This Saturday, the Dallas Cowboys will travel to the Pacific Northwest to face the Seattle Seahawks in their second preseason game of 2023. The expectation is that starters such as quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver CeeDee Lamb will not play in Saturday’s contest. While that may lessen the excitement for some fans, it doesn’t remove the significance of what the game means for the bottom of the roster. Several players are playing for a chance to solidify spots on the team in a reserve capacity and are hungry for the opportunity to prove their worth in Seattle.
Over the years, the Seahawks have been the opponent for historical moments of the Cowboys franchise. Take Emmitt Smith breaking the all-time rushing record, for example, or the Cowboys’ heartbreaking postseason loss in 2007 that sent legendary head coach Bill Parcells into retiring from coaching. Those moments took place when it mattered in the win/loss column. However, over the last twenty years, the Cowboys facing the Seattle Seahawks in the preseason has been anything but meaningless.
DeMarcus Ware’s Debut, August 22, 2005
DeMarcus Ware was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame earlier this month. Ware is arguably the greatest pass rusher in the history of the Dallas Cowboys. Ware compiled 117 sacks and 32 forced fumbles during his nine seasons with the Cowboys. However, he introduced himself to the NFL on Monday Night Football.
On a nationally televised broadcast, Ware first got past fellow Hall of Famer Steve Hutchinson to take down Matt Hasselbeck for a sack. He also intercepted Hasselbeck in the same game, displaying his versatility as an outside linebacker for coach Parcells. I remember watching this game live, and the next day a co-worker started off our shift by saying, “Did you see DeMarcus Ware last night?”
Watching that game live at that moment, we, as fans, were watching the beginning of a Hall of Fame career and a legend soon to be placed in the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor.
Romo’s Gem in the Emerald City August 12, 2006
When people talk about the Cowboys’ penchant for finding uncut diamonds in the rough, Tony Romo is a shining example. Romo came to the Cowboys in 2003 after being undrafted out of Eastern Illinois, and although the Cowboys had others ahead of him on the roster for some time, Romo had his admirers.
Reflecting on his time with Romo, former Cowboys great Darren Woodson had this to say of Romo as a rookie:
“He walked in on the first day of camp and we had Chad Hutchinson and Drew Henson and those guys, the first day I was sitting there with Sean Payton, and he said hey, this kid is special. I said he’s the best quarterback on this team right now, and I saw him in three days. Three days at camp. There was something about the guy so my expectations of Tony over the years have always been high.”
Despite that, Romo took a series of fortunate events to keep a spot on the Cowboys roster before being named the starter. While some point to him being inserted in the second half of the game against the Giants in 2006 in relief of Drew Bledsoe as the first signs of what he would become, the preseason game against Seattle brought light to his potential first.
Romo played the entirety of the game and completed 76% of his passes, and threw a touchdown pass to Patrick Crayton. Romo would follow that performance with a near-perfect passer rating against the New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton. However, Romo’s complete game against Seattle was the preamble to an excellent career with the Dallas Cowboys.
The Unofficial Beginning of the Prescott/Elliott Era August 25, 2016
Speaking of Tony Romo, where the Romo era began, it also effectively ended. Early in the first quarter, Tony Romo drops back to pass and leaves the pocket to elude pressure. As he slides to avoid contact from Bobby Wagner, Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril falls on top of Romo, fracturing his back in the process.
A rookie Dak Prescott, who had performed terrific in the preseason up to that point, takes the field for a crucial third down. Prescott, ignoring the boisterous 12th man in the Seattle crowd, makes the correct calls at the line of scrimmage and delivers a dart to wide receiver Cole Beasley for a first down and, later, a touchdown drive. As for Ezekiel Elliott, when the Cowboys drafted him with the fourth-overall pick of the 2016 NFL draft, he was viewed as the centerpiece behind Romo and the Cowboys’ elite offensive line.
Elliott came into the NFL with a reputation as a hard-nosed bruiser at tailback, both as a pass blocker and runner. Facing Seattle and their legion of Boom defense, Elliott made good on that reputation. First, knocking a blitzing KJ Wright head-over-heels in pass protection and then taking the hard-hitting Kam Chancellor head-on not once but twice, getting the better of the exchange both times.
In the game’s aftermath, Prescott led the Cowboys to a 13-3 record and won Offensive Rookie of the Year. Meanwhile, Elliott led the league in rushing. Prescott became the starting quarterback of the Cowboys and has remained since. Meanwhile, Elliott became the Cowboys’ third all-time leading rusher behind Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett. That calm and that poise that is the signature of Dak Prescott and the toughness of Ezekiel was underlined by this game in Seattle during their rookie seasons.