SEATTLE – History indicated that the Cowboys would fold – it had happened in this same building just two years ago.
The Seahawks roared out to a 10-0 lead just minutes into Sunday's game, largely thanks to a blocked punt returned for a touchdown. A raucous crowd at CenturyLink Field was intent on burying the Cowboys from the get-go – just like Seattle's 27-7 win in 2012.
Unlike 2012, however, the Cowboys flipped that script immediately.
Facing a two-possession deficit, Tony Romo guided the Cowboys 80 yards to a touchdown in nine plays and five minutes. It set the tone for a day that would see the Cowboys battle back to outscore Seattle, 30-13, down the stretch.
Overall, the Cowboys doubled Seattle's total yardage, 401-206, in a 30-23 win.
"I thought our team responded really well," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "Obviously this is a good football team we played and they're hard to beat here. We talked a lot about the mental toughness to overcome circumstance. I thought we did that."
It might take mental toughness to overcome a 10-0 deficit, not to mention two other turnovers that set the Seahawks up for short-yardage scores. But the Cowboys brought plenty of physical grit to Seattle, as well. Facing the league's top run defense, which had been allowing just 62 yards per game, DeMarco Murray and Joseph Randle teed off.
Murray joined Jim Brown as the only NFL back to open a season with six-straight 100-yard games, as he worked his way to a healthy 115 yards on 29 carries. Randle complimented him with 52 yards on just five carries.
"We thought it was going to be tough sledding to run the football but we had to be persistent with it," Garrett said.
Paced by that effort, the Cowboys controlled the Seattle defense – and the clock – all afternoon. Dallas won the time of possession battle, 37 minutes to 22 minutes, on the afternoon. When the ground game wasn't making hay, Tony Romo was connecting.
Romo completed 66 percent of his passes on the day for 250 yards. He found eight different receivers, and he tossed touchdown passes to two different tight ends.
"Our team, now, understands that we do a lot of things pretty well, and we have the ability to kind of impose yourself sometimes on other teams," Romo said.
No yards were bigger than the ones he picked up on two fourth quarter third downs, though.
Trailing Seattle, 23-20, Romo connected with Dez Bryant for 16 yards on a critical 3rd-and-5 from the Dallas 25. Three plays later, facing a 3rd-and-20, he found Terrance Williams for 23 – a staggering, toe-touching grab that is undoubtedly the best of Williams' young career.
"That was a remarkable play. It's a game of inches, and he did everything the right way," Garrett said. "He extended for the ball and obviously kept his feet down."
Three plays later, Murray rumbled into the end zone from 15 yards out to give Dallas a 27-23 lead – a lead it would hold onto – with three minutes remaining.
"I just think we're going out and playing each week," Romo said. "You're trying to win every game, regardless of whether you're going on the road against the champs or at home against whoever. You just put your head down and go to work."
All of these things contradict what was obviously a tight scoreline and a tense second half of play. It can't be ignored that the Seahawks nearly won the game despite an offense that managed just 206 yards of offense.
The Cowboys defense hassled Seattle at every turn, as the front seven limited the potent duo of Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch to just 80 rushing yards. Wilson tried on plenty of occasions to break containment on Dallas pass rushers, and he was repeatedly denied.
"It started with locking in and making sure that he didn't control the game," Garrett said. "I thought our guys did a good job of that for the most part"
When Wilson took to the air, the Dallas defense answered the call. Brandon Carr and Barry Church came up with goal line breakups, and Orlando Scandrick broke up Wilson's fourth-down heave near the two-minute warning. The third-year quarterback managed just 126 passing yards, and his final attempt was fittingly intercepted by Rolando McClain.
"I'm so proud of them – all of our corners, man. We all made plays on the ball, we all fought to the end," [embedded_ad]
Scandrick said. "We didn't back down. I'm so proud of my group of guys."
It's not a stretch to say the win could have been lopsided if not for the miscues – the blocked punt, a muffed punt by Dwayne Harris and a fumbled snap, all recovered by the Seahawks.
"There are a lot of things that we can build on from this game and we can learn from it," Garrett said. "When you play teams like this, you can't do what we did with the football."
It'll give the Cowboys plenty to focus on moving forward, albeit after a much happier plane ride than their last trip home from Seattle.