wilson saved that scoring chance by recovering a fumble on a bad handoff on the previous play.

“I didn’t have time to sense anything,” Wilson said. “The year on the line right there, with the ball on the ground. Whoever takes it, so I just leaped to get that ball.”

Bryant had another ball go off his hands on a throw behind him, and the tipped ball was intercepted by K.J. Wright to wipe out one of several promising Dallas scoring chances.

“I’m a little numb because the way we started, the good feeling, the uptick we had with Zeke coming back,” owner Jerry Jones said. “All of that, I thought that would rule the day today.”

MIMICKING ZEKE

Coleman repeated an Elliott antic from last season, when the Dallas running back jumped into a jumbo Salvation Army red kettle after a touchdown on Thanksgiving. Coleman got the same penalty, too – a 15-yarder for unsportsmanlike conduct.

WAY BACK

The Seahawks had 2 yards passing at halftime thanks in part to DeMarcus Lawrence‘s 22-yard sack of Wilson in the first half. Lawrence overpowered Germain Ifedi, forced Wilson to backtrack after he tried scrambling to his right and tackled Wilson as he tried to run away from him at the Seattle 8.

GRAHAM MILESTONE

Graham’s second-quarter touchdown made him the first NFL tight end with at least 10 scoring catches in a season for two franchises. He did it three times with New Orleans and has 69 career TDs.

INJURIES

Cowboys: Five-time Pro Bowl LT Tyron Smith started despite a right knee injury that kept him out of practice most of the week. He came out after the first series, replaced by Byron Bell.

UP NEXT

Seahawks: Home against Arizona next Sunday.

Cowboys: At Philadelphia next Sunday.

More AP NFL: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Newton to Oher: ‘I need you’ to play in Carolina

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SAN JOSE, Calif. — When Cam Newton discovered the Carolina Panthers planned to make a run at signing Michael Oher last offseason, he texted the free agent offensive tackle: “I need you. I don’t want you. I NEED you.”

Newton had sent text messages before to potential free agent prospects – but this time he was desperate.

The Panthers weren’t planning to re-sign struggling left tackle Byron Bell, and Newton needed someone to protect his blindside. He thought Oher, the main character in the popular movie by that name, would be a perfect fit.

The fifth-year quarterback turned out to be right.

Oher is having his best statistical season, and the Panthers (17-1) are the highest-scoring offense in the league and will play the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl on Sunday.

“Yeah, it meant a lot,” Oher said emphatically Monday night. “I mean, it’s Cam Newton. You get a text from Cam Newton telling you that he needs you, well, you appreciate that. It’s definitely something that resonated with me.”

Turns out Newton had inside knowledge on Oher.

Newton’s younger brother Cecil, an offensive lineman, had been teammates with Oher with the Baltimore Ravens and raved to his brother about Oher’s work ethic and professionalism.

Newton bought in – and so did the Panthers.

Oher signed a two-year, $7 million contract with Carolina, a move that wasn’t particularly popular with Panthers fans considering he’d struggled in 2014 with the Tennessee Titans and been released one year into a three-year contract.

“I got killed on that one,” Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said.

But Oher has been solid.

In fact, he’s been more than solid, helping the Panthers finish second in the NFL in rushing and helping Newton achieve an MVP-type season with 45 combined touchdowns.

Oher played in 98.4 percent of the team’s snaps this season and allowed a career-low four sacks – tied for eighth-fewest in the league – and was penalized only three times for 25 yards, according to STATS.

Those numbers were a major improvement over his final two seasons in Baltimore, when he allowed a combined 21 1/2 sacks, and last season when he allowed six sacks in 11 starts with the Titans.

“He’s been a key asset to say the least,” Newton said.

Panthers center Ryan Kalil said Oher had the perfect personality to fit in on Carolina’s comedic offensive line.

He and his teammates regularly tease Oher about “The Blind Side” – a movie Oher doesn’t particularly like because he felt it portrayed him as a kid who doesn’t like football.

Panthers right tackle Mike Remmers is the first to text Oher to tell him when the movie is on TV – and it seems to be on all of the time.

Remmers also regularly recites lines from the movie, drawing a roll of the eyes from Oher.

“Michael Oher has a great personality and an incredible work ethic,” Kalil said. “You talk about trying to add talent to your football team, but you also want good character guys who will rub off on the younger guys and show guys what it means to be a pro – and Michael Oher is the epitome of that.”

Kalil’s said Oher’s work ethic is contagious.

“It’s the kind of guy you want on your team because it will motivate you to do the same,” Kalil said.

Oher will have his hands full in the Super Bowl though.

He’ll be matched up against All-Pro Von Miller and Pro Bowler DeMarcus Ware at different points during the game.

Ware has faced Oher before, when he played for the Ravens, calling him a “great player who is very quick and athletic.”

For Oher, it’s another challenge on the road to rejuvenating his seven-year career.

Oher felt like he was “left for dead” last season when the Titans cut him. He couldn’t have imagined that a year later he would be playing for his second Super Bowl ring.

Newton reminded Oher of his text recently.

“He said `I told you I didn’t want you, I need you,'” Oher recalls with a laugh. “Stuff like that made me feel at home. Made me know they wanted me. Good feeling.”