IRVING, Texas (AP) Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys crumbled two years ago in Seattle after an early special teams blunder. This time he led another fourth-quarter comeback in the strongest sign yet that a four-year playoff drought could end.
A 30-23 Dallas win Sunday that reverberated around the NFL came after the Cowboys fell behind 10-0 when the Seahawks returned a blocked punt for a touchdown. They faced the same deficit in 2012 after fumbling the opening kickoff in a 27-7 loss.
Those Cowboys didn't have the league's leading rusher and an unwavering will to keep running, even against a Super Bowl champion that was the league's best at stopping the run. And the Dallas defense wasn't geared to match that physical style of play.
''I think we are a little better ballclub,'' Romo said after throwing for two touchdowns and keeping the winning drive alive with a scrambling 23-yard completion to Terrance Williams on third-and-20. ''Our team understands we do a lot of things pretty well and I think we have the ability to impose ourselves on the other team.''
There's even a lesson for eternally optimistic owner Jerry Jones in a 5-1 start that has Dallas tied with Philadelphia and San Diego for the NFL's best record. Maybe a little pessimism isn't a bad thing.
Jones said during the offseason he thought the defense would be better only because it couldn't get any worse than in 2013, when Dallas gave up the third-most yards in league history. Then he tamped down expectations by telling thousands of fans at the kickoff luncheon that his team faced an ''uphill battle.''
If so, the Cowboys are winning it heading into their first NFC East game Sunday against the New York Giants (3-3). It's the first of three straight at home - and four overall - in which Dallas figures to be favored.
''We actually said before we came up here, I just really couldn't imagine us playing and competing'' the way they did, Jones said. ''I really do think it's the kind of win under adverse circumstances, which this is, that you really build from.''
DeMarco Murray, who leads the league with 785 yards rushing, has a chance against the Giants to become the first back to start the season with seven straight 100-yard games.
He was sitting at 64 yards and a 2.9-yard average late in the fourth quarter. He broke loose for 46 yards on three carries, capped by a 15-yarder that gave Romo his NFL-leading 25th winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime since he became the starter during the 2006 season, according to STATS.
Murray's late surge to finish with 115 yards was just another sign Dallas is sticking with the running game after years of being quick to abandon it under a variety of circumstances. Going into the game, Seattle hadn't allowed any running back more than 38, and was giving up an average of 62 per game.
The Cowboys had 162 yards on 37 carries - after getting 49 yards on just 16 tries when they fell behind by the same score in Seattle two years earlier.
''There are a lot of things that we can build on from this game and we can learn from it,'' coach Jason Garrett said. ''When you play teams like this, you can't do what we did with the football. You can't have a blocked punt, you can't turn the ball over twice.''
Dallas essentially handed the Seahawks 17 points at home, where they had lost just once since the start of 2012. The Cowboys won because the defense held Russell Wilson and company to season lows in all three yardage categories and in first downs.
But nothing changes in the mind of 12-year veteran Jason Witten, originator of the ''same old story'' line before the second of the current run of three straight 8-8 seasons that ended with losses to keep Dallas home for the playoffs.
''We're not going to make it bigger than it is,'' said Witten, who scored a touchdown on the same catch that made him the second tight end in NFL history with 900 for his career. ''It's a huge win, we are going to enjoy it, but we are going to move forward. There is a lot of football to be played.''
But this is a different Dallas team playing it.
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