Jerry Jones’ birthday party came a few hours early this season. The Dallas Cowboys owner, president and general manager turned 72 on Monday, Oct. 13, but the festivities got cranked up Sunday afternoon when the Cowboys upset the reigning Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, 30–23, at CenturyLink Field — where the neon-clad world champs had a 19–1 record (including playoffs) with Russell Wilson at quarterback prior to the Boys shocking the Hawks.
The win improved the Cowboys’ record to 5–1 for the first time since 2007 and gave Jones an early birthday present that has to rank among the sweetest — and most surprising — of his career in Dallas.
“Almost as good as the Herschel Walker trade,” joked Jones, referring to the blockbuster deal that, coincidentally, celebrated its 25th anniversary on Sunday and is credited with establishing the foundation of the 1990s dynasty that won three Super Bowls in four seasons.
“When I see us come up here against the Super Bowl champions and play in these adverse conditions. When I see us play like that, then I’d say we’ve got a chance to line up against anybody and win the game.”
Much like the ’90s Super Bowl teams with Emmitt Smith, these Cowboys are riding their star running back to victory week in, week out. DeMarco Murray joined Jim Brown as just the second player in NFL history to open a season with six consecutive 100-yard rushing games. Prior to Murray’s 29-carry, 115-yard, one-TD effort on the ground, Seattle’s No. 1-ranked rush defense was allowing 62.3 yards per game on just 2.6 yards per carry. The Seahawks had not allowed any runner to gain more than 38 yards this season and had not allowed a 100-yard rusher since Nov. 3, 2013. In fact, Murray is only the seventh 100-yard rusher since Pete Carroll took over as Seattle’s coach in 2010.
“He’s a powerful back,” said Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who is known more for his trash talk than his praise of opposing players.
“He runs strong. You’ve got to tackle him with multiple people and when you have your opportunity to tackle him one-on-one, you’ve got to find a way to bring him down.”
Murray was the main reason Dallas had a nearly two-to-one time-of-possession edge over Seattle, at 37:39-to-22:21.
But the Cowboys are certainly more than just a one-man team. The highlight of the game at Seattle was clearly the 3rd-and-20 conversion from Tony Romo to Terrence Williams, who tip-toed the sideline on a diving fourth-quarter catch that kept a 75-yard go-ahead touchdown drive alive.
Most surprising has been Dallas’ defense, which allowed just nine first downs and 206 total yards against a powerful Seattle offense that includes Marshawn Lynch and Percy Harvin.
“Nothing surprises me in the NFL. They pay their players, too — the other side of the ball,” said Jones. “Those guys weren’t All-Pro players, in the ’90s, and they’re great players, great players. But before they were winning like that, they weren’t thought to be great players. The winning helped them become better players.”
This version of the Cowboys has a long way to go before being compared to the Super Bowl champions of two decades ago. But the sky appears to be the limit this year with offensive studs like Murray, Romo, wideout Dez Bryant, tackle Tyron Smith and tight end Jason Witten, along with a defense that has shown far more ability than anticipated.
“Guys aren’t going to back down,” said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. “We have the right kind of guys on this team.”
In other words, how ’bout them Cowboys?