ARLINGTON, Texas -- AT&T Stadium had been the Dallas Cowboys' Fortress of Solitude through their first five home games. They won their first five at home in 2023 by a by a combined score of 205-60. That made the Cowboys the first team in NFL history to each of its first five home games by 20 or more points.
On Thursday night, Dallas wasn't able to sub in the backups to begin the fourth quarter or critical 41-35 victory over a Seattle Seahawks team that entered the night in the NFC playoff picture with a winning record. With their sixth consecutive home games in which they have scored 30 or more points, the Cowboys tied the NFL record for the longest such streak to start a season in NFL history, joining the 2021 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the 2007 New England Patriots., but they did earn a
"We know the stretch that we have coming ahead of us, and this was a big one to get," Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott said postgame. "The first one with a winning record, but more importantly, in the fashion that we did in a tough game back and forth. Down at halftime and down in the fourth quarter. The guys and the team were really just making plays when plays were needed and playing ultimate complimentary football. Stopping them to get a touchdown.
"Defense [getting] two fourth-down stops when the game was on the line was huge. Yeah, it was complimentary football at its finest to get a big win that's been different than most of these at home. We can take as Coach [McCarthy] always says 'a big chunk of confidence'. We can take that into next week, moving forward. The team showed resiliency, belief in one another, and belief in all three units knowing that we can get it done and just staying in it."
None of Dallas' first five home wins were against teams with winning records. In fact, none of the Cowboys' first eight wins in their 9-3 start were against winning teams. They lost on the final play of a 28-23 defeat at the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 9 and in a 42-10 blowout loss at the San Francisco 49ers in Week 5. Those two teams are the NFC Championship game participants from the 2022 season and were the only teams the Cowboys have played in 2023 with a winning record until facing a Seahawks team that entered Thursday night at 6-5.
"I told the team after the game, we need games like this," Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said. "This is what December football looks like...To get to where we want to go, you have to win these type of games. ... How are you going to be good at winning close games if you're not in them?"
That trend looked like it was perhaps going to continue as they trailed the 6-5 (now 6-6) Seahawks 35-30 with 11:23 left in the game. Dallas simply trailing at all at home was the first time they had done so all season. However, their defense bowed up at the right time as Pro Bowl defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence stuffed Seahawks running back Zach Charbonnet on fourth-and-1 with 7:08 to play.
"Fourth down stops are as good as a takeaway, so that was huge," McCarthy said. "We needed both of those. Obviously, we were behind at that point. DeMarcus Lawrence has that knack to cross face and make plays and you know, he's been doing this whole career."
Prescott, who threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns on 29-of-41 passing, and the offense responded immediately, gaining 36 yards on their first two plays -- a 10-yard completion to CeeDee Lamb (116 receiving yards and a touchdown on 12 catches) and a 16-yard run by Tony Pollard (68 rushing yards and a touchdown on 20 carries). Prescott concluded the drive with a straight-line laser of a pass to Jake Ferguson for the go-ahead 12-yard touchdown and then a wide-open toss to Brandin Cooks in the back of the end zone for the ensuing two-point conversion to go up three, 38-35.
"It's fun, it's what you play the game for as a quarterback to have the ball in your hands," Prescott said of the Cowboys' go-ahead drive. "With an opportunity to go win the game, take the lead, whatever it may be. We practice those situations a lot, too. It's credit to Mike [McCarthy], the staff, and the rest of the guys and the players of being prepared and locked in. Because we've had so many reps at it, it's no different than the reps in practice. So, little reminders in the huddle about that, then just go out there and execute. It's great for me honestly, and it's fun.
"You see big time players that want to make big time plays. Ferg [Jake Ferguson] with the catch in the end zone was huge. Then, for the two-point conversion, Cooks [Brandin Cooks] coming across the middle. Once again, plays that we've repped, plays that we're comfortable in, and being in that situation. A lot of guys look forward to it and step up."
McCarthy echoed his star quarterback.
"Yeah, Dak's playing great ball, just really in sync," McCarthy said. "It's fun when, you know, when you're in this rhythm, he has such great command. It's just the connection with his teammates on the field, on the line of scrimmage. We're getting in and out of things seamlessly. We're playing with a really good pace. That's how we want to play, we want to attack and you can only do it with the with a championship-caliber quarterback and Dak is that guy."
Another Seahawks turnover on downs turned into three more points off a 32-yard field goal from kicker Brandon Aubrey, and a Micah Parsons quarterback pressure of Geno Smith sealed the 41-35 victory. That marked their first comeback win of the year.
The Seahawks had left Parsons with a free run on the final play by design.
"Yeah for sure," Parsons said when asked if he was surprised at being unblocked on Seattle's final offensive play. "I feel like I was getting there pretty fast all game. Geno was doing a great job. He was getting the ball out fast. That's not something he had on film, where he was just quick game all game. When they did throw it deep, it was max protection and things like that. It was definitely some unchartered looks that I hadn't seen on film. It's definitely something to look at again. I think they left the [running] back on me [at the end]. I mean that's not a good strategy either. That's cool though."
Up next for Dallas is a Week 14 rematch with the Eagles at AT&T Stadium, a matchup that could go a long way in deciding the 2023 NFC East champion. Since losing in Philadelphia in Week 9, the Cowboys have won four games in a row, including the final three in the last 12 days. At 9-3, Dallas has positioned itself to potentially have a shot at tying the Eagles in the standings should they lose on Sunday to San Francisco 49ers prior to the Week 14 showdown.
"The focus of running our own race is why we didn't drop a game. We just stayed focused on what we could control," Prescott said. "We didn't try to put our emotions in hoping that they won or lost. They pulled off some close ones, but that's not for us to focus on or get overwhelmed about. We've got a lot going on and that's what was so great about this win right here. It was in a close manner, and we were able to pull it out against a good team. We have to stay focused on running our own race and understand that we will get these guys again. This probably won't be the last time that we get them this season.
"At the end of the day, it's about continuing to strive and continuing to get better. We know that getting this win next week and continuing this home winning streak is more important than anything, but it doesn't mean that we won't see them again. Whether it's here or there, it really doesn't matter. It's two great teams, division rivals, and to get to where we both want to go [the Super Bowl], we are probably going to have to see one another again [in the playoffs]."