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Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
|Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire|
|Dallas linebacker DeMarcus Ware celebrates after sacking Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck in the third quarter of a 34-9 Cowboys win.|
The Cowboys finally ran out of NFC West teams to play Thursday. After dropping games to the Rams and Cardinals last month, they said goodbye to a season-saving November with a 34-9 whipping of an overmatched Seattle team.
With touchdowns on their first three possessions, the Cowboys quickly put the Seahawks (2-10) out of their misery and kept pace with several teams in the hunt for a wild-card playoff spot. With an 8-4 record, America's preseason champs are starting to bear a passing resemblance to a solid team. They can now sit back this weekend and root for the Giants (10-1) to beat the Redskins (7-4).
The Cowboys will have 10 days to prepare for a road trip to Pittsburgh, where they'll encounter the best overall defense in football. On Sunday, though, they encountered a team simply trying to finish the season. In addition to the fast start -- the first time since Oct. 9, 1994, the Cowboys began a game with three consecutive touchdowns -- the Cowboys relied on a swarming pass rush.
|Watch highlights of the Cowboy's 34-9 victory over the Seahawks.|
Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck never had a chance as Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware overwhelmed Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones for most of the game. Ware accounted for three of the Cowboys' seven sacks. He made Jones look silly by faking the straight-ahead bull-rush and then racing past him to the outside. It was the most sacks for the Cowboys since Nov. 9, 1997, when they had nine.
"It's a shock," said Jones. "It's a shock. But it's the game of football. You go out there, you don't want to give up sacks and stuff. But you have to move on."
The downside for the Cowboys was that Ware had to leave the game with a sprained left knee. Replays showed his left knee buckling, but he walked off the field under his own power. He even stopped to pick up Fox's "Galloping Gobbler" award before retreating to the locker room.
The other bad news for the Cowboys is that running back Marion Barber sprained his right pinkie toe late in the first half. He returned to the game in the third quarter, but quickly had to leave again. It's a huge worry for a team that already lost rookie running back Felix Jones for the season with a toe injury.
Fourth-round pick Tashard Choice filled in nicely with 57 yards on 11 carries. If Barber can return from the toe injury, Choice could become a nice complementary back. But an extended absence would put even more pressure on Tony Romo and the offense.
In this game, Romo and Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten got back on the same page. Witten might not have a mouthpiece such as Deion Sanders on retainer, but behind closed doors, he asked Romo to look for him more. On the first drive, he burned Seahawks safety Deon Grant for a 36-yard catch and he finished with nine catches for 115 yards. Witten is playing with broken ribs and an injury to his sternum, but neither injury seemed to bother him Thursday.
"Jason Witten is the absolute perfect tight end in all ways," Romo said. "He runs great routes, he blocks in the backfield and he is a good run blocker. His timing is impeccable. He's got good hands, his size and then on top of that he is a tough guy and a high character guy. And he is a really easy guy to play with and makes everyone around him better."
But the Cowboys realize that their cruelest month is about to arrive. They haven't had a winning record in December since 2001, when the team rallied to finish 5-11. If the Cowboys can get to 10 wins, they have a great shot at one of the wild-card spots.
The only problem is that the Steelers, Giants and Ravens loom on the schedule. And they'll finish on the road against an Eagles team that would love to play the role of spoiler. Even though he might not acknowledge it, Cowboys coach Wade Phillips knows his coaching future is hanging in the balance.
"Three weeks ago we're looking at a different thing," Phillips said. "Of course, the last part of the season is going to be big for everybody. You can see how the climate can change quickly in this league. What you need to do is win and get on a winning streak. We started that."
For bonus holiday coverage, please continue reading:
What's up with booing Julius Jones? An angry Thanksgiving crowd showed up at Texas Stadium. For no apparent reason, Cowboys fans booed Jones every time he carried the ball. This is a guy who was a complete professional while he played for the Cowboys and left in free agency because the team didn't make him an offer. It really was baffling, and the booing reflected poorly on what is usually a fairly knowledgeable fan base.
"It's a term of endearment for me," Jones said. "I don't mind being booed. That just means they respect you. I wasn't baffled by it. These days, you expect it. I never did anything wrong, but I expected to get booed. it's just part of the game."
Julius, it wasn't a sign of respect. It was a sign that fans didn't have a clue what took place in the offseason.
Explaining the Turkey Dance: You may have noticed that Cowboys defenders were flapping their arms like chickens after every sack. Nose tackle Tank Johnson had the most dramatic sack dance -- perhaps because it was such a rare occasion for him. Defensive end Marcus Sp
ears told me that Jason Hatcher came up with the idea before Wednesday's practice. The two players then informed teammates that they'd be fined if they didn't do the Turkey Dance.
Veteran linebacker Greg Ellis gave the most half-hearted effort after his sack late in the game.
"They said if we didn't do it, we'd be fined," he said. "So I didn't want to be fined. So I did it a little bit, but not for long."
Bennett finds the end zone again: Rookie tight end Martellus Bennett has now scored a touchdown in three consecutive games. He ran a corner route and then faded behind Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu when Romo started scrambling.
He called his end zone dance the "Stinky Leg," which was inspired by a song by the same name. Bennett, a former Texas A&M Aggie, caused a mild stir this week when he referred to University of Texas quarterback Colt McCoy as "Cart" McCoy. He predicted a 27-24 victory for his Aggies on Thursday, but things didn't work out.
A few steps away, former Texas star Roy Williams was trying to figure out where he could watch the game. He moved into his new home in Dallas on Wednesday, but he doesn't have cable yet.