Heading into the contest, quarterback Dak Prescott and receiver CeeDee Lamb had the Cowboys' offense humming, while cornerback DaRon Bland had become a pick-six machine. Meanwhile, Seattle's offense had been struggling, as quarterback Geno Smith and receiver DK Metcalf had connected for one touchdown since Week 4.
On Thursday, both offenses were churning in a back-and-forth affair that ended with the Cowboys beating the Seahawks 41-35, pushing Dallas to 9-3 and dropping Seattle to 6-6 on the season.
The Cowboys knew reputations were on the line Thursday.
Were they front-runners, beating bad teams badly, or were they a team capable of making a playoff run?
The 41-35 win against Seattle might not have answered all of the questions, but when it mattered most the Cowboys came through, as they started their most difficult stretch of the season with five games against teams without a losing record.
A defense that was lit up for most of the game came up with a fourth-down stop (DeMarcus Lawrence) with 7:04 remaining and Prescott went to work, completing 4 of 5 passes for 35 yards, including the final go-ahead touchdown pass to Jake Ferguson from 12 yards out with 4:37 to play. Prescott also ran for 9 yards on the drive.
Prescott finished with three touchdown passes and no interceptions, throwing for 299 yards. And now it sets up what the Cowboys had hoped for when they left Philadelphia on Nov. 5 with a 28-23 loss to the Eagles: a chance to make the NFC East a contest.
At 9-3 after their fourth straight win, the Cowboys still need help. They could use an Eagles loss to the Niners on Sunday, but when Philadelphia comes to AT&T Stadium in 10 days, the Cowboys can still send a message by beating their rival. A message that would be bigger than beating the Seahawks.
Describe the game in two words: Penalty fest. Penalties were not that that big of a deal for the Cowboys for a lot of the season, but through three quarters Thursday, they were flagged eight times for 122 yards. The season high in yards before Thursday was 107 (on 13 flags) in a Week 3 loss at the Arizona Cardinals. It wasn't just a Cowboys thing. Clete Blakeman's crew was just as officious against the Seahawks.
Troubling trend: Yes, Bland made history with his fifth pick-six of the season on Thanksgiving versus Washington, but he was targeted more by the Commanders than in any other game. Thursday was a continuation. In the first half, Seattle completed 6 of 7 passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns when Bland was the nearest defender, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. His previous high in that category this season was 120 yards -- which came last week against Washington. However, Bland came up with a key third-quarter pick of Smith to balance it all out, perhaps.
Promising trend: Maybe it's beyond a trend at this point, but Prescott has thrown at least two touchdown passes in six straight games, matching a career high. He did the same in 2021. Tony Romo had two or more in seven straight games over the 2006-07 seasons and Don Meredith owns the team mark with 12 straight games over the 1965-66 seasons. Prescott entered Thursday with 18 touchdown passes in his past six games, the most he's had over a six-game span in his career. -- Todd Archer
Next game: vs. Philadelphia Eagles (8:20 p.m. ET, Sunday, Dec. 10)
With back-to-back Thursday night games turning their weekly schedule upside down, Seahawks players and coaches couldn't keep track of what day it was leading up to their matchup with the Cowboys. But everyone was clear on one thing: They had to have this one.
With two straight losses and a pair of tough games coming up against the 49ers and Eagles, this was perhaps their best chance at avoiding a five-game skid that would put their playoff hopes in serious jeopardy.
The sense of urgency was there against Dallas. So was the Seahawks' offense, which got out of its rut thanks to a huge night from Smith and Metcalf. But the defense was not, and neither was the end result.
The Seahawks are now 6-6 and only midway through the toughest stretch of their schedule. They'll give themselves a chance over the final month of the regular season if Smith and their offense function like they did for most of the night, going 9-of-14 on third down, 4-of-5 in the red zone and racking up 406 total yards.
But the defense might have supplanted that unit as the biggest concern after Prescott & Co. did whatever they wanted en route to scores on eight of nine possessions, excluding the final two kneel-downs.
Troubling trend: It's not a new trend but a troubling one nonetheless -- the Seahawks are still killing themselves with penalties. They'd been flagged 100 times entering Week 13, the most in the NFL, even though they've had their bye. They committed nine more for 127 yards against Dallas, including five on a Cowboys touchdown drive. The Seahawks have frequently been among the league's most penalized teams under coach Pete Carroll, which could be considered somewhat of a tradeoff for how aggressively he wants them to play. But this version isn't good enough to overcome that many mistakes.
Eye-popping NFL Next Gen Stat: Metcalf hit a top speed of 22.23 mph on his 73-yard touchdown. That's the fastest max speed by a ball carrier since Raheem Mostert hit 23.09 mph in Week 2 of the 2020 season. The Smith-to-Metcalf connection has been off this season -- Metcalf entered Week 13 with a 53.1% catch rate, which ranked 73rd among wide receivers -- but they turned it on Thursday night. Metcalf caught 6 of 8 targets for 134 yards and three touchdowns.
Promising trend: The Seahawks finally have a screen game -- and perhaps a good one. That part of their offense has been inexplicably absent for a long time, dating back to previous coordinators and running backs, but coordinator Shane Waldron has brought it to life. They executed arguably their best screen of the season when running back Zach Charbonnet caught one in the third quarter and gained 39 yards, setting up Metcalf's third touchdown catch two plays later. Charbonnet, starting again with Kenneth Walker III out because of his oblique strain, carried 19 times for 60 yards and his first career touchdown. The Seahawks have also gotten receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba involved in the screen game, and they need to continue leaning on it to get the ball out of Smith's hands quickly and counter the strong pass-rush units they'll face over the next three weeks (San Francisco, Philadelphia, Tennessee).
Pivotal play: One of the Seahawks' penalties might not have been their own doing. Late in the first quarter, they lined up for a 37-yard field goal but were flagged for delay of game. With the try pushed back, Jason Myers then missed wide right from 42 yards out. Replays showed Pete Carroll screaming at officials for not resetting the play clock after re-spotting the ball. Myers, to no avail, gave the hand signal for a reset right before the clock ran out.
QB breakdown: Smith played one of his best games in a while, especially given the tough circumstances against an excellent Dallas pass rush and with not much of a running game to lean on. He threw three touchdown passes to Metcalf -- matching the number of times Seattle's offense had found the end zone over the previous four games -- and added a rushing score. Smith's first TD was a laser over two defenders on a post route on the opening drive, the type of aggressive throw that showed confidence despite everything that's gone wrong in recent weeks. He picked on Bland repeatedly in the first half and had success doing so before Bland picked him off in the third quarter. Smith finished 23-of-41 for 334 yards and became the first starting quarterback to not take a sack against the Cowboys this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information, though he was pressured into an errant throw on a fourth-and-2 play to end the game. -- Brady Henderson
Next game: at San Francisco 49ers (4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday, Dec. 10)