SEATTLE — On his sixth snap of the game, Tony Romo took a direct blow to his ribs and spent nearly a minute trying to get back to his feet.
Seconds later, when Chris Jones’ punt was smothered by Seattle and returned for a touchdown, Romo and the Dallas Cowboys were facing a 10-0 deficit on the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks’ home field.
Romo and his teammates rebounded from the terrible start, validating the strong start to the season with a resounding answer.
“I think our team now understands that we do a lot of things pretty well and I think we have the ability to kind of impose yourself on other teams,” Romo said.
Rallying from the early deficit, the Cowboys relied on running back DeMarco Murray and a defense that confused Russell Wilson in a 30-23 victory Sunday.
Murray, who ran for 115 yards, scored on a 15-yard run with 3:16 left to give Dallas the lead and the Cowboys’ defense held twice in the final 3 minutes to cap a miserable day by Seattle’s offense. Rolando McClain intercepted Wilson’s pass with less than a minute remaining to clinch the victory.
“Guys aren’t going to back down,” Dallas coach Jason Garrett said. “We have the right kind of guys on this team,”
The result wasn’t stunning. It was the way Dallas won. The Cowboys outhit, out-ran and bullied the Seahawks, showing no intimidation toward Seattle’s top defense or the noisy environment created by the 12th Man.
It looked very familiar to the way Seattle won last year on its way to the title. And now the Cowboys are 5-1 for the first time since 2007.
“I think that showed the maturity of this team. We expected to win,” Dallas tight end Jason Witten said. “We knew this was going to be a challenge and we stayed the course.”
Murray joined Jim Brown (1958) as the only running backs in NFL history to start a season with six straight 100-yard rushing games. And Murray did it against the league’s best run defense, which had not allowed a running back more than 38 yards in a game this season.
Dallas’ improved offensive line opened enough space for Murray to run and for the most part kept Romo protected. Romo was sacked only once, and bounced up off the turf from that first hard hit he took from Bobby Wagner on the Cowboys’ first drive.
And when Romo got pressured on Dallas’ winning drive, Terrance Williams made a toe-dragging catch along the sideline for 23 yards to convert a third-and-20. Romo moved away from pressure by Bruce Irvin and found Williams along the sideline in front of the Dallas bench.
“If he throws it up, I’m trying to gain his trust, so I’m going to catch it regardless,” Williams said.
Murray then broke free for 25 yards and a 6-yard run to the Seattle 15. He capped his record day by cutting back against the defense and rolling through Earl Thomas at the goal line.
Romo was 21 of 32 for 250 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. The second TD throw went to Witten, who became the second tight end in NFL history with 900 receptions.
Dan Bailey kicked field goals of 42, 56 and 31 yards, the last with 1:09 remaining.
The only reason Dallas needed the late scores was special teams mistakes that handed Seattle 14 points. Doug Baldwin blocked Jones’ punt and Mike Morgan returned it 25 yards for a touchdown and a 10-0 lead. Dwayne Harris muffed a punt deep in his own territory in the third quarter and, two plays later, Wilson kept on a zone-read and sprinted 9 yards to pull Seattle even at 17.
After being lauded for his Monday night performance, Wilson was part of a miserable day for Seattle’s offense. He finished 14 of 28 for 126 yards, 53 of those coming on one completion to Jermaine Kearse in the first quarter.
Seattle was outgained 401-206 and had only nine first downs. Marshawn Lynch was used sparingly, finishing with only 10 carries for 61 yards and most of Percy Harvin’s plays went backward. Harvin’s three receptions equaled zero yards.
“We couldn’t get into a rhythm, and I don’t know what it is,” Baldwin said. “We had penalties. We just left so many plays out there on the field. It’s just all over the board.”