It shouldn't even have been close. The Dallas Cowboys were clearly the better team for 95% of the game. Only a special teams breakdown and two totally unforced errors which handed the Seattle Seahawks 17 points made it as near a thing as it was, but the Cowboys went into the most feared stadium in the league and came away with an incredibly gratifying 30-23 victory.
The game would see stretches where the Cowboys looked absolutely dominant, and there were times when they looked determined to shoot themselves in the foot. But there is no question. This game proved that the Dallas Cowboys can play with anyone. They still have things to work on, turnovers being the biggest issue in this game, but this is a legitimate contender for the NFC East crown. And if they can do that, there is no telling just how far they can go.
There was a moment in the game when all the old fears came up. Although the defense had stiffened nicely in the red zone and held the Seahawks to a field goal on their first possession, the Cowboys were still having some trouble getting their offense on track. Then the special teams had a breakdown and Seattle blocked a field goal for a touchdown. Dallas faced a 10-0 deficit. In 2012, when the team fell behind by the same score, and with a blocked punt for a touchdown as well, the Cowboys pretty much folded. But this year, the team is made of different stuff. The offense put together an 80-yard drive, ending in a touchdown pass from Tony Romo to Gavin Escobar. Then the defense got off the field, and the Cowboys put together a totally dominating second quarter, limiting the Seahawks to a total of seven offensive plays as Dallas got to a 17-10 lead at halftime.
Then the wheels fell off in the third quarter. A muffed punt by Dwayne Harris set the Seahawks up for a quick touchdown. Shortly after, Romo and Travis Frederick miscommunicated on a snap that wound up on the turf. Seattle recovered it and was set up at the 10-yard line. But the defense again stiffened and held them to another field goal attempt in the red zone. Then Dallas responded with a drive to set up the most accurate field goal kicker in the history of then NFL. Dan Bailey tied it at 20 apiece with the longest kick of his career, 56 yards, and it was time to see who would have what it takes to win the fourth quarter and the game.
Dallas had offensive problems, with a drive stalled by a Ronald Leary hold. The Seahawks managed a field goat to take a three point lead. It looked grim when the Cowboys found themselves facing a 3rd and 20, but Romo found Terrance Williams on as pretty a catch as he has ever made. Then DeMarco Murray took over, running it three consecutive times starting at the 20. He got the touchdown, giving the Cowboys a 27-23 lead, and tying the great Jim Brown by becoming the second player in NFL history to open the season with six consecutive 100 yard games rushing. Then it was turned over to the defense, who forced Seattle into a four and out, allowing Dallas to run the clock down since Pete Carroll had already used his time outs up, including a failed challenge on the Williams toe-tap reception that saved the game for Dallas. The Cowboys would push the margin to 30-23 after penalties kept the clock from winding all the way down. The Seahawks could only get ball at the 15 on the kickoff return, and then Rolando McClain came up with a door-slamming, coffin-nailing interception. It was over, and a new top dog was astride the NFC.
Throughout the game, the Cowboys saw big contributions from players we haven't heard a lot from so far this year. Escobar, Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar, and Sterling Moore all had impact plays. The defense largely neutralized Marshawn Lynch, and kept Russell Wilson from hurting them with his legs. The secondary was mostly glued to the receivers while the defensive line largely won the battle in the trenches.
But above all, this was a game that showed that Dallas is a very good football team. They have no reason to fear any other franchise. They have a powerful offense and the defense made Wilson, Lynch, and Percy Harvin look impotent. It is hard to say how far this team can go, but it is going to be fun to find out.